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LISA (PC) artwork

LISA (PC) review

"LISA will leave you emotionally drained"

LISA the Painful isn't so much a "quirky" RPG as it is unrelentingly grim and depressing. It's also one of the best indie RPGs made in a long, long time.

Coming off as the love child of Earthbound and Dark Souls, LISA puts players into the shoes of a man who has been beaten down so thoroughly that he has virtually nothing left, but still perseveres in order to rescue the only woman in the world. More than any other game in a while, LISA forces you to weigh the consequences of your actions and continue on in the face of nonstop tragedy and tough decisions. Make no mistake - this game will leave you drained by the end of it.

LISA may not be the flashiest RPG out there, but it is a masterwork on how to effectively build tension and uncertainty while utilizing various gameplay elements to the fullest. Every step feels like it could be your last. Enemies will routinely wreck your party, even with planning. Sleeping at a campfire runs the risk of a permanent injury, or worse, one of your companions bailing on you. There is no loyalty between anyone, not even between Brad and Buddy. A choice between chopping your arm off or permanently sacrificing a companion is one of the easier decisions forced upon you. Give something to an innocuous pair of NPCs and an entire village could be wiped out.

LISA (PC) image

Somewhere between the game insinuating that a major character was molested and a decision where I had to choose between sacrificing my current party members or chopping off a minor body part, I had to put the game down and step away for a while. The subject matter is unrelentingly dark, and even the few moments of levity the plot and characters provide aren't really balanced with the grim nature of the world Brad and everyone else inhabit.

The game will flip between moods on a dime - one minute, you're taking part in Russian Roulette that can (and will) cause permadeath for your companions, and the next you're in a village where an amateur magician is asking you to find some playing cards for him. You go from a hilarious wrestling sidequest that riffs on the WWF to a pair of decisions that easily qualify as the darkest moment in the game.

Still, LISA does have moments of humor and amusement. The various companions you meet throughout the world all have quirky backstories and interesting little comments after battles (which makes it all the more difficult at the end of the game, during a certain cutscene). There are interesting and funny little notes written throughout the world, and some of the ambient locations you run across (like a McDonalds parody, where fast food meals are gifted from the "heavens" above) are quite unique.

LISA (PC) image

The battles are pretty straightforward, but do rely on a lot of strategy, especially if you're playing in "Pain Mode" (where you can only use savepoints once). There is a definite degree of strategy, and even with overleveled characters, you still have to figure out the weaknesses of bosses and attempt to counter them. The game also does a great job of encouraging replayability through multiple endings, alternate choices and different party configurations.

Also, there's a really great fast-travel system that allows you to get to one of the main hubs instantly. It's always something I harp on about longer RPGs not having, but it was pulled off very well here.

If there's anything I didn't like in the game, it's the fact that a certain character that administers the decisions comes off as a bit too "deus ex machina" for my tastes, and some of the bosses either force you to grind or counter them with a really-overpowered companion. I also didn't feel that many of the companions warranted being part of my active party, and they don't do much of consequence after being recruited.

LISA (PC) image

Still, I was more than satisfied after a single playthrough of the game. LISA is a title that will leave you emotionally drained and weighing the consequences of everything that leads up to that final, nihilistic ending.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.


alexngregory's avatar
Community review by alexngregory (October 09, 2017)

I have only put 50 hours into KOTOR 1. My opinions are worthless.

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