Lollipop Chainsaw: The Review

“Lollipop Chainsaw” is probably one of the more aggressive games to come out in 2012, at least in terms of presentation. Here’s JULIET! She’s FLEXIBLE! She’s HOT! She might HAVE SEX WITH YOU! She’s got a CHAINSAW! Look at the SPARKLES! Ha ha, now she’s swinging on a POLE! Isn’t this game QUIRKY?! Isn’t it EDGY?! Isn’t this full-court press EXHAUSTING?!

Seriously, the entire game is like this. It’s aggressive and it rapidly becomes wearying. They do everything short of demand you pop on 3D glasses and stare at Juliet’s breasts for a minute as a minigame, and it was probably only a lack of budget that kept them from doing that.

They have to be, well, this obnoxious, because if they slow down, for even a second, you might realize that there is absolutely nothing in this game that justifies it being on a disc. And the really sad thing is that as a button masher, which is ultimately all this is, it could really use some work.

Here’s the basic problem with “Lollipop”: it’s basically an arcade port of a Sega beat-’em-up from 1999, except made with modern technology. In fact, you’ll get that feeling that this game is secretly an old arcade project quite a lot, usually whenever Juliet kicks a traffic cone and it flies off at a perfect 45 degree angle parallel to the ground, or when the camera aggressively zooms to the next place you have to go, reinforced with gigantic flashing arrows, comic book transition panels, and boob jokes, or when you realize this game is pretty light on the save points. The only difference is that there’s no local multiplayer which, really, come on.

The action is frantic, but the basic strategy is the same: light attacks, dodge, light attacks, heavy attack as a finisher, repeat. Yeah, you can buy upgrades and combos at the cutesy store, and it does at least give the game a difficulty curve you don’t usually see in games with chainsaws, but you start off a little too weak and the enemies are a little too strong. Play the game for more than an hour and killing zombies starts to feel like a chore.

True, it’s fun earning your right to plow through massive crowds of zombies, but it’s all surface. There’s no real curve here, no real mechanics to master that change the game or present you with new ways to attack. The levels are excessively linear; exploration is limited at best, although at least it’s usually rewarding.

Instead of new ideas or gameplay variety, it throws new environmental hazards like a wrecking ball or zombies with more health at you, and there’s literally no modulation: everything is played at full blast, every switch is flipped, even pedal is pressed to the floor, right from the start of the game, and there’s nowhere for it to go. It does switch gears once or twice; there’s a sniper section, for example. But ultimately, you wish the pace would occasionally slow for more than some bad voice acting in a cutscene you’ll skip anyway (oh, and some of them are unskippable).

Adding to the problem is the overall meatheadedness. This game tries really, really hard to be funny and sexy, but it mostly just comes off as idiotic and pandering. Worse, it bleeds into actually playing the game. Palm will meet face the first time you see Juliet hop on a pole and swing around. Yeah, it’s quirky, but it’s a forced kind of quirky, with its sparkles and its squeals and its attempts to seem edgy with lots of profanity and suicide bomber zombies and whatever. It falls into the trap of thinking it’s way more edgy than it actually is, and that edginess will paper over any problems. And it just never knocks it off, never stops for breath.

Worse, underneath it all, it’s actually kind of sexist and ugly: this is a game with a trophy for looking up the heroine’s skirt.

All of this would be mitigated, at least somewhat, if this were a downloadable title instead of a triple-A release from a major games studio that seriously expects you to pay $60 retail for this. But it’s not. As usual, these reviews come down to “Is this game worth what they’re asking?” and the answer is, pure and simple, no. It’s got plenty of mindless fun on tap, but ultimately, it’s just too shallow to really justify spending triple-A money on what is, in the end, a game too dated in mechanics and mindset to be really interesting for more than an hour at a time.

image courtesy Warner Brothers Interactive