Written by director/writer James Gunn and born from the mind of Suda51, Lollipop Chainsaw stars an average teenage girl, Juliet Starling. She has a family that loves her, a handsome boyfriend named Nick, and her favorite food is lollipops, but she worries they're making her fat. On her eighteenth birthday, Juliet happens upon a zombie outbreak occurring at her school. Like any normal cheerleader, she pulls out her chainsaw and cuts through the hordes of brain-hungry beasts as she fights her way to rendezvous with a still-breathing Nick. She finally arrives at the meeting place only to see him being bitten by a zombie. As a last ditch effort, she removes Nick's head from his body. Upon waking up, Nick is informed that Juliet has cast a magic spell allowing him to survive as a decapitated head. Did I mention she is a Zombie Hunter just like the rest of her family?
From the beginning, Lollipop Chainsaw is over-the-top, self-aware, and by far the most ridiculous game on the market with its over-sexualized protagonist, extreme gore, and nonsensical swearing. While these qualities are looked down upon most of the time, Lollipop Chainsaw's campy zombie tale means these features actually add to the title's true greatness. The game is centered in and around the aptly named San Romero High School with Juliet and her family protecting Earth from the forces of the Rotten World – another dimension where the zombies originate – and discovering who is responsible for unleashing the deadly plague.
Even zombies can't resist a girl's charm.
As far as gameplay goes, Lollipop Chainsaw lets you slay zombies and save your classmates from the undead in exchange for leaving your mark on the in-game leaderboards that pit Juliet against her other charming family members. Included in Juliet's arsenal of crazy weapons are the titular chainsaw, pom-poms, and an oversized gun known as the chainsaw blaster. Vivisecting the fetid undead nets Juliet both gold and platinum zombie coins used at the candy-colored Chop2Shop.zom stores. The gold coins unlock stat increases while the platinum variety reveals new costumes for Juliet to wear and MP3s to browse. To boost their report grades for the each level, players must master their array of combos, be quick but efficient in their completion, and earn a high zombies-slain tally.
The only major problem with the gameplay is Juliet being knocked down continually. The player needs to hammer the "B" button to get up, and this mechanic does not discriminate when it comes to zombie type. Both the weakest and the strongest can knock her down, and you will be mashing the button to recuperate every time. While not a concern during the first few occurrences – or once Juliet upgrades to increased recovery speeds – the hundredth time seeing that mocking prompt will spur you to break the controller.
Graphically, Lollipop Chainsaw holds its own exceptionally well with looks on par with most titles today. Environments are bright and vivid, giving the game a warm feeling. In addition, killing zombies also causes lights and rainbows to spew from their bodies. When a large group of infected are decapitated at once, the true fanfare effect sinks in. The artsy cel-shading further sells the B-movie cheese factor with budgeted dismemberments, cartoonish explosions, and gawky facial animations.
Nick: “Where do those rainbow things come from?” Juliet: “From awesome.”
Music is one of the most entertaining facets of Lollipop Chainsaw. Not only does the soundtrack include original works from Akira Yamaoka, it also features "Mickey" by Toni Basil when Juliet activates her super mode, "Lollipop" by Ronald and Ruby when shopping for supplies, and a stray Skrillex track contradictory to the protagonist's perky personality.
The script is, as stated before, absurdly over-the-top. Some may be deterred by the obscene jokes and perverse implications, but if one can accept that the game is meant to be this way, it is easy to ignore the vulgarities and laugh at the bad jokes. The writing shines in the relationship established between Juliet and Nick. Throughout the game, both in cutscenes and in-game, they are constantly babbling the way young teenage lovebirds do – or would if their friends weren't being eaten by mindless zombies. Whether Juliet is repeating her trademarked catchphrase, "What the dick?" or Nick is fumbling his words trying to name his favorite color, the conversations are a fluid mix of Suda51's offbeat humor performed by a ditzy high school cheerleader. This also helps to develop Nick more as a character because, without it, he would be nothing more than a head strapped to Juliet's belt.
Lollipop Chainsaw should not be passed up. Any problems found with the game are usually an in-the-moment complaint. Exciting gameplay, a senseless storyline, and amazing visual qualities are just a handful of reasons to give this game a try. Naysayers of Suda51's style will not be swayed by this title, but for the rest of you, go pick Lollipop Chainsaw up immediately. You owe it to yourself.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Number of Players: 1
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3