LISA (PC) review
"While shallow in gameplay, this RPG is one hell of a memorable trip. A hellish, painful and emotional trip."
Lisa is a strange game. Itís also a satisfying, humorous, entertaining, thought-provoking, at times emotional, and more often disturbing game. It has already shoe-horned itself into my top ten list for 2014, and damn me if Iíve ever walked away from a game with such satisfaction for having seen it to the end - And end up only wanting more.
I find the term ĎDevilís Earthboundí when referring to Lisa is a loving and very honest way to describe this RPG, as the weight of emotions (which at times can be crushing) and bizarre nature of the encounters and world as a whole make it nigh impossible to not think of the classic SNES title. Lisa, however, bears an ĎMí rating, and it does so with pride and effortless gusto, even telling jokes and pulling gags despite the darkness and gore of the game world. To have Brad (the player character) make a critical decision regarding his safety versus that of his allies, only to encounter a blind assassin flailing his knife at him wildly while talking mad smack should make the critical side of my brain call this out as an incredibly poor pacing of events, but the game consistently executes these wild swings on such a regular basis that you end up becoming numb to them, save for the shock or comedy of whatever the scene entails. You will encounter said shock and comedy often since the game progresses at a steady rate, even in the hub areas that make you take various paths to trigger the next set of events. Even if you choose the wrong path, youíll end up discovering more party members to recruit, smaller plot elements to uncover, or who knows what madness that has no purpose other than putting that much more character into the game (those who had the patience for the Snake Eater climb will know exactly what I mean). With a vast majority of battles having enemies unique to one another, your journey only gets weirder, bloodier and wackier, with new things to encounter and discover, which keeps the game so fresh that I find it hard to believe that anyone canít be excited to see what kind of psychopath is waiting around the next corner.
Lisa is an RPG, and your battles are all turn-based affairs. This is where the game unfortunately has its first major flaw after looking the past the fantastic writing and set pieces. As mentioned, battles in most cases will be unique each time in character design and flavor, but save for a few instances with bosses that circumvent this, the plan and execution for victory boils down to the same routine: Trip them, oil them up, set them on fire, rinse and repeat. The potential depth and strategy is utterly shattered once you discover party member combinations that synergize ridiculously well and end up outright disabling enemies from causing you any harm, making victories feel shallow unless they are drawn out fights. In defense of Lisa, I was building teams that maximized damage output and brought victory the swiftest way possible, and with such a wide array of party members to recruit (and possibly lose for good), perhaps your best team will greatly differ from mine. This can inspire multiple playthroughs with different teams and even challenge runs with certain conditions, though getting attached to certain party members for very long is a poor idea. The chances that all the friends you meet will make it to the end and be alive is incredibly slim; be it unfortunate kidnappings, death from a boss or even your own selfish (or arguably self-preserving) decisions. Having a reliable party member die for good is painful (although save-scumming can lessen the blow and only use up more of your time instead), and excluding scenes that are specifically for humor, it only furthers the point that your journey through Lisa will be violent and unpleasant, with the story of Bradís potential redemption one of tragedy and pain. I havenít felt this much pity for a doomed loser of a protagonist in ages. The relation I have to Brad would unfortunately be spoilers, but my wish to see him ascend in victory rather greatly overpowered my cynicism to see him tumble back into drug-addled addiction.
While Bradís tale is one filled with peril, pratfalls and perverts, I do find it a shame that, excluding the villains (and near the end of the game, you canít help but question who the good/bad guy really is) who have their intentions and motives explained to a point, the vast array of supporting characters including your own party donít get more of their own time to shine; like Terry Hintz, the wimpy trash-talker (but somehow isnít more of a loser than Brad) who becomes your first ally, or Buckets, the mysterious gunman who joins you after cheating death at Russian Roulette enough times to make a casino pit boss to sweat. There is plenty of closure with side-stories and a finale to be sure, but the selfish side of me just wanted to learn more about these idiots and badasses.
Lisa tore at my heart, split my face in laughter, made me shiver in fear, had my blood run hot with ire and provoked more thought out of me than anything I have consumed in the past, and all only for $11 $17 for the added digital art book and soundtrack, the latter only bringing enhancements to the atmosphere of the world and the scenes you encounter, whether good or bad things are happening. While not immediately enjoyable on its own, Widdly 2 Diddly has composed a soundtrack that only adds to the overall experience, never taking away from it. Suffice to say, I can recommend Lisa without a shadow of a doubt, with only the disturbing imagery and the shallow RPG battles as major deterrents. I love this game to the point of silliness, and I only hope that other consumers can walk away as happily as I have in the end.
Community review by Dinoracha (March 07, 2016)
Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.
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