Trigger warning: the main theme of Lisa: The First and child abuse. Although there’s no overt depiction of such abuse the overall experience and hints can be incredibly distressing.
An abused young girl walks out of her broken home and into the realm of her broken mind. Maybe she can put something back together. Maybe she can fight back against the encroaching darkness moving in on her psyche. Maybe there’s no fixing what’s been smashed and ripped apart. Join her as she wanders and explores her mindspace.
Lisa was created by Austin Jorgensen, known as Dingaling at the time of release. At the time the company was called Dingaling Productions but is now LOVEBRADgames. It was made in RPG Maker 2003 which is strange considering it’s an adventure game. The game is very much like Yume Nikki (Dream Diary) made in RPG Maker 2003 by developer Kikiyama, a series based on the dreams of a social recluse. Except this one is about social isolation via parental abuse instead of a sort of self-imposed exile.
The whole time I played Lisa: The Painful I was haunted by Lisa but had no idea who she was. The Painful only offered cryptic answers but I wanted to know ‘Who is Lisa?’ I knew that she was related to Brad, The Painful’s main character, in some way. That she’s related to Buzzo, Brad’s rival, in some way. That Brad is stricken with sorrow when he thinks about her. But no true answers to what happened to her or who she is. Those answers are more easily derived from this game, Lisa: The First. Each game like a ripple in a pond, growing further and further from the locus of Lisa’s pain.
Lisa is an adventure game where Lisa explores a bizarre and hellish mindscape to find items that she can use to further progress in different areas. Occasionally beset by block puzzles, trade sequence quests, and traversing areas filled with disgusting Marty spiders the game is mostly about exploration. It’s just about going around and seeing things. Seeing what abuse looks like and what Lisa’s relationship with Marty, her abusive father, is like.
So explore, collect items, witness terrible visions, and get chided by Marty while trying to find meaning to the madness.
The visuals in this game are top notch. While not particularly visually impressive they evoke a definite and disturbing raw emotional response from the player. From the disgusting bile in the bile world to the Marty’s face marque background it’s all pretty disturbing.
The game is short and does what it sets out to do and says what it sets out to say quickly. Not disorientingly quick but quick enough to not overstay its welcome. It’s a punch to the gut that knocks the wind clean out of you in a marvelous way.
The Marty spiders are very annoying enemies. They generally come as a sort of puzzle in which they move around in patterns and Lisa must traverse the area while dodging the spiders. That’s fine, frustrating but overall fine. What sucks is when you’re exploring an area and you have those damn hellbeasts chasing you. It’s really difficult to determine where they’re going to move and therefore how to avoid them.
Very much like my evaluation of I have I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream I would never describe this game as fun. It’s not fun, although it is entertaining in segments, for the most part this game is all about human misery. It’s a marvelous and compelling exploration into the world of abuse and it’s free so it’s really worth a play. So the next time you feel like being spooked or wanting to be totally miserable then I suggest giving Lisa: The First a try.
Next Week: I guess I brought it up so I should talk about I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream