By Warner Bros. , Grasshopper Released: 15 Jun 12
Also on: PlayStation 3
Lollipop Chainsaw's marketing may well have convinced you that it's nothing more than a crass exercise in titillation, a calculated attempt to draw in a young male audience with a tantalising blend of gratuitous gore and even more gratuitous upskirt shots. It should be offensive, but I honestly believe it serves a purpose. Rather than being outright sexist, I think the game's actively mocking misogynist attitudes.
Just about every male character - bar Juliet's boyfriend Nick, and he ends up decapitated, accompanying her as a giant keychain attached to her skirt - is either a drooling pervert or undead, while the female lead comes from a close-knit family of strong, zombie-hunting women. It's telling that Juliet casually brushes off the drooling advances of her classmates, but is actively wounded by the gender-targeted insults that manifest as physical words spat out by the game's first boss.
Juliet's an enormously likeable protagonist who shares a warm rapport with boyfriend Nick, as they flirt and gently bicker throughout. Theirs is a rare beast in gaming: a genuine, loving relationship that is only compromised slightly by one of the pair lacking a torso.
While the game ventures into darker places, it's mostly a parade of campy, kitschy, heartily silly moments, perhaps typified by a sequence where you drive a combine harvester to the strains of Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round. There's also plenty of teeny pop-culture references: Juliet describes one boss as a "MySpace-haired jerk", and there are nods to Katy Perry and Amazon wish lists. Juliet's sister's Rosalind, meanwhile, wants to meet Justin Bieber - albeit only to add his skull to her collection.
These gags come thick and fast - not all of them hit, but a reasonable number do, and the same is true of the game's systems. Combat has something of the rhythm of Viewtiful Joe about it, in the sense that it's all about staggering enemies before finishing them off with a flourish. Chain several pom-pom attacks together and you'll temporarily stun zombies, with a single swing of the titular chainsaw decapitating them.
Occasionally, you'll thrust Nick's head onto a zombie's body, guiding his movements with quick-time cheers as he jerks awkwardly into position to remove a heavy obstacle, or to give Juliet a boost to clear it. A chainsaw dash is less successful: though it allows you to race over ramps, it gives Juliet the turning circle of a JCB.
The bosses, meanwhile, are consistently creative - from the aforementioned screeching punk to the rockabilly on a motorbike that transforms into an elephant, via a Viking who could easily be the drummer in Lordi - but occasionally quite irritating to fight. The funk boss who speaks entirely in autotune is amusing enough until battle commences, but having to cut this floating freak in half no fewer than three times is overkill.
Some brilliant ideas rub shoulders with some pretty terrible ones, but it's almost unfair to criticise a game for trying too hard at a time when so many publishers are determined to play their safest possible hand. For every parody that doesn't quite come off there's a terrific bit of throwaway dialogue; for every moment of wonky animation or asset recycling a delightful presentational flourish (the menus are some of the best you'll see all year).
And can you really hate a game that contains the line "don't be racist against cows"?
Virgin Media verdict:
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