LISA Session 04 Review

Trigger warning: sixth word is rape

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Why I played it:

Why do people act out rape fantasies and want to get hurt? In some way, they like it.

How it works:

The Gang visits and leaves the drag queen town far too soon, but it was a bittersweet removal, as they all hate each other. I suppose one of the themes of this game is how men are supposed to be seen as an incredibly masculine ideal, almost to the point of being unrealistic towering hunks, or a gender of cool and suave people with great fashion sense, as those who don't fit in the niche of being typically manly are outcast in this society, and have to form underground communities where they're accepted. Is this game a stealth satire?

Anyway, The Gang goes onwards to the bar where your daughter is supposedly being raped (I'm being serious this time), and just so happens to fall asleep and have Terry taken away from them. A right convenient time to do so, as after the fight with some dudes who were REALLY pissed off that you're bald (so much they took you off the rape list, and also tried to kill you), we get a new party member. It turns out it wasn't your daughter, but a fat man who may or may not be an allegory for transgender suffering. Why yes, it is a stealth satire!

The reason we get this unfortunate man is because he owned the truck that was in our way a long time ago and now it isn't because now he owns the truck and could deal massive damage to enemies if he didn't constantly miss because he wasn't bloody depressed. It might be asking too much to ask for a cure for depression that fits in your pocket, but can I at least have a party member who does damage more than 30% of the time?

The Gang then comes across another rest stop with even more assholes who want to cause trouble for you, another crow (unlike the one which I activated, decided not to save at, and still blew up anyway), and two dudes who want to fuck you up for no reason, a bit like every other pair of dudes who want to fuck you up for no reason, except this time with the power to kill my entire party before I could even understand what happened.

And then I closed the game, and wrote this review. Because losing your three-hour deathless streak to a couple of burly black dudes, the same as you've defeated four times before, with the same unremarkable sprites that was very poorly advertised as being a boss and so didn't make me take the fight as seriously as I should have, all you can do is move on and understand that you didn't get lucky.

And peppered along the way was the fabled "LISA" hanging on a rope, a flashback to Brad's high school days where he becomes addicted to drugs for whatever bad thing happened to him in the past (probably to do with "LISA", you know, being the name of the game), and some fucking maniac raving in his house. Rock on, fishbowl-loving fuck.

There was also this minigame where you had to navigate through the cliffs to reach the goal, and if you try to run to the goal that's right below you instead of going the long way around, you get cussed out. Anyway, for five magazines and the potential to get a 1000 point heal, it was worth being told to "take a hike" (you bitch).

What I felt:

This game is drenched in more symbolism than the Unicode consortium after they spill all the design documents. If you were to say, smoko frodo a bunch of that good good, then you would consider it rational that you see a big blob motherfucker picking a fight with you. Being outside of the Kid Cudi definition of the lonely stoner, I have no context as to why the game is making us fight these blobs. Perhaps it's a statement saying that drug use turns you into a monster that slowly kills itself over time. And maybe Bansky will come out of the bushes and grafitti the twin towers crying.

To be honest, I was surprised that I didn't die earlier, seeing as I got my shit knocked around a few times and barely came from the brink of salvation. But I guess that's what happens when you get lazy, get shoved into a comfort zone, and be conservative with your items instead of going balls-out crazy when you should. LISA doesn't fuck around, and doesn't expect you to, either.

It's with these fights that the gameplay starts to wear a bit thin - where low-power abilities are still in your menu despite you having almost no reason to use them, and most of the battle consist of spamming your strongest attacks until the enemy dies. The balancing act is when the enemy fights back and sheers off a ton of health from your party, and you have to actually use the right items without being spendthrift so as to not be shit out of luck down the line.

This game is basically about budgeting. You budget which items you might need for this fight, how much skill points you can spend, and if you're wrong, you end up with one or more of your party getting knocked the fuck out, losing out on the extremely important (and generous, by sheer balance necessity) experience points. The same could be said about almost every role-playing game ever made, but because this game is, to write with the same briliant prose as what you might find in IGN, very hard, it's especially apparent that you have to plan your moves ahead of time.

That may be all well and good for the first few hours, but after you've unlocked a bunch of abilities and the game starts opening up, it stops being about the gameplay. The gameplay will be the same, give or take slightly better abilities and more optimisation. It instead starts being about the story, and how well the gameplay integrates into it. It is fortunate then that LISA has some of the strongest gameplay and story integration I've ever seen, with every fight occuring because some character is an asshole, or because they bum rush you while you sleep, but never because of the Powers that Be demanding that you have a fight.

