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disturbing, distressing,and downright creepy

  • Fugue
  • 09/18/2012 04:22 AM
Lisa isn't really supposed to be a "booscary horror spookfest" type game but in spite of that it manages to be more effective, upsetting, and affecting than games that do set out for that kind of thing. because they're predictable/formulaic and it's genuine, possibly?

anyway this game is a lot like 'i'm scared of girls' only moreso. i'm not sure if that's a good thing, a great thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between.

Story & Characters
i played Lisa as long as i was comfortable with and i don't know really know anything more concrete about any of the characters than when i started. i don't even know their names or which one is the titular 'Lisa' although i'd assume the protagonist.

you play as a girl of indeterminate age, name unknown who lives with her...father? husband? boyfriend? in any case some kind of very grotesque and bizarre man (name unknown), who is very abusive and controlling towards her. the game seems to be a chronicle of the girl's attempts to escape, and takes place more in the space of her mind than in any physical reality. this doesn't really spoil anything, but any more more information would.

you just need to play yourself and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

the game's overall style is impressionistic, surrealistic, and minimalist. it seems to have original graphics and an original soundtrack, for which much props are awarded. the maps and the tiles they're made of can be passable, or quite ugly, the same is true of the game's relatively rudimentary event programming. the sloppiness seems almost intentional though, kind of like an artistic choice. lots of the maps are very empty, white spaces full of random garbage--literally random garbage, as in actual junk. it all feels very disjointed and damaged, like a journey through someone's shattered psyche. i mean, that's the point but it's not always pretty to look at.

once i climbed a rope ladder stretching up through complete blank featureless whiteness for nearly two full minutes, only to find an empty cliff on top with a LITERAL giant middle finger as the only terrain feature, in the absence of any and all collectible items or ways to progress. that was pretty cool.

the soundtrack deserves special attention here. it is nerve-janglingly upsetting. it's not in the "LOUD NOISES STARTLE YOU" horror movie soundtrack vain. it's just unpleasant to listen to--not harsh or grating just...idk. it made me feel queasy. another person was in the room with me when i was playing and she was unsettled by it too, without even seeing what was going on on the screen.

Substance & Gameplay
i feel like this game accomplishes all of its artistic objectives admirably without actually being fun. it feels more like successful "art" than a successful game.

the gameplay consists primarily of wandering through vast, empty, disjointed and strange environments--the denizens of which are almost entirely symbolic, and all of which...yeah. i don't want to spoil anything. anyway there is no combat at least about a half hour in and the only thing i found to offset the wandering exploration was simple block-pushing puzzles that felt somewhat out of place.

my big problem with the gameplay in this game is that it's not focused exploration, it's aimless wandering. having any kind of guidance or sequence of objectives would have helped motivate me to keep playing, by letting me know where to go next. there is no handholding in this game. another gripe: the "stealth" sequence in the very beginning seems arbitrary, in that which tiles will not cause you to be detected seemed to be semi-random. i had to brute force it before determining that his peripheral vision was arbitrarily stronger on one side than the other, and other people might have ragequit before passing this initial puzzle.

one advantage this game has over similar pieces like "i'm scared of girls" is that at any time you can press a button to return to the game's main hub world or "lobby". that's a really good feature for a game of this type.

i gave this game three stars and a half stars mainly because most of the reason that i didn't want to keep playing it was that i found it legitimately disturbing and unsettling; also because original graphics and soundtrack = win. i didn't give it the other one and a half stars because the rest of the reason i stopped playing it was because i was kind of bored. i think this game was not very technically impressive, on the other hand it was artistically impressive, on the other other hand it wasn't super fun to play.

however if you enjoy games that are a bit "arthouse", "different", or "creepy" you should really check this out. it is quite the experience, and an impressive first game.