The erratic quality of the writing carries over into other design elements too, though let it be said that on a basic level, Lollipop Chainsaw is fun to play. Your basic attacks are a pom-pom pummel that can stun undead freaks, a slower-but-solid chainsaw slice, and a downthrust that carves up zombies crawling along the ground. These attacks--along with an overhead leap--can be combined in various ways, and you buy more combos with the currency that showers down on you like pennies from heaven during battle. On normal difficulty, Lollipop Chainsaw isn't that much of a challenge, and the combo system doesn't have the depth of, say, or . But this isn't with zombies, either: various enemies explode, toss volatile canisters, and generally make nuisances of themselves, so you can't just rely on your standard chainsaw move in every encounter.
Juliet's prowess on the basketball court extends beyond her time under the bleachers.
A simple combat system like this can fall into a rut, however. Lollipop Chainsaw doesn't entirely avoid repetition, but it does a commendable job of keeping it at bay in the later hours. Battles are broken up by any number of ridiculous moments: driving a combine over fields of creeps; sticking Nick's head on zombies and watching him dance as you perform a series of timed button presses; and shooting boulders from the top of a school bus with your powerhouse of a ranged weapon. One video game-themed chapter offers one surprise after another, playing with your expectations while mixing up the visual style in fun and vibrant ways.
The overall structure isn't so surprising: the game leads you down a set path, opening new doors when you kill the predetermined number of meanies and concluding chapters with foul-mouthed boss characters. These multistage boss fights are entertaining, though--long enough to keep you invested in the fight, but not so long as to get monotonous. Like the rest of the game, boss battles aren't that hard, but they keep you on the move. One such boss is a giant Viking with an electric axe. He splits in two, lower and upper body attacking separately; returns as a giant head that eats his own legs; and spews lasers at you from his mouth. (According to this demon's character bio, his hobbies include disemboweling, drinking blood, and balancing a ball on his nose.)
Nick finally finds a way to come out a head.
And so Lollipop Chainsaw is enjoyable, but it isn't carefully assembled in the way of the best action games. The camera, for example, tends to get stuck in tight environments and doesn't move fluidly at even the best of times. Collision doesn't work properly; you can clearly make contact with an enemy yet do no damage, or do damage even when no clear contact is made. Quick-time events are often sloppy, the scene ending when the button press is still in progress, or the game not providing proper visual cues that one prompt has ended and the next (using the same button) has begun. Then there's the auto-aim on your ranged attachment, which annoyingly snaps to the closest enemy regardless of which way you might actually be facing.
There are other such foibles, a mix of loose details and awkwardly executed fundamental mechanics. They don't keep you from enjoying Lollipop Chainsaw, but there's no mistaking it for an action classic. Once you purchase a sizable repertoire of moves, you might have a shot at a good place on the online leaderboards. Actually, Lollipop Chainsaw is built for return visits: the game lasts for five hours or so, pushing you to chase high scores and buy enough combos to earn a fabulous end-level grade. If you do return, Juliet will be at your side, cheering you on while bemoaning her big fat butt. But like many strong personalities, she--like the whole of Lollipop Chainsaw--can grate your nerves. The game has lots of spunk, for sure, but it's ultimately no deeper than its vacuous star.