We review a video game that aims to fold George Romero and Glee into the worst taste game in the world.
‘Good taste is there to try to stop us having a Good Time!’ Lester Bangs
Right, let’s save both of us a bit of time. If you find trash art offensive, stop reading. Do not buy Lollipop Chainsaw. You will only make yourself angry. Why spend your life looking at things that make you angry? I don’t think I’ve played anything quite so shameless since, well, Saints Row The Third. It is quite like Devil May Cry but with more Zombie Basketball and Pole Dancing to break up the sawing up of the undead, and it contains at least one jaw-dropping use of the word ‘vagina’.
It is Juliet’s birthday. Juliet is a cheerleader who attends San Romero High School. For her birthday, her plan is to introduce her boyfriend Nick to her family. Sadly, there is a zombie outbreak, and Nick gets his arm bitten by one of the undead. Juliet’s only solution is to hack off his head from the rest of his body. It’s at this point that Juliet reveals to Nick that she is, in fact, a zombie hunter with a mentor who is clearly a mix between Mr Miyagi and a pervert. As it happens, all of her insane family also hunt the undead regularly, and we meet them one by one as the game progresses. Trans-genre madness ensues.
Lollipop Chainsaw is incredibly inventive with its new ways of murdering the dead, and you’ll soon be pulling off combos that involve pom-poms, arse attacks and swinging a chainsaw about in order to access beautiful bonus screens. Everything looks absolutely stunning; the developers have clearly spent a lot of time cackling over the physics of firing a head into a zombie wielding a baseball bat. It only has a few tricky bits like that level in the arcade that make you want to throw the controller at your cat. Or any other cat, really. It’s a great little game in terms of playability. Just give it a while to come down in price.
Saying that, I really WANTED to like Lollipop Chainsaw. It’s got all the elements of something I would love and clearly enjoys sticking its fingers up at current politically correct thinking. It looks like a mash-up between Surrealism, a Roger Corman film and Return Of The Living Dead. It takes the mickey out of American High School culture with a scalpel to the eyes of things like Glee and Hannah Montana and is actually really funny. The boss fight with Emo guy is astounding. With the exception of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, I haven’t heard a soundtrack this good for quite a long time. After the hard-boiled gloom of Max Payne 3, Lollipop reclaimed the summer with insanity and glee.
When I’m playing something like Portal, the game doesn’t stop to tell me how tense and oddly unnerving it is, you know what I mean? “Gosh, Nevs, this bit where you don’t really know what’s going on and you’re still trying to work out how to blow up the gun? That’s got to be freaking you out! WILL THERE BE CAKE, THOUGH…” Portal scares the hell out of me and for most of the time I have no idea why. If Lollipop Chainsaw would just calm down and allow the player to take in the bundle of references, irreverence and daftness, it would be a more enjoyable experience. As it stands, it’s like being at a Ramones gig and having someone screaming in your ear “Hey, It’s The Ramones. THE RAMONES! IT’S RILLY PUNK, MAN! HEY PUNK, WE’RE PUNK, LET’S LIKE SPIT OR SOMETHING. WE’RE A HAPPY FAMILY, PUNK PUNK PUNK! JOEEEY!”
Don’t bother with the DLC. Some games offer you whole new characters and missions (Batman: Arkham City), new weapons, new maps to play in. The very best game in the world offers you the chance to play as Bizarro. Lollipop Chainsaw lets you… buy new clothes.
I believe Harlan Ellison once wrote off Spielberg and Lucas as a pair of punk kids too in love with their own references, or words to that effect. He meant that they were so careful to make a shopping list of things they were in love with in their work that they forgot to include any real point to what they were creating beyond saying “I like this stuff!” (Just to annoy the whole internet at once, I feel exactly the same way about Scott Pilgrim. Except for the game. Which is great.)
That’s the thing here. It’s not really good enough to say “LOOK, WE MADE A GEORGE ROMERO REFERENCE! ISN’T HE GOOD? DON’T YOU LOVE HIM? WE DO! YAY GEORGE ROMERO!” if you’re not moving forward. The whole game is like one of those horrible Channel 4 talking head shows where E-List comedians bang on about some toy they had as a kid or some TV show after drinking all the coffee in the world so it comes out as “SWEARING! ZOMBIES! CHAINSAWS LIKE EVIL DEAD! OLD SCHOOL VIDEO GAMES! I HAVE NO IDEA OF THE ORIGIN OF THE WORDS “OLD SCHOOL!” BOOB JOKE! POP CULTURE PARODIES! YAY EVERYTHING!” It seems even more redundant in this case because Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t that similar to anything in George Romero’s work except for the fact that it has zombies in it and invokes his name. It’s actually a lot closer to the film Repo Man in look, of all things.
Lastly… it’s not actually very sexy.
Not in a “Well, it’s a videogame character, of course it’s not sexy!” way. It’s 2012. People are going nuts about games like Bayonetta, or the amazing absurdity of the age question in Dead Or Alive. Like an idiot, I googled “Sophita Soulcalibur Fan Fiction” just to see how intense this world is getting. I wouldn’t recommend it, is all I ‘m saying. And some of you should be ashamed of yourselves. I am willing to believe the follow-up to the success of Fifty Shades Of Grey will be mucky filth written about Mass Effect 3. I did start writing a journal of my time as a sex worker in Saints Row 2, but it got a bit… sordid. Apparently Lydia Lunch has nothing on the things I would do for The Saints.
I realise that sexuality is a highly subjective matter, of course. My Helena Bonham Carter is your Nora Batty and all that. Still, the game is not really sexy to me; it’s like a bunch of builders taking a job near a school field and wolf whistling at hockey-playing schoolgirls. If you’re really buying Lollipop Chainsaw to perv over, let me point out something: Unless some fool publisher has actually bought the concept of publishing “Booze, Bubbies, Uzis and Zombies. A Collection Of Trash” by Nevs Coleman and you’re reading this in a book somehow, you’re reading this on the internet. Type something filthy into your search engine. There you go, I just saved you £40.
The running joke (which I’m hoping is on us all) is that Juliet isn’t aware that she’s attractive as she’s convinced she’s fat due to the lollipops she eats to keep her health up (er, yay body dysmorphic order). The creepshot camera angles and such make YOU seem a lot sleazier. She’s charmingly unaware of the fact that people seem to fancy her, she’s incredibly loyal and supportive of her family and incredibly good at what she does. As another character may say, “I didn’t expect to get rescued by someone with such great bubbies.” But the owner of those bubbies deserves to be in a better-written game. One about something more interesting than Pop Culture Nostalgia.