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Game On: 'Lollipop Chainsaw' and 'LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes'

Scripps Howard News Service

GAME ON

With photo/graphic: SH12G006GAMEON, SH12G007GAMEON

By CHRIS CAMPBELL

Scripps Howard News Service

"Lollipop Chainsaw"

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Genre: Action

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

ESRB Rating: M, for Mature

Grade: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Female characterization in video games is a touchy subject. My wife and female friends will sometimes decry the over-sexualization of women in games, the "buxom damsel in distress" scenario that permeates so many adventure titles. And in the few instances where women are the protagonists, it holds true that the heroine be more in the Lara Croft vein. Nancy Drew has little chance of showing up on an E3 billboard.

Thus enters Juliet of "Lollipop Chainsaw." She's quite the character: A curvaceous and somewhat foulmouthed high-school cheerleader thrust into a scenario where zombies are overtaking her town. Yet Juliet is not to be trifled with. She wields a hefty and powerful chain saw that makes mincemeat of the undead.

It is not the most technically proficient game ever released. The hype on "Lollipop" pertains to over-the-top theatrics regarding gender politics. One moment she plays to type in a cutscene that would make any father cringe, yet in a later boss battle she defends herself against hateful, misogynistic words being literally thrown at her. The game never commits Juliet as someone to loathe or cheer for, and this may rub gamers the wrong way.

The game's camera sticks in weird places, causing the fights to unravel into a button-mashing exercise. When this fires on all cylinders, the inclusion of arcade elements with super-gory eviscerations makes for fun playing. This is especially true once Juliet's father arrives and the dialogue involving her, her father and her boyfriend (whose severed head is kept alive and clipped to her waist) crackles with witty one-liners and campy comebacks.

Even if you couldn't care less about the portrayal of women in games, "Lollipop Chainsaw" browbeats one into at least noticing and thinking about it. It won't draw the conclusions for you, but you should play this game and decide for yourself.

"LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes"

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Vita, 3DS

Genre: Action

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 2.5 stars

The Bat-signal appears over Gotham, and our hero (along with a few dozen allies from the DC Comics universe) rides in to the rescue.

Yet the sign could also serve as a warning flare of sorts that the LEGO franchise of video games is in dire need of rescuing. The writing maintains its stellar ways, but the gameplay suffers from a lack of necessary tweaking and updates of a style that has remained largely unchanged since it debuted in the "Star Wars"-themed games.

Part of the problem is that this franchise is wildly popular -- despite my opinions on this title, I remain a devout fan of the series as a whole -- as it takes successful film franchises and LEGO-ifies them into quirky games that provide gleeful, goofy fun for adults and younger gamers alike.

Everyone from Indiana Jones to Harry Potter to Darth Vader has graced the screen in LEGO form, but, in theory, the games all share a connective thread. They are simple beat-'em-ups with a host of LEGO-piece-collecting and puzzle-solving strewn throughout missions relating to a specific character's world. The AI is ludicrously stupid, and not once do you face a serious threat of not completing the game in a matter of hours or days.

I want this franchise to continue bringing me the goofball antics of film heroes. It just needs a reimagining.

(Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or email him at game_on_games(at)mac.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com)