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Lollipop Chainsaw

Pompom massacre.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Grasshopper Manufacture's games have always had abstract, manic personalities. Lollipop Chainsaw is no exception, though this time there's something a little different about it.

The story of 18-year-old zombie hunter and cheerleader Juliet Starling massacring hordes of the undead in a sunny suburban high school seems uncharacteristically tame by studio head Suda 51's esoteric standards. Both cheerleaders and zombies feel overly familiar; Grasshopper's always excelled at showing us things we've never seen before, and white trash stereotypes thrown together with zombies is a mix that's close to being worn out.

Happily, any concerns that a Western influence has turned Suda's vision into a generic cash-in are quelled as soon as the action starts. Lollipop Chainsaw is a lot like the John Hughes movies it's riffing on, with judgmental first impressions of this scantily clad blonde dissipating like the social cliques of The Breakfast Club.

The demo begins with Juliet arriving at San Romero High on her 18th birthday, only to realise the school has been overrun by zombies. Whether she decided to bring her chainsaw and the decapitated head of a guy named Nick (which Grasshopper's not talking about yet) with her to school before she found out about the zombie invasion is anyone's guess, but anyway - all that stand between her and getting converted to the undead are her chainsaw and high school spirit.

Don't look directly at the cheerleader.

The combat in Lollipop Chainsaw feels good. Really, really good - it's as exciting as your first kiss as a teen. Juliet animates beautifully, and vivisecting the undead in showers of blood, rainbows, pixels, stars and coins is extremely gratifying.

Curiously, for all the blood in the game, it doesn't feel gory. Probably because the blood doesn't look authentic, but rather like hyper-real neon blood, wherein amputated limbs glow like Christmas lights. Its sickeningly sweet rendition of violence is such saccharine eye candy that, if the sexualised portrayal of a barely-legal high school student didn't make you want to take a shower, the cacophony of colour will make you want to brush your teeth.

The combat sees light attacks carried out with pompoms strung into heavy attacks performed by the titular chainsawy. Getting a multi-decapitation combo results in a "sparkle hunting" bonus where the screen turns blue and rewards you with a score bump and extra coins (which will be used for upgrades, though this isn't being shown off yet). Murdering the undead fills up a glittery gauge in the corner and filling it all the way unleashes a special ability consisting of brief invulnerability and extra-powerful attacks.