In the universe of video games, unique can be good. Something quirky and fresh can get people talking, rev up a fan base and even motivate the “been there, played that” reviewing press to look up from their tapping and typing long enough to take notice. And, well, if Warner Bros. Games’ new title Lollipop Chainsaw is nothing else, it’s unique.
This zombie killer blends grindhouse film sensuality and in-your-face bloody hack-and-slash with kitschy comedy, cheerleader flirtations and raw profanity. It’s all wrapped up in a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack and decorated with an unexpected sparkling wash of My Little Pony-like hearts and rainbows.
How’s that for different?
So put on your Toni Basil greatest cheerleading hits album, and let’s start cutting through the clutter.
What’s That Spell? CHAIN SAW!
The game’s girl-power heroine is one Juliet Starling, a blonde and buxom high school cheerleader with a penchant for teeny-tiny outfits and a fondness for lollipops. She counters her exposed curves and Lolita-like lolly-sucking with the admonishment that just because you’re in her room doesn’t mean she’s opening the door for any “funny stuff.” Then she promptly contradicts herself by letting you hang around while she takes a steamy shower and gets dressed … for a day of zombie slaying.
Juliet, you see, comes from a long line of zombie hunters. Her mom, dad and two sisters have been training, like, forever for a day just like this one. A day when some revenge-hungry misfit purposely uses a combination of black magic and explosives to crack the wall between Earth and a place called Rotten World, letting foul gasses seep in and turn folks into slathering zombies. Armed with pom-poms and a chain saw—a devastating device that’s sizable enough to give a hulking woodsman a hernia, but pink enough to blend with any bed-top collection of cuddly stuffed toys—Juliet heads out to make things right.
Along the way, she runs into Nick, her ever so kissably cute boyfriend. Unfortunately he’s just been bitten by a nasty old zombie, so the cheerleading cutie has to cut off his head and perform a little zombie-killer magical ritual to keep at least that part of him alive. Then she hugs him tight to her ample bosom, and hangs him on her hip like an extra pom. From there he can give running, one-liner-packed commentary on the carnage. And if Juliet finds a headless zombie at some point, she can plug in Nick’s head for a bit of short-term help.
She’ll need it. In a series of roam-around-town chapters, Juliet must decimate hundreds of zombified neighbors and classmates. And each round of slaying is finished off by battling one of a small group of demonic overlord big bosses that have been called into our land via incantation. These preposterous monstrosities take the form of, for instance, a chortling Viking drummer, a perpetually stoned hippie, a Mohawk-coiffed punk rocker and a gigantic Elvis.
Oh, and the scores and scores of undead aren’t just moaning brain-dead types. These walking corpses like to very clearly and vulgarly and vividly comment on certain aspects of Juliet’s well-rounded anatomy and the various sex acts they intend to perform with her and her family members. And even when the sexual crudities aren’t being spewed, the camera keeps swooping in for up-skirt or down-shirt shots of our cheerleading heroine—as if to continually remind us of exactly where the game thinks out minds should be.
Cut to the Face
Then there’s the hacking and slashing. Juliet’s chain saw-swinging moves are few and simple to start off with. Just grind that whirling blade in there, hacking off legs, hands, arms and heads—spewing blood mixed with a sparkling spray of stars and rainbows. (It’s “yay!” and “yuck!” in one gloppy mix.)
After a while, when Juliet has picked up a few zombie coins, she can buy a variety of better moves and combinations that up the ante, twisting the visual volume knob up even farther. The cheering killer can leapfrog over a stumbling foe, ram her weapon into the creature’s backside and viciously rend him in half. She can make several zombies groggy with pom-pom smashes before lopping off all their heads in one glitter-covered swirl.
There are also a few minigames thrown in to capitalize on collateral damage. Three examples: Before a ticking timer runs out in zombie basketball, Juliet must slice off heads and flip them into the hoop to rack up the required points. And as Nick rounds the bases of a baseball diamond, she has to shoot the zombies in his way. On a farm, a large-bladed harvester combine does it worst to a field full of shamblers.
There is some good-guy stuff going on, such as Juliet saving still-human school friends or her dad putting himself in danger to rescue his hard-hitting little honey. But most often it’s just a device to trigger a little more splattering or another ridiculously crude joke.
U-G-H spells ugh. From its zombified hags and vulgar gags to its pervy peeks and gore-smeared geeks, Lollipop Chainsaw is indeed a one-of-a-kind game. I’d never seen anything quite like this. And after playing it, I can only hope that stays true for a very long time to come.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.