LISA Session 01 Review
In a half-hour spurt, as with all spurts
Why I played it:
After the Deus Ex fallout, I haven't had the privilege to get into a real video game in weeks, and I don't mean "real video game" like those hooty-tooty-shoot-em-uppies which /v/ likes to use as examples of how hardcore they are, but a real video game in one that uses traditional mechanics and extended gameplay instead of something you're expected to play in short bursts, like Osu. While I did play Space Station 13 for a bit (spending about ten whole days on it), I found there were multiple critical problems with both the game design and technical design which kept me from enjoying it. While it was a good distraction, it didn't pass my litmus test of being a legitimately enjoyable experience.
So after uninstalling BYOND, that awful game engine, I had to sink my time into something else - and what better place to do that but 8chan? I will admit the hours I spent on there border on life-wasting, though considering how the rest of my time is spent critically thinking about things, do I have a choice but to partake in the cheap thrills so my brain doesn't fry out? It's either spend time on 8chan or organise my porn collection, and I think it's a testimony to how bad the Chans are that organising porn would be a more educational activity.
Bumming around on /v/ did teach me a few things, for instance, how Jewish tricks are responsible for every disaster in the world, and how liking every game released in 2016 makes you an SJW. It also brought to my attention the role-playing game LISA, which was supposedly a game that is not your friend and will bring you the pain faster than John Cena in a six-second video. Being used to games that "bring the pain", but instead end up being a Brain Age minigame where you have to memorise which tiles to avoid so you don't get killed by a spike that is biologically impossible to react to, I took up its challenge.
Let's see - reviewers claiming it had high difficulty, a moral choice system that is supposed to challenge you, a dark and emotionally riveting story, a wide variety of characters to get to know and relate to. Wait a second... Undertale? Is that you in disguise? You piece of shit, don't show up on my blog unless you take off that mask and bring the goat boy with you. Skedaddle. Alright, as a seasoned gamer who has seen it all, does this game deliver on its promises where others have failed? Yes and no. Review over, go home.
How it works:
You play as Brad, a youngster who immediately gets the shit beaten out of him by some bullies after taking the fall for his friend. Brad then goes home to his emotionally and physically abusive father, locks himself in his room, and proceeds to cry. What a nice way to start the story off - abuse from his parents and his classmates, two flavours which go great together, yet you can tell were pulled out of the stock "hard knocks" storeroom. I'll give it credit for setting the tone right away. Most games would fuck around trying to be happy before you get wrecked, leading to nothing more than a foregone conclusion.
I want to say it's emotionally manipulative, but the game isn't saying to you "FEEL SOMETHING" more so than it's trying to make you feel something. There's no goat ho holding your hand and no tricks that you couldn't have predicted like that flower pulled on you. Bad shit happens to Brad and if you don't like bad shit, you'll feel something. It presents what happens without commenting on what you're supposed to feel, and for that it earns a level of dignity that certain other RPGs could never attain.
Then we cut to either a hallucination or a grim vision of the future where Brad and The Gang are camping out in the Mojave Wasteland, where Brad finds a baby girl and is forced to raise it. In this world you can't be a woman without getting gang raped, so they decided to raise it in secret, calling her "buddy", because calling her "Lisa" would have been too obvious for the game's liking. The Gang is murdered while Brad is away and there's no longer a Gang and it's just you and you have to save your fucking daughter you cunt!
And along the way you also get a bunch of hallucinations about Brad's dad, and not your dad because that would be weird, and some baby which might actually be "Lisa", seeing as my wooden knee is acting up again and it's never been wrong before. I'm guessing the game is building up to something with this imaginary baby, because otherwise Brad wouldn't be so determined not to fuck up the real one.
You also meet some guy who decides to join with you, who you get the choice to kill or else have all your shit taken from you. Wasn't much of a choice really - he's a free damage sponge and all you had thus far was an empty bottle and a few rocks. I'm worried about the anon who had to think hard about this "first choice", having posted a picture of a concerned dog implying that this was like choosing between your daughter and your mother. It's between choosing a scalable party member and having your rocks taken from you, and if this was a hard choice for you, then you fail video games forever.
What I felt:
And that's the basic jist of the plot. It works because it's simple and you have a clear motivation to go to, whereas a lot of video games don't give us any particular reason to care about our heroic journey. When you pop open a Legend of Zelda game, there's always the feeling that you're forced to go on an adventure because everybody else expects you to, and not because you want to, saying it's destiny or some other quasi-religious nonsense. In this game, you lost your daughter, your gang is fucked, your childhood was shit and you're pissed off. Fuck destiny - give me my baby back.