TV Tropes has a page called "Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game", which says that a game that has shit - alright, mediocre - gameplay can be excused if the story is good. I like this idea very much, as it dispels the notion that games exist to be "fun" and not "worthwhile", as people who don't think too much about video games expect every video game to be fun without thinking about the context of the gameplay elements as they apply to a fictional world. But the opinions of these people don't matter, so let's begin anew.

When you get a certain point in your gaming career, you see it all. You've played and read about every genre, have played all the big games worth playing, start realising that most games are popular despite not being worthy of your time for whatever reason (didn't age well, has a predictable story, doesn't push the boundaries of video games, etc.), and work your ass off to find games that are worth playing, and aren't just a twenty-hour waste of your time in some gambit to get to an unsatisfying ending.

Some cunt may come along and then say "oh, you're just getting bored of video games". Hey, asshole, I've been playing games my entire life and I've never been bored when it comes to a game that respects the player enough to give them something worth playing instead of just being another installment in a cash cow franchise to pump out without innovating a single thing. The state of music in 2016 may be hot shit on a platter (as opposed to 2014, which was a great year for vaporwave), but I'm not bored of good music just because there's a metric fuckton of badly-produced EDM, bored vocalists, and nonsensical hip-hop.

LISA doesn't have bad gameplay. For an RPG, it's damn good. It's damn good for a few reasons. It challenges you instead of making you grind for experience, then giving you a boss fight that's too powerful for what you could have expected for all the enemies that you've already slain (fucking Pokemon Mystery Dungeon). It gives you the bare minimum needed to survive, and expects you to make the most of it. The movement is natural and fits in with the world exceptionally well. The combat is intuitive and easy to learn. It's the game that the hardcore RPG fan has been waiting for, and I will be proud to have that quote mined.

It should be said though, that this is at it's core an RPG, and so is limited by the mechanics of this genre that's as ancient as video games themselves. The combat takes place entirely through menus, and even though all the attack animations are fluid, snappy, and don't waste any time, it still feels like you're rushing through every battle that isn't posing a significant threat to you. Select the best abilities, wail away, and heal when you need to, and that's most of the fights right there.

It avoids the typical RPG numbers game where you have to be this strong to continue, as any sensible man will have already gained levels naturally through the course of the game without a need to grind. It's instead about management, not spending your time crunching numbers, and though the former is preferable to the latter, the gameplay is still constricted to menus, and so doesn't branch out to its full potential.

This is why the RPG formula works best as a side dish and not the main course, because including the mechanically solid RPG elements of experience, upgrades, abilities, and items are fucking cool if you put it in, say, a top-down action game, or a first-person shooter, because they compliment other game mechanics as opposed to smothering the entirety of the game. The biggest knock about Runescape and it's wide-open and expansive world, is that for all the stuff that you get to do in it, you still better be prepared to stand in one spot for a few hours and start fishing, bitch.

But for all its constraints, this is still a very tightly designed RPG, and even though the gameplay gets stale after a few hours, it doesn't become boring. Even Deus Ex and Mass Effect started to be a grind near the very end, and the only reason you kept going was to get to the end of the story. So it's a damn good virtue that LISA has both great gameplay and a great story, because if you don't like one, you'll like the other.

I can understand the whims of people who don't like RPGs and would miss this unique experience of a man's world dealing with the troubles that only men can have, as told by the perspective of men, because RPGs can get really boring. But I will tell these people that LISA isn't boring, far from it, and owes half of its success to making the most out of the RPG format through a balls-to-the-grindstone difficulty curve, and the other half through the completely original, unabashedly fresh story and world that it builds.

I described it as a fucked up game in review 03, and I will say it again. LISA is fucked up. It may not fuck you up, but you'll see some fucked up things. And the strange thing is that you start to appreciate why everything is fucked up, and begin to understand why this world can't be any other way. It's a unique experience to grow as part of a world more than you do with its characters, and one which I am now proud to recommend, even only three hours into the game.

What I learned:

Just as you don't appreciate how truly, truly awful video games can be until you play one that is so shitty that you have to wonder why it was made at all, you also don't appreciate the standard of quality that a game can produce until it exists. You can harp on and on about why a game is garbage, but it takes a special person to write, in clear terms, why it's good.

Am I giving LISA the succ before the review is even done? Yes, but is it premature to do so when there's no guarentee a game that begins good will stay that way? I might agree with you if I only played the first three hours of the game and then pulled an IGN and said "10/8 it's gr8 m8". But I'm reviewing this episodically, and as a result of which, I'm displaying my feeling about the game in short little episodes as opposed to as an entire package.

So if I'm giving this game the succ, know that there is something within these three hours that make me feel it deserves the succ, and that it is my duty to document the effortless features of design which designate it as such.

Total time: 03:13:36

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Not dead yet - Froghand.

Today's page was updated on October 12, 2016!

The line between a masochist and a sexist is when you beat more than your own meat.

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