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So I Tried… Alisa

So I Tried… Alisa

Each edition of So I Tried… I will try a game that I have never played before. Will I find something new to love? Will I find something new to despise? I'll take a full half hour, no matter how bad it gets or how badly I do, to see if this is the game for me. This time I went with the ‘90s-inspired survival horror title: Alisa.

What I thought it was

With next to no research done on my part, I was expecting Alisa to be a kind of Resident Evil or Silent Hill clone. You know the ones: limited ammunition, searching high and low for save points, dogs bursting through windows to gnaw off your face. Those sorts of games. With the original Resident Evil 3: Nemesis being one of my most replayed games through the years, I was ready to experience something new, but also somewhat familiar. Taking a look at the screenshots for Alisa certainly invoked nostalgic feelings, with the pre-rendered environments and blocky, pixel-faced characters. But, as we see so often in videogames, taking inspiration from classic titles doesn’t always equate to a good game. Does Alisa have what it takes to be amongst these late ‘90s greats?

What it actually is

So, it turns out I wasn’t wildly off in my prediction of what Alisa was, but to call it a clone of the PlayStation classics would be a huge disservice to it. The cheesy opening cutscene, complete with questionable voice acting (not Jill sandwich bad, thankfully) and uncanny valley-like character models, may deter modern gamers from sticking this one out. For me, this was an instant throwback to late nights spent exploring Racoon City or countless other games I probably shouldn’t have been playing as a fresh-faced young kid. Then, wouldn’t you know it, Alisa has the scariest thing found in so many survival horror titles; tank controls! To my relief, there is a modern set-up that works incredibly well — sorry, gaming purists — but I’m sticking with the more intuitive option.

Onto the game, then! We play as Alisa, a member of the Royal Armed Defenses on the hunt for a spy that has stolen some important blueprints. After arriving at a creepy rural village, Alisa ends up being captured by some very freaky-looking quadrupedal creatures. After awakening in Spencer Mansion, sorry no, the Doll House, sporting a rather Alice in Wonderland-inspired new outfit, Alisa must find a way to escape this strange place. It wouldn’t be much of a survival horror game if there weren’t things to survive, so in no time at all, I came across a few different enemies. These automaton dolls are both uniquely designed and unsettling. The legless ones crawling around with knives for hands were perhaps the most sinister, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else awaits me in this house of horrors.

Not everything in the Doll House is out to get you, it seems, as a friendly — for now, at least — puppet named Pol appears in a hole in the wall. Pol asks Alisa to bring him toothwheels (collected from defeated enemies) in exchange for new weapons and outfits, items, and the ability to save the game, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing him again all over the house. I’ve got my eye on you, though, Pol!

Will I keep playing

Absolutely! As someone who loves the horror genre but is an absolute coward when playing horror games, Alisa does a perfect job of being more unsettling and atmospheric, unlike many other titles that just throw jump scares at the player every five minutes until it just becomes something to expect, losing any tension the game had previously built up. The care put into making Alisa look and feel like a retro classic, but the inclusion of some modern touches for those who may struggle to play with things like tank controls, has been really well done.

I truly believe that if Alisa had been released during the height of the fifth generation of consoles, then it would have gone down as one of the best games of that era. Despite only playing such a small section of the game, I’m already completely invested in this weird, unique, and surprisingly funny world.

So I Tried
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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Logan Dockery
Logan Dockery - 01:40pm, 2nd April 2024

Tank controls ARE the more intuitive control scheme. Pressing forward ALWAYS goes forward, regardless which way you end up facing when the camera angle changes. Holding right to go right, and suddenly when the camera changes and now you're going UP the screen while holding right? That's not intuitive