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Gauche With a Groove

Stepping out of your bare and fetid room you encounter the obtuse form of a middle-aged drunk slovenly sitting before a glowing television set. As you cautiously attempt to slink by the TV serenades you with demonic whispers inbetween fits of TV stock laughter. Welcome to 'Lisa'.

The above scene opens 'Lisa' and impressed me immediately with its attention to a real plausible childhood situation.

What especially endears me to Lisa is that the game's creator takes observation of a range of subjects untouched in video games: matters of childhood trauma, failed parenthood and imaginative escapism. In a manner that may repel more sensitive gamers the mature subject matter is rarely tactfully exploited, but instead more similar in tone to a grindhouse film with Freudian overtones. As someone not particularly concerned with subject sensitivity myself I naturally found no qualms with its occasional crassness.

Mechanically the game utilizes a number of motifs well known to surrealist gamers such as a nexus point and the collection of specialized abilities. From the intro onward gameplay mainly revolves around use of these motifs, and you will be offered the choice of several paths with no clues of where to go except for those occasionally hinted by the spectre of the ever present fat man. Areas are focused in eerie suburban dream settings with some dripping off into arenas more spatially obtuse. Some of the games areas are arranged like islands of thoughts and memories clusters that recall key instances from your past. Traipsing through Lisa's world and you will slowly piece together the underlining factors in its protagonist's derangement.

The graphics are mainly modified Mother sprites that serve its purpose quite well, and are personalized enough to lend the game a distinctive look. More impressively is the game's creative use of its focal antagonist's form, that repeatedly manifests in a myraid of perverse ways with always the same characteristic balding head. Few times if at all have such a small economic cast of characters been employed with as much ingenuity as they are here.

At once crude and sophisticated and at once genuine and sardonic Lisa is a swarm of contradictions. Still, the game's genuine exploration of a seldom explored subject warrants mindful consideration of its contents. Few indie games aspire to such themes, and Lisa is one of those rare experiments that uses its freedom from commercial restrictions to a higher potential.

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this is an excellent summary.
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