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Written by Nathan Carter on 2/6/2024 for PS5  
More On: Alisa

I'm not gonna waste any time, Alisa is one of the best survival horror games I have ever played, and one of the reasons is because this game looks, feels and plays like a long lost Playstation One game from the mid to late 90s that has been found and released on modern consoles. There is so much passion, love, care put into this game by someone who truly knows classic survival horror games, making this the best modern classic survival horror game imaginable. Signalis was one of my personal game of they year for 2022 for the same reason and even though 2024 just began, I can tell Alisa is probably going to be sitting at the top of my list of one of the best of the year for a long time. 

Right from the opening sequence featuring those cheesy Playstation One style CGs and terrible voice acting, I knew this was going to be something special. The story starts off with Alisa, an officer working for the royal guard of the country of... uhh...not sure, but the accents sound French or Belgium. Anyways, Alisa is sent on a mission to track down a spy who has stolen incredibly sensitive documents from the emperor. The search leads her and her partner to a quiet country side. Upon finding the spy, Alisa is dragged underground by creatures. Alisa then wakes up looking like Alice from Alice in Wonderland and finds herself in what looks like a strange life-sized doll house, complete with enemies such as killer dolls, wind up toys, killer clowns and even a stalker-type enemy like Nemesis or Mr. X from the Resident Evil series that hunts you down and can show up when you enter most rooms in the game. If they catch you, you are pretty much dead.

The first area you will discover is the central stairway of the mansion and this will basically be your central hub. The hallways are filled with doors. Most of them at the start will be locked. requiring keys you will acquire slowly throughout the game. As you progress, these doors will lead you to new locations, most of them with a theme to them. There is a circus area, an underground water area, and a hedge maze made of metal. There is a story here revolving around the mystery of what this weird doll house actually is and the identity of the spy you are chasing after. You get some cutscenes in the game and there are notes around the area which will give you clues as to what's happening. By the end of the game though there were a lot of questions left unanswered, leaving the story wide open for a sequel. 

Like classic survivor horror games this game uses pre-rendered backgrounds with a fixed camera along with tank controls. Moving from screen to screen will change the background and camera angle, and the reason why this works so well is because with these camera angles there are a lot of clever ways to scare you. Walking up a flight of stairs and seeing something walking on the floor below you is horrifying, with enemies hiding around corners or behind walls you can't see right away. As you would expect with a survival horror game like this, there are also puzzles in the game and most of them I was able to figure out on my own, usually on the first try with some trial and error. I don't recall any except for one of them that required reading a note found in the area in order to figure out the solution. However, there is one puzzle that took me a bunch of tries to get but that was mainly because it's on a timer and if you don't finish quickly enough you die. 

I do have a slight issue with the tank controls. Calm down, it's not the tank controls themselves, I grew up on these. No, the issue is that no matter how much I looked through the menus, it seems like there is no way to change the control scheme so that the d-pad moves the character. You need to use the left joystick to move. Tank controls were specifically designed for d-pads to give you that precise movement when turning left or right. It still works on the joystick, but sometimes movement gets a little wonky because of it. Alisa does include a modern control scheme which works well and lets you move Alisa in any direction without having to stop to turn. This scheme works well but when transitioning screens, you can turned around sometimes. That said, I appreciated that they added a reticle icon on the bottom right side of the screen that will light up when you are aiming at an enemy. With these kinds of games it can be kind of a pain thinking you are actually aiming at an enemy but then just start shooting the air. QOL updates like this are great because they don't take anything away from the classic survival horror experience and update it to make it less painful.

Another great addition is a merchant you can find in save rooms where you can buy ammo, guns and outfits. The different outfits actually have stats to them which can give you additional healing boosts, faster reloads, or increased defense. To buy these items you need toothwheels, which is a currency dropped when you kill enemies. This is kind of a meta game you need to play with yourself as you progress throughout the game. Do you avoid enemies and save ammo? Or do you blow away anything in your path gaining more toothwheels so you can buy better weapons and outfits? There are also special items and weapons you can buy after defeating bosses. You can also buy modifications for Alisa, like giving her the ability to auto aim or puppet strings that will pull her away from danger. Now these modifications are a cool addition but I can't really talk about them in depth. Let's just say it plays into the story and the endings you can get depending on if you have mods or not. 

Alisa also has a ton of replay value. There are certain areas of the map and some doors that you probably won't open on your first playthrough, as they require buying items from the store to open them. There are also areas that can only be accessed after playing through the game a single time. There is a key item to gain access to those areas in the store that you can't buy until you beat the final boss and start a New Game+ run. 

Alisa isn't that long. My first playthrough clocked in at around 8 hours, and that was with full exploration and taking my time. My second playthrough took around five. I'm expecting my third to come in at around three to four hours. The game lasted just enough to not wear out it's welcome, but it's short enough that it makes speed running and additional playthroughs fun since you can blow through it quickly and can carry over all your guns, ammo and outfits to additional runs. I also want to keep playing to find all the additional locations I didn't have access to the first time and so I can buy all the guns and outfits in the game. There are even some outfits like a straight jacket that make it so you can't use any guns and can only use a charge attack to damage enemies, so this would be a fun challenge to try and finish the game with. There are also multiple endings in the game so there is more than enough reason here to go back and play through the game multiple times. 

What's really impressive is the fact that it seems like most of this game was made by a single developer. When the credits started rolling I was expecting to see an entire team of people that worked on this, but it seems that most of this game was made by a single person, Capser Croes, and a couple of others who did the voices and worked on the console port. I didn't realize this was originally a Kickstarter-backed game as well, which is evident by the long list of backers at the end of the credits. There is just so much love and care and passion and understanding of what made these games so great. That extends to the game running at 480p and at 4:3 ratio with black bars on the left and right side of the screen. The voice acting in the game is bad, but it's bad on purpose and sounds just like some of the cheesy voice acting you would have heard back when playing the original Resident Evil. It really has a certain charm to it and it doesn't feel forced at all. There isn't a ton of voice acting in the game but you can tell the cast has a blast making this game. 

Alisa made me feel like I was a teenager again, sitting in my room playing games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill on my PlayStation One on a small tube tv next to my bed. Between Alisa, Tortured Souls and Signalis, the future is extremely bright for classic survival horror - with a number of very talented artists keeping this genre and all of our childhood memories alive for many years to come. If you grew up with this genre and are a fan of the classic Resident Evil or Silent Hill type games, you owe it to yourself to check out Alisa. I give it my highest recommendations and I cannot wait to see what the developer has planned for the future of this series. 

Casper Croes and his crew understood the assignment. Alisa is pure Playstation One-style 90s survival horror in the best way possible. There is so much love and passion put into this game, and a true understanding of tone and aesthetics and gameplay that made those games so much fun. If you grew up with these games like I did, I cannot recommend Alisa enough. 

Rating: 10 Perfect

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively.  It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 35 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was. 

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