For a game that's all about zombies, chainsaws and sucker-sucking cheerleaders, "Lollipop Chainsaw" sure is boring.
I blame "Grindhouse," the 2002 movie from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino that tried to re-create the glee of old exploitation films. This, of course, is an impossible task. These movies are fun to look back on because they were done earnestly, so their ridiculous content is a surprise. Modern genre homages like "Machete" and "Hobo With a Shotgun" (both based on fake trailers in "Grindhouse") are meant to be ridiculous, so they aren't. Irony that's expected is unironic, ironically.
Long after this trend should have expired, we get "Lollipop Chainsaw," yet another self-defeating exercise in on-purpose camp. Perhaps this should be expected from Japanese game developer Suda 51, whose focus on style above all fits his seeming goal of being the Japanese Tarantino. Suda 51, considered an auteur after his unconventional, irreplaceable "killer7" in 2005, has since then slouched toward zaniness. The guy has a knack for naming things -- for instance, himself -- and "Lollipop Chainsaw" ought to sell more than a few copies on its title alone.
|» System: PS3, Xbox 360|
|» Price: $59.99|
|» Rating: 2 out of 5 stars|
The game tells the story of Juliet Starling, a cheerleader for San Romero (get it?) High School who happens to carry a chainsaw in her gym bag. Good thing, because when she gets to school, it's overrun with zombies. What follows from here is an fitfully entertaining animated movie interrupted by these annoying segments where you're expected to use the controller.
Juliet's chainsaw, engraved with hearts as it may be, is awfully dull -- otherwise there wouldn't be a game. Zombies prove astonishingly impervious to the chainsaw unless you beat them up first, by hitting them with your pom-poms and vaulting over them, cheerleaderlike. These attacks make them dizzy, and nothing makes zombies vulnerable to decapitation like dizziness.
So instead of an all-out slicingfest, the game is just another beat-'em-up, in which you hit one attack button a few times, switch to another attack button for a few hits, and repeat it on the next enemy who walks up.
The game, adapted from Japanese by James Gunn, whose Hollywood screenwriting credits include "Scooby-Doo" and "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed," does have its moments. People you rescue utter non sequiturs like "Warren G. Harding is my favorite president," Juliet's chainsaw leaves a rainbow in its wake when you swing it, and Toni Basil's cheer-chant classic, "Mickey," kicks in when things get really bloody.
"Lollipop Chainsaw" is certainly funnier than Suda 51's last effort, "Shadows of the Damned," which was just a series of jokes about, um, bones. But from the perspective of time spent holding the controller, it's the low point in his oeuvre.