LifeisXbox’s Alisa review | When it comes to games from the ’90s, I am your go-to guy. I grew up with PlayStation and played pretty much most of the 7918 games that existed for the machine. I used to be an avid collector before selling it all when I got married, settled down, and had kids. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that all of these stylized PS1-era games that are making a huge comeback caught my eye. I say caught my eye, in fact, I have been watching Alisa ever since it came onto itchio. Fast forward to October 2021 and here we are. The game is out, but how does it play? Alisa is a game developed and published by Casper Croes and is a PSX-styled survival horror game in the same vein as Resident Evil 1, 2, and 3. It even shares some likenesses from Silent Hill, another game dear to my heart.
Alisa will comfortably give you the satisfaction you need, or scratch that itch you have been craving since the good old days
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we liked!
- The Nostalgia | Very few games give me that warm fuzzy feeling inside when I play these old PSX-style games. Maybe that is because there are so many of them available. Just looking at the top horror section in itchio and the first 12 are all PSX style. I understand that it is hot right now and everyone is jumping on board, but very few do it right. Casper Croes has managed to capture the exact look and feel of the PSX era with his highly detailed and accurate rendition of a Playstation 1 game and I love it! The look and feel of the game takes me back to when I was a kid, sitting on my living room floor playing into the late hours of the night before eventually being shouted at to go to bed. It was this era that gave birth to my love of video games and made me want to develop video games myself as I do today.
- The Graphics | I will try and spare the technical jargon where possible but to go hand in hand with what I was mentioning above, the graphics are what make this game perfect as a PS1 style game. First of the post-processing material used here is spot on. The dithering is one of the best I have seen out of all of these style games. The vertex snapping is there, the 4:3 aspect ratio is present. Soft audio is also used. Each aspect of these put together makes the perfect-looking retro game. It even has pre-rendered CGI video and pre-rendered backdrops for extra authenticity.
- The Music | The music takes me back to the days of Resident Evil 1. The mansion, the big staircase in the middle, the low monotone drones of a violin, piano, and harp all stitched together to create this creepy, depressing track that goes with the backdrop of the game. It adds a level of mystery and intrigue to it that begs you to explore more, and with each extra inch explored, new tracks take their place. Boss battle music, save room music, it’s all present and works well combined with everything.
- The Boss Battles | Throughout my playtime with Alisa there were a total of 5 bosses all more spectacular than the last. What I liked about the bosses is that they all have some variation to them. The aquatic boss was my favourite because I had help from an (I’m not going to spoil this for you) character and you can even throw spears back at the boss if you run out of ammo. It’s refreshing to see some time and consideration going into these boss battles and not some simple run-of-the-mill shoot until it’s dead.
- The Puzzles | The puzzles are well thought out. Not too tough and not too difficult either. There was only one puzzle that got me and caused me to return to the main menu and try again and that was because I wasn’t too sure how to switch objects. It’s my fault since I had done a similar puzzle to that one earlier in the game. Each puzzle makes sense though and gets the brain going sometimes. Each one adds a varying degree of challenge that if stuck, you can usually find a hint stashed away in some of the lore scattered throughout the game.
- Pol and his weapon store | The real star of the show however is Pol and his little hidey-hole that he comes out of when entering a save room. Seeing Pol always brought a smile to my face with his cute little voice. Pol remains a mystery to me though since he is a puppet on the end of someone’s arm. So I guess the bigger question here is, “Why is someone hiding in the walls?” Pol provides you with equipment, weapons, items, and dresses and also can save your game, all in exchange for tooth wheels. Toothwheels are cogs that fall from the enemies’ bodies upon killing them. Why? Because the enemies in the game are robotic dolls of course!
- The enemy design | The enemies in Alisa are so varied and each has its own attack. Just off the top of my head, I think there were at least 14 to 15 different enemies and each has its own level of strength and attacks. It’s so good to see and it keeps you on your toes. There are also environmental obstacles in the game like doll arms reaching out from within the walls to grab you and choke you. Seriously, playing this game will have you inching around the corner afraid for your life at every turn.
- The Voice Acting | Take this with a pinch of salt because I am well aware that voice acting in these kinds of games can be something of an homage. Again, looking back at Resident Evil 1, the voice acting resembles very much that of a B movie where nobody is taking it seriously and it’s kind of funny to listen to. I am adding it here because I am unsure if Casper Croes has done this intentionally about these great inspirational horror games he is so clearly a fan of. If he has, then great. Another feather in his cap for referencing his art and being so aware of it.
- The Opening Act | It’s slow. Not that it will bore people, but linking it back to his clear inspirations as mentioned on his itchio page, Resident Evil got right down to it. Crash, run to that mansion, spooks begin. With Alisa, there is an intro at a train station, which leads you to a town, followed by an interrogation of a villager, followed by a chase through the woods, you get the picture. I feel the setup could have been snappier, but ultimately that’s my only gripe with the game design-wise.
- The Difficulty | Initially I sucked at this game. It got me good. That’s because the game is difficult by default. The enemies deal some decent damage, there isn’t much loot to find for your weapons and the enemy count is huge! For those of you who have played it, all I will say is the Circus area. After restarting the game twice, I finally found my footing in the game and learned when to attack, when to run and when to save. Bear in mind there is a lot to think about when navigating this mansion. You can’t just shoot everything you see because the amount of bullets it takes isn’t always going to be worth it tooth wheel-wise. You will find going down this route will leave you with less ammo even after purchasing more. My advice? Run and shoot only when cornered.
- This one annoying Puzzle | Sheep and clocks don’t usually go so well unless you are counting them, but I feel it is worth mentioning that the clock puzzle early on in the game needs looking at. You have to get a code from a clock by using a sonic listener and it gives you a code via a dial on the side. The needle starts by going to 5 then 5 then 2 and then 3. When you go to use that code, however, it was wrong. Not only was it wrong though, but it also wasn’t in the order I was given it, and nowhere did it state that it could be a random order. My code at the end of it all was 3542. All I can say is I think maybe the dial needs looking at to simplify it as having to guess the combination took me a lengthy 30 minutes just playing around with it due to the many combinations.
What we disliked
- Nothing | Never have I ever had to write this in this space about a game. There wasn’t anything I disliked about Alisa. It’s a near-perfect game for me and that is saying something.
How long to beat the story | 8 hours
How long to unlock all achievements | 16 hours
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Gaming is in my blood. Be it handheld games, Xbox, PC, Switch or Playstation, I am all over it.
I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.