LISA: Pain and morbid choices hidden within satire

LISA is a two-dimensional indie role playing game and developed by Dingaling. The player personifies a balding man in a poncho with cuts, bruises and an abusive past. He finds and drops a baby girl recognized as the only female alive and raises her in secret. She suddenly gets kidnapped and the protagonist travels the world to save the girl and possibly humanity.

The graphics are reminiscent of old role playing games such as Final Fantasy on the Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems. Pixel art deserves more attention for the interesting ways discerning features for characters and objects can be expressed in a limited art medium.

The backgrounds feature simple yet pleasant color palettes for remote and mildly perilous scenery such as desert landscapes, caves and small villages. Platforming puzzles are simple with four directional controls and a series of ropes, ledges and entrances to explore and navigate the lands.

LISA screenshot 2 - c

However, the game tends to produce typical challenges introduced in common platforming games but to an almost cruel extent. Life-saving items and resources are commonly placed on ledges impossible to reach. Pathways can sometimes lead to absolutely nowhere and force you to take damage in the process and save locations can only be used once before they’re gone forever which makes for an interesting challenge.

The combat system is really similar to the Final Fantasy games but the equipment and items in the game are strange. Monsters drop currencies and strange restoring foods and beverages such as mystery jerky and diet sodas. Stores sell equipment with different euphemisms for the word dirty appended to them and some strangers have little campfires to share life restoring soup stored in empty beer bottles the player collects along the way.

The game has interesting and appreciable game mechanics but the plot, however shallow, contains curious dark and morbid humor and bizarre characters. A senile orator told me he was a great historian within the lands, proceeded to talk about nonsense for a good couple of minutes and then forcibly joined my party.

Party members can also be recruited at inns in exchange for an initial fee. I hired a shirtless vacuum salesman archer with a cape and exploding arrows along with a luchador because I liked his red and yellow mask.

The game forces the player into moral dilemmas that permanently affect game play including creepy men who invite player to take shelter in their tents in exchange for dirty magazines, evading “Clockwork Orange” gang members on drugs and helping a family of orphans playing with matches. Shortly after I began participating as the protagonist, a gang of thugs ran me over with a bus and the leader, sporting a mohawk, rode in on his reindeer and forced me into a dilemma that lead to a party member’s death.

The small corners in the game are almost always perilous but usually entertaining. The menus have barely any aesthetic but they are intuitive and easy to use so it doesn’t detract from the campy story line and consistently surprising characters and events throughout the game.