Alisa (PS5) Review – Classic Survival Horror for the Modern Gamer

Reviving Classic Horror: Alisa’s Modern Take

Although I consider myself a fan of classic survival horror, the Casper Croes-developed Alisa escaped me when it was released in 2021. However, that all changed with the new console port, which is titled Alisa: Developer’s Cut. While this update isn’t exclusive to the console version, it does guarantee that new players will experience the most modern version of the game. Anyway, how does classic horror hold up in 2024? Pretty good, actually.

The Campy Charm of Alisa’s Narrative

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Alisa begins with a few campy cutscenes describing stolen blueprints that require the police force to travel from town to town to look for them. Players assume the role of Alisa, who finds herself in a strange, almost deserted town. While I enjoyed the production of these opening moments, I just thought the game would have been better off setting the foundation with a bit more tension than what’s here. In all honesty, after an hour, I had already forgotten why I went to that town in the first place.

Alisa: Developer’s Cut proves that classic horror can thrive in 2024, blending old-school charm with modern sensibilities for an unforgettable experience.

While searching for clues, she spots a suspect and takes off after him, only to be pulled into the ground by monsters. When she awakens, she’s wearing a dress inspired by Alice in Wonderland in a strange mansion. It doesn’t take long till she encounters something that can kill her, but eventually she starts getting to some answers. The actual narrative of this game gets pretty far out there and ends up becoming a blend of campy classic Resident Evil and a Quinten Tarantino film in terms of twists and chaos. This largely has to do with the evolution that Alice goes through across the 8-hour campaign. Whether in her clothes or equipment, her confidence seems to alter following each narrative milestone. The writing here captures what fans love about the survival horror genre and just leans into it.

With a narrative that dances between Resident Evil’s camp and Tarantino’s twists, Alisa captures the essence of survival horror storytelling with audacious confidence.

Although most of the scenes have audio, I didn’t really like the sound direction. The voice work was excellent for this particular genre, but the recordings sound almost too clear. Regardless, I enjoyed the cutscenes and overall twists that left me scratching my head or laughing until the credits rolled.

The Gameplay Evolution: From Tank Controls to Gear Currency

The gameplay of Alisa mirrors its inspirations by offering players the chance to use tank controls or a modern control scheme. It’s a good option to have, but I think tank controls work best in this environement, but they may take some getting used to. Luckily, the developer created a lengthy opening sequence to allow you the chance to practice running in a straight line. The rest of the game is a relatively standard flair for the genre: you solve puzzles, conserve ammo, fight monsters, probably die once or twice, get frustrated because you forgot to save, and maybe start over because you forgot to save, find new weapons, become overconfident towards the end of the game, take down everything in sight that once terrified you, end credits.

However, that doesn’t come without some unique elements of gameplay. For starters, each enemy defeated drops gear currency that is used to purchase items and outfits as well as save the game. Item management isn’t too crucial as keys are all organized on a ring, but the overall traversal of these menus is more inspired by games like Clock Tower, where you have to cycle through the items instead of seeing everything you have on one grid. Menuing is also necessary for using keys to locked doors and healing, so you’ll be seeing the item carousel often.

The Role of Outfits and Weapons: Style Meets Survival

Enemies can be quite challenging, as their only clear goal is to chase you down and kill you. There are plenty of early-game traps as well that teach you to conserve weapons and how to aim properly, but there’s a consistent sense of uneasiness in the game’s design that forces you to save often. I wouldn’t say any aspects of the game are unfair, but it’s almost a crash course in classic survival horror. There are options for difficulty, but I feel like it’s the perfect way to introduce new players to the experience that older gamers once had. This is further complemented by the overall PS1-era graphics that only heighten the experience.

The Developer’s Cut of Alisa on consoles is a masterclass in how to update a classic for the modern era, offering smooth gameplay and expanded features that cater to both newcomers and veterans.

Outside of gameplay, I feel the outfits need to be brought up because they’re a pretty significant part of the gameplay. At the shop, you can purchase outfits to make Alice look as cute as possible as she blasts away demons. Sadly, they’re a lot faster than zombies, but I still managed to look like a badass during scenes, thanks to the insane level of weapons available.

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The Developer’s Cut portion of the game added several new options, such as auto-aim, minigames, and New Game+, giving players the best experience possible on consoles. I should mention this update is also available on the Steam release. Still, I feel like this definitive version offers the best experience to play, and the port ran smoothly during my very tense time playing on PS5.

The Definitive Experience: Alisa Developer’s Cut on Console

Alisa: Developer’s Cut on consoles gives players the chance to experience the classic survival horror genre realized in a modern way. While the systems borrow more from the tense and campy retro releases, its modern approach to options and playfulness provides a brand-new way to experience this genre. I would easily recommend this to anyone who wants to relive classic survival horror and all the frustrations that came with it.

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A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Alisa: Developer's Cut (PS5)

Alisa: Developer's Cut" offers a fresh take on classic survival horror, combining campy storytelling, retro graphics, and engaging gameplay. This console port introduces players to a blend of nostalgic and modern elements, including tank controls, a unique currency system, and enhanced features like auto-aim and New Game+. It's a compelling experience for fans and newcomers to the genre, delivering both challenge and charm in a modernized package.

The Good

  • Nostalgic Gameplay with Modern Twists: The game skillfully blends classic survival horror elements with modern gameplay enhancements, such as the choice between tank controls and a modern control scheme, providing a fresh yet nostalgic experience.
  • Challenging Enemy Encounters: The game presents a solid challenge with enemies that relentlessly pursue the player, coupled with traps that teach resource conservation and proper aiming, enhancing the survival horror experience.
  • Graphical Style and Atmosphere: Alisa's PS1-era graphics contribute significantly to the game's atmosphere, immersing players in a classic survival horror environment that's both tense and visually reminiscent of the genre's roots.
  • Unique Gear Currency System: The introduction of gear currency as a means to purchase items, outfits, and save the game adds a strategic layer to the gameplay, encouraging players to defeat enemies and manage resources wisely.

The Bad

  • Sound Direction Issues: Despite excellent voice work, the overly clear recording quality of the audio somewhat detracts from the game's immersive atmosphere, potentially clashing with the intended vintage aesthetic.
  • Lack of Initial Narrative Tension: The game's opening could have benefited from building more tension to set a stronger foundation for the horror experience, as the initial motivation for Alisa's journey quickly becomes an afterthought.