LISA: The Painful journey.

A story that teaches you of the powerful impact and consequences that pain brings with it, and the people it molds into monsters.

Created: Nov 24, 2020


~6 min read


This game deals with heavy topics, such as:

  • Child abuse.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Depression.

Please continue reading with caution.

LISA is a series of games (kind of) which revolve around a girl called Lisa, and the chain reaction of things that happened to her. The first one, now called LISA: The First, is like Yume Nikki in that you browse worlds, enter doors, and not much else in particular. One difference, however, is the story. I’ll stop myself from going into detail, but I will say that it is a pretty short game that’s also completely free, so you might want to give it a shot.

It’s not mandatory to play the first game before playing this one, but it does however give a bit of context to certain things that happen within the game, not least of which because you’ll be playing as her brother, Brad Armstrong.

Brad is someone who’s lived a hard life up to the point where he’s at today. His childhood was, to put it very lightly, tough. Somewhere along the way, he crafted a martial art and decided to start teaching it to others. At some point however, the entire world underwent a white flash, and all of the women within it vanished. Soon after, this led to a whole apocalypse as the world struggled to readjust to its new state, and joining the struggle was Brad.

This new world brought with it a drug of mysterious origin known as Joy. Despite its name, all the drug does is make you feel nothing, in effect making you numb to the world around you. However, it also brings with it another much more sinister side-effect, being that taking enough of it will turn you into a Joy Mutant, a twisted mountain of flesh driven only by their deepest desires, without a shred of inhibition to stop them. Their power is incredibly brutal, and you will meet these throughout the game, and you will be terrified when you do.

It is very gut-wrenching, then, to see Brad become addicted to Joy in the start of the game. Infact, as the game goes on, Brad will end up with a “Withdrawal” debuff that decimates your attack, making Brad’s punches cause as much hurt as throwing a pillow. You can remove this by taking Joy as an ingame item, which will not only fully heal you, but also give you the Joyed buff that makes you critical all of your attacks. The only reason not to pick Joy then, is your conscience.

The terror of Joy Mutants comes from a mechanic (of sorts) known as death. If your HP goes to 0, you will faint and be unable to fight further until you are revived. However, there are other moves that inflict Death, a status ailment that effectively erases that member from your party. If Brad is hit by one of these, that’s a game over. But if anyone else in your party is hit, they will immediately leave the game and you’ll be unable to play with them again. This means that, since your party will most likely contain members that you deeply care for or find very useful, any move that does this will most likely throw you for one hell of a loop.

This could be game-breaking if you only had 3 allies. However, this game boasts 30 total allies that you can put in your party. All of them have their own moves, stats, quirks, and ways of functioning, which leads to a pretty large amount of party configurations that you can end up with. Not all of them are necessary of course, infact a very large portion of them can only be recruited by doing side-quests, or following certain requirements.

The world of Olathe is cruel, disgusting, funny, and fascinating. It’s filled with absolute trash for human beings, and others who you can trust. At points, you will be forced to perform sacrifices which directly and instantly have an impact on the game - such as choosing between your arm or your party member. If you lose your arm, your stats will take a big hit, your attack pool will change and become more limited, and your joy withdrawal will get worse. If you lose your party member however… well. You lost them.

One very good thing about this game is that, despite it being an RPG, it barely has any random encounters. Most of the game’s enemies are completely unique and have their own names, and once beaten they will leave. Even the random encounters that do exist drop barely any EXP or mags, this game’s currency, making grinding almost impossible. The only way to “grind” would be to seek out and fight every person you are allowed to fight, which isn’t nearly as tedious considering that every enemy you fight will be a fresh face with their own quirks.

The music is chaotic, melodic, comforting, and shocking. There are beautiful songs such as Beehive and Summer Love, violent songs such as War Season and Beam Brain, haunting songs like Blood For Sex and Bradley, and lots lots more. There are so many songs in this game, a ridiculous range of moods and genres across all of them, and a lot of them pack a strong punch. It makes it more astonishing then, that the songs were made by the developer, designer, artist, and writer of the game — Austin Jorgensen. This entire game was made by one lone man, started after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The indie nature of the game, alongside its strong Earthbound inspiration and origin on Kickstarter has drawn parallels with Undertale. However, they are vastly different in a large amount of aspects. The similarities they share come from the inspiration they draw, meaning a fleshed out world with quirky humour placed within its inhabitants. The gameplay, soundtrack, art style, story, and tone between the two contrast heavily.

Another place in which they contrast, is the reception. Undertale blew right up, becoming a phenomenon for a very long while, and cementing its place as one of the most popular and well-loved games in the entire history of the field. LISA, however, never did rise to that level of popularity. If you look at its reception however, you will see that it is incredibly positive, with the fanbase being immensely dedicated and strong to this day. In that regards, it shares something with Earthbound. They’re both cult classics, albeit Earthbound has slowly gained its own time in the spotlight as well.

Looking at the sheer talent within this project, and the impact it has on so many people, maybe LISA: The Painful will someday reach the same fate.