LISA: Definitive Edition LISA: Definitive Edition PS5 Review PS5 Review

LISA: Definitive Edition Review (PS5) – Cult Hit RPG Is A Future Shock

LISA: Definitive Edition PS5 Review. Nearly a decade after this RPG Maker title became a cult hit, it arrives on consoles alongside its follow-up in a shiny new expanded form. Find out if LISA: Definitive Edition still enchants with its bleak and quirky ways in PlayStation Universe’s PS5 review.

LISA: Definitive Edition Review (PS5) – Cult Hit RPG Is A Future Shock

One of the greatest things to happen to gaming this century was easier access to game-making tools. It has arguably spearheaded a lot of the most inventive and interesting movements in the medium over the last 15 years or so. LISA: The Painful is one of the finest examples of that. Made in RPG Maker in 2014, this simple-looking adventure feels like a celebration of a certain period in internet history and has a wonderful mixture of horrifically bleak post-apocalyptic style and offbeat humor.

LISA: Definitive Edition contains LISA: The Painful and LISA: The Joyful. Both tell a continuing story with two separate, but narratively connected protagonists. They might as well be two halves of a whole though.

In a world where all females have disappeared, many men have fallen victim to a drug known as Joy. One man by the name of Brad is afflicted by this problem, but his life is given new meaning when he discovers an abandoned baby that turns out to be a girl. Brad keeps her femininity a secret, knowing what it could mean, and raises her as his own and names her Buddy. Unfortunately, Buddy goes missing, and Brad goes on a bloody warpath to find her.

The sequel sees Buddy as the protagonist and is joined by many of the same characters from the previous journey. In both games, the formula is much the same. These are simple RPGs at heart with some very wild and dark twists along the way. It’s still all about ‘classes’ abilities, parties, and turn-based combat though; and often punishingly difficult combat, at that. That’s not always a fun challenge either.

A Gross Sale

The characters have abilities and quirks befitting this bleak and barren world of unpleasantness. For instance, Brad’s addiction to Joy has a massive impact on his stats, even causing them to fall off a cliff if he’s in hard withdrawal. Emotional states play a big part in how the party performs, and each has their own personal crosses to bear. It’s just a small part of how LISA subverts traditional RPG elements. Sure we’ve had other games since with a similar drive to mess with the rules such as Undertale, but LISA has to be appreciated for what it did at the time.

LISA has a sense of humor about its dire world, but it’s often jet-black. The content of these games is more often than not straight-up nasty and upsetting. Bold and controversial even for a video game in 2023, but at least it’s honest about why it’s that way. There are no mumbling and fumbling attempts to be ‘edgy’. Just a curious fascination with examining the horrors of humanity. I don’t like to lay on the obvious ‘it’s not for everyone’ line in a review, but it’s needed when it comes to a game as bristling as LISA. To be fair, the game is upfront about things to some degree at least.

Almost as unsettling as all that are the characters you meet along the way. The menu screen on the PS5 alone showcases plenty of the messed up weirdos and freakish mutants you’ll be encountering on your journeys, and they only feel worse to meet in game. There’s amusing sadsacks and creepy freaks galore and they are rarely used for fodder in narrative terms.

A Buzzing in My Ears

I suppose the only downside here is that these games are fresh in many ways, but as actual RPGs they are pretty barebones and often needlessly frustrating. The quality elsewhere is enough to push you past that to a degree and there have been more polished-looking RPGs with worse systems than this. Yet if that doesn’t rankle you, the deliberately unpleasant soundtrack is bound to. I can appreciate the commitment to the bit, but as someone who loves it when a soundtrack drags me into a game, I was saddened that LISA made me turn the volume down on a few occasions.

Even with all this, I think LISA deserves to be played by a wider audience because for all its flaws, it’s at least an interesting and challenging experience that’s hard to forget.

LISA: Definitive Edition is out now for PS5 & PS4.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

LISA: Definitive Edition sees two games deserving of a new audience, even if they haven’t aged all that well in places.