As for the gameplay, you're in an overworld where you're expected to climb up and down cliffs in order to find things, and if you fall off a cliff you lose health, and if you fall off a big cliff you die, such as the case with a screen transition where I held the right arrow key and had half a second to react before I fell off a cliff and died. And I did die, because I didn't realise I would have to stop moving after every screen for fear of getting killed by something I don't have the preparation to avoid.
But I realise something else now; that this game wants to be so tough that it will straight up kill you if it doesn't like you. "Isn't that bullshit?" you may be asking me if you're sensible. Of course it's bullshit. One of the goals of game design is to provide a fair challenge, because otherwise the game turns into trial-and-error where you have to fail before you can proceed, which is why I'm not so hot on the "I Wanna be the Guy" clones. I can understand doing it for story reasons, like that ice cream truck business, but making me walk off a cliff and giving my no-death run a big asterix on the end is less providing pain and more giving me incentive to bash your game. Eh?
But enough of the overworld, let's get into the undertale of the combat, not to be confused with the game of the same name that's more popular than the Zambian federal election. You'll be seeing a lot of that game, whereas this game (at least the first thirty minutes of it, in case it turns into Touhou or something at the end - oh wait) is much like its opposite. That game's yang is built on crude graphics, an idiot plot, EZPZ gameplay, and getting a fanbase which could give the Japanese Self-defense Force a run for its money. This game's yin has consistent graphics, reasonable storytelling, gameplay which is actually challenging, and earning the favour of /v/ and nobody else. In other news, the newest Family Guy episode was willingly watched by 2,590,000 people, so I guess people are like beetles in that they like shit.
The game's desperation for pain actually follows through on the combat, which is turn-based with a mechanic called "Armstrong Style" wherein you press WASD in order to make combos. Thus far I have no idea how it works beyond being flavour text, so the safest option is to spam the one skill I have that does the most damage, seeing as the standard operating procedure for RPGs is to kill your enemy before they kill you. And indeed they will kill you, if the absurd amounts of damage I take from the first enemies in the game is any indicator. I actually had to use healing items during regular combat so I didn't die. I haven't had to do that in months! A game that's actually challenging? Say it isn't so.
The big problem with a lot of RPGs is that you find the optimal way to battle, and then it's just using that technique throughout the entire game until you win. You get a whole lot of shit and you never use it because you never needed to - in essence, it's too easy, and if you're unlucky you'll get a final boss that's harder than you expected it to be and then have to use the items you have no familiarity with because you never needed to before. Here though, we have a game where you have to use your items in order to simply live. I can understand why the so-called reviewers would have trouble with this aspect, seeing as most of their experiences have been hand-holding.
While I enjoy a good challenge, I'm also reminded of the videogamedunkey video on difficulty. In it, he makes the case that higher difficulties end up being a frustration as opposed to a challenge, locking you into certain types of tactics that are the only viable ones, reducing gameplay opportunities and making the game less fun because you don't have the freedom to play around in it. He says that the best games are those that provide incentive for you to get good at them without being unfair, and that you need to have the room to let the player improve without making them feel like they're not wasting their time.
Originally I used this paragraph as a launching-off point into a review of a completely unrelated book and my opinions about people who look at video games academically are out-of-touch with the people who really enjoy them (like Dunkey), so I'm not going to make that mistake again. I will say that I agree with Dunkey. I will say that what he says is completely rational and not have to go into a fucking diatribe into why what he says makes sense, because if you're reading this blog and you don't understand why it makes sense, then you should play some more video games and see where he's coming from.
I will also say that LISA so far actually is challenging without being bullshit (for the most part), and I guess that's by virtue of being a 2D RPG instead of some other genre, seeing as the RPG innately limits the players gameplay choices in order to provide a better story. There's no worry about the AI being retarded or your gun being not as useful as you thought it was, because your stats are all there on the menu waiting to be picked out and brutally optimised to be higher, because playing a game where your character gets shittier over time is one for a male more nu than I.
What I learned:
I have been considering which would be a better choice: should a game be too easy, yet allow the player to gimp themselves to make it harder, or make the game too hard and force them to get good? In either case, the game should be designed around each philosophy in order to maximise the player's enjoyment, though I would think than it would be better to at least finish a game and understand its messages than it would be to never get through it at all.
Although the Chans are overall shitty places with shitty people (I asked for the source of a porno and got called a faggot by four different posters), there is some value in it, much like a wedding ring flushed down the toilet.
Total time: 00:30:30
A baby named Froge with a Froghand.
Today's page was updated on October 09, 2016!
He should have named it "SEAN" to ape the Heavy Rain meme.