Lisa the Joyful (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 02.02.2016

Review for Lisa the Joyful  on PC

As the only girl in Olathe, Buddy's life is a rather hard one. She's been kidnapped, abused, and manipulated by the men of the Lisaverse, and things only get worse from here. Taking place mere minutes after the end of the first game, Lisa the Joyful is a DLC expansion that shifts focus from Brad Armstrong to Buddy, as she ventures throughout Olathe on a quest of revenge and self-discovery, as well an attempt to come to terms with her harsh reality and the relationship with her estranged father, Brad.

Mechanically, The Joyful follows the same key beats of Lisa. Both are turn-based RPGs in a unique setting, both incorporate minor levels of platforming, and both put a heavier emphasis on the story than the actual gameplay. With that in mind, no time is wasted here in an attempt to distance itself from the original.

Brad's adventure sported 30 party members, a memorable cast of NPCs, and great set pieces that wouldn't make sense in most RPGs, but Buddy's own journey is much more subdued. Gone are the days of stringing combos Armstrong-style, while using a handpicked party to do further damage or inflict one of the dozens of ailments the original sports. Instead, she uses a time based mini-game for her attacks and little to no opportunity to use anything else, effectively removing the strategy aspect of the original.

Screenshot for Lisa the Joyful  on PC

If this was a longer experience, perhaps more opportunities for strategy and clever play would arise, but as a journey that clocks out at roughly two hours, there's little room for variety. A short RPG can be good as proved by titles like Undertale, but Buddy's quest for revenge doesn't have enough meat for it to sustain itself and compete with the heavy hitters. He gets one party member, barely interacts with any NPCs, and slogs through some rather unmemorable areas that either rely on call-backs to its progenitor or just don't have enough effort put into their conception to stand out.

An important thing to note here is its status as a piece of DLC and a sequel. It's without question a piece of DLC, it's sold separately as an expansion to a base title, but the developer, Dingaling, considers it its own game entirely; this isn't just an expansion. While it does expand on the original in a lot of ways, it has more in common with a sequel than an expansion pack and, unfortunately, it's this branding as a sequel that makes the DLC suffer so much. If it was just a small, stand alone add-on with little fanfare, it could be partially forgiven for its flaws, but as a full blown sequel, it's nothing short of regrettable.

Screenshot for Lisa the Joyful  on PC

Sequels should be expected to follow the themes and narratives of the original in some way, whether that's through expanding them, deconstructing them, or offering another point of view. Lisa the Joyful doesn't do any of that. Buddy's overreliance on revenge starts to feel grating far too quickly, and, because of the short play time, it's never realized in a way that serves her narrative or Brad's.

Therefore, without a clear cut theme in an RPG that's essentially all story, how well does this stack up? Surprisingly, pretty well. Dingaling improves on the original in just about every way outside of gameplay. The soundtrack is more refined, the sprite work looks cleaner and smoother, and the writing manages to carry enough weight to distract from the subpar gameplay - most of the time, at least.

Screenshot for Lisa the Joyful  on PC

While good and arguably better on a technical level than the base game, the biggest problem here is precisely that focus on story and writing. The original manages to have great gameplay and game design without skimping on the story, but Dingaling is clearly focused on telling a story here and not presenting a videogame filled with content.

Truly, the most offensive thing about the sequel is how it blatantly ignores the aspects that made the first trek through Olathe worth playing. Getting further character development and world building is undeniably a good thing and it's handled in an incredibly tasteful way (to be expected from the Developer), but when the quality of gameplay doesn't match the quality of the story, let alone the frequency, a huge problem arises, and Lisa the Joyful basks in that problem.

Screenshot for Lisa the Joyful  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Lisa the Joyful is not a bad game, far from it. The story is a great send off to the world of Olathe and its inhabitants, but the gameplay itself feels too low an effort compared to Lisa. Does it accomplish what it sought out to do? Absolutely, and for that it should be commended, but as a sequel to the 2014 RPG, it's an enormous disappointment that never quite feels like a necessity in understanding Brad, Buddy, Olathe, and all the factors that make up the Lisaverse.

Developer

Dingaling

Publisher

Dingaling

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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