Alisa Review – (PS5) – The measure for any survival horror game starts and ends with the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises. Casper Croes takes a stab at recreating a similar experience found on the PlayStation 1.
Considering Alisa is this team’s first game, their effort is a lofty one. The good news is that, apart from a few oddities and mishaps, Alisa does a good job of channeling that era of horror while still doing its own thing.
Alisa Review (PS5) – A Welcome Spin On A Beloved Genre
Alisa’s military group, the Elite Royal Agents, splits up into teams to scour the countryside in search of a wanted criminal. In doing so, Alisa finds herself separated from her team in a Victorian house occupied by creatures that look like dolls and toys
Like many games before it, Alisa pursues the aesthetic and presentation that gamers loved with PlayStation 1 games. In particular, the dev team decided to utilize pre-rendered backgrounds to great effect.
In general, objects and items appear clearly on the backdrops. Though, you need to interact with plenty of inanimate things, like cupboards and drawers, in order to find everything you need.
Another aspect of the 90s that this team works to capture is the quality of voice work. The cast commits to the campiness of classic survival horror game dialogue without going too far. Alisa uses a French accent of sorts, which just feels right in this setting and style.
A New Take On Retro Horror
In fact, all voice work receives a similar touch. Every accent and delivered line is slightly off in one way or another, which adds a growing disjointed nature to the game. Different settings change the way that nature shifts and distorts, which helps to vary the experience.
At the same time, the overall themes never overshoot the original vision of the game, keeping the experience a cohesive one.
These distortions do not present themselves in the visible game but rather in what you hear. In doing so, you feel the oddities rather than see them. Combining that particular audio with the low-poly gameplay makes you naturally think more about what you see and hear.
In this, Casper Croes channels that 90s survival horror presentation. What makes it more interesting is how it also twists in some comical traits along the way, which disorients things even more.
At the risk of approaching pedantic, Alisa is a game that you need to buy into rather than be convinced to play. In all likelihood, fans of old-school Resident Evil will have already jumped all over this game.
For everyone else’s sake, this is the perfect opportunity to get a unique PS1-era experience without having a ton of spoilers or remakes or news coverage of said experience that will diminish it for you.
Just like its muse, Alisa uses tank controls by default. For players like me, the game offers (and even asks) to change the controls to more modern ones. With games like this, tank controls offer a distinct advantage when it comes to aiming weapons and fighting.
Unfortunately for players like me, I cannot get the hang of tank controls, which leaves me thankful to Casper Croes for providing different control options.
In particular, one disadvantage of using modern controls shows itself when you aim your weapons. Just like with Resident Evil 1, attacks go straight out, upward at a 45-degree angle, and downward at 45 degrees.
When aiming up or down, Alisa easily rotates around if you don’t properly angle your joystick. This can be acclimated to, but the aiming controls require far more precision than they do when using tank controls.
On a personal but relevant note, I prefer horror that leans more into Silent Hill and Madison where your capacity for growing more powerful stays inhibited or diminished. Alisa plays more like Resident Evil in that you purchase upgrades and new weapons and grow more powerful as you go.
This ends up trivializing a fair few fights along the way, but it does feel great countering an enemy that once made you struggle.
With that in mind, one enemy countermines this and appears at random in different zones. You know it’s there when the music changes. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that it’s almost an instant kill if it grabs you. This also wouldn’t be a problem if the fixed cameras didn’t hide it so well or so often.
It doesn’t move fast, but that doesn’t stop the game from putting you in cheap situations. To save myself frustration, I habitually just leave the area right away if the music changes, which diminishes the impact of this monster’s influence.
Boss fights feature unique, well-designed enemies. Hell, the entire spread of enemies look any combination of cool, creepy, and unsettling. However, much like survival horror games from that time, most fights (boss fights in particular) seem daunting at first but quickly prove frivolous once you learn the tactic.
While this is par for the course, the true oddity comes with particular enemies sprinkled throughout the game. In several instances, I run around an enemy in a tight circle for so long that the enemy just stops. This lets me just unload ammunition without any need to worry about my defenses.
Thankfully, this only happens with larger and slower enemies, but those enemies are the ones that require more damage to take down.
A Valiant And Successful Take On Retro Survival Horror
When a team swings for the rafters in terms of expectation, a lot can go wrong. A few things do go wrong, but Casper Croes still put together a thoughtful, engaging game that channels the gaming era that inspired it.
Controls are naturally wonky, a looming threat misses the mark, and the hints of comical horror alongside the intentional 90s campy presentation may not appeal to everyone.
One way or another, horror fans need to play Alisa. It takes the essence of old school Resident Evil and spins into its own style. At $20, you can’t go wrong.
Alisa is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.