Lisa: The Painful is one of those games that’s like… if you know, you know. You know? Like, it’s ruthless, stomach-churning, and soul-destroying. I’m kinda joking but also not joking? I don’t know what it is about RPG maker games, but they just hit different.
Set in a post-apocalypse with no women, you play as Brad who one day finds an abandoned baby girl, names her Buddy, and raises her in secret. Years later, Buddy is kidnapped by a militia group and Brad sets off to rescue her. When you put it like that, the story is pretty basic, but it’s so much more than it seems. The absurdist comical world together with the awful decisions forced upon you make this a special kind of bleak RPG.
Many of the decisions you have to make focus on the gang of weirdos you’ve recruited. Members of your party can get permanently killed by bosses who have - totally unfair - perma-death moves. You’ll pay out a pretty penny for an item that’s actually completely useless. Your entire party might get captured and forced into a game of Russian roulette for shits and giggles by the militia. Based on your choices as a player, Brad can lose one or both of his arms making his attack stats plummet. Pumping your party with the drug ‘joy’ will boost their abilities but also potentially turn them into human bean-bags of flesh and crushed bones. It's all about sacrifice, but at what cost?
There are also moments of absurdist comedy, though. You'll be minding your own business when a cola van will come out of nowhere and crash into your party causing you serious damange. A warlord with a mohawk and leather armour will trot into battle on the tiniest, cutest deer and greet Brad with "Howdy mother fucker." It just feels like the game is constantly trying to fuck with you.
Lisa: The Painful is a lot. Brad’s story is both a rescue mission but also a tale of redemption, and it’s something that consumes him and pushes him to make awful decisions (through the player's actions). I haven’t played it since it came out, but it’s left a long-lasting impression on me so it must mean something. There’s a reason it has an ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ rating on Steam (with 11,000 reviews).