Alisa Review – Survival Revival

There’s been a revival of stripped-down survival horror as of late. Tormented Souls, Nightmare of Decay, and even the action-horror remakes of Dead Space and Resident Evil 4.

Alisa is the newest addition to this motley crew. I’ve been waiting for the console release ever since I struggled through the demo on my terrible PC a little over a year ago. At last, here it is.

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The humble duties of a royal guard.

Purposeful Jank

You play as the titular Alisa, a royal guard in some vaguely European country who’s looking to track down a thief on behalf of the emperor. You followed him into a clearing in the woods only to be captured by monsters, after which, you awaken in a mysterious house, wearing what looks like a doll’s dress. The perfect mix of intrigue and camp.

Alisa feels exactly like playing a late-90s PS1 game. It has an authenticity that is hard to achieve. Every enemy, gun, item, puzzle, and camera angle feels like lost content from two decades ago. This achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that this game is the passion project of the solo developer Casper Croes.

Many of these spiritual successors tend to stumble into the same traps. Either the janky/ tanky controls are so overly cumbersome that they actively impact the player’s enjoyment, the environments are not as tightly wound as they should be, and the player ends up just moving from hallway to hallway, solving uninspiring puzzles, or both.

Alisa hits none of these traps. The environments are so well designed and loop back into one another so often that it avoids the common trope of beginning as an open, exciting adventure and ending as a hurried jog down a series of linear hallways. It’s open from beginning to end.

Alisa also excels at puzzle design. Most survival horror games have one or two types of puzzles that they tend to recycle, but every puzzle in Alisa is a one of a kind deal. Every puzzle is engaging, and every puzzle is fun to figure out.

Away glass fish!

Guns, Fixed Camera & Cash

Alisa is strange because, even though much of it is structured like a survival horror game, one aspect of it is very much action horror.

These two genres are separated by one thing: action horror games reward you for killing enemies through either ammo or money; whereas, your reward for killing an enemy in a survival horror game is that you no longer have to deal with that enemy.

Alisa slips slightly into action horror because it has an in-game currency called Toothwheels. These can be obtained from defeating enemies, and can be traded for weapons, outfits, and ammo at the merchant. The game is also has no autosaves, and while you can save at anytime, it’ll cost you 1 Toothwheel.

This isn’t an inherently bad thing. A lot of tension can still be squeezed out of a bunch of enemies barreling down on you, and the amount of ammo you can buy with the money they give you almost never makes up for the ammo and health you lost while fighting them. This would be where this argument ended if not for one thing: melee weapons.

The melee weapons are broken. They’re not particularly powerful, but they break EVERY encounter with regular enemies. They use no ammo, they need not be repaired, and there’s not a single non-boss enemy that I couldn’t beat with ease using them. Once you get the hang of circle-strafing enemies while attacking, the game is over. You can save all of your ammo for the bosses and breeze through the game.

This wouldn’t be as bad if the game had any difficulty options, but there’s only the default difficulty. Now, this is fine. If anything, it guarantees that everyone gets the same experience, but it also somewhat hurts replayability. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that there are multiple endings.

Something which encourages replayability is the New Game Plus shop which opens up once you beat the first boss in your first new game plus run. This shop has 5 items, all of which cost 50 Toothwheels each. However, almost none of these are worth the money. There are some nice cosmetics though.

Sliding puzzle with multiple solutions. A beautiful thing.

Bugs Or Features?

This is a little off-topic, but trust me, it’s important. There is one part of this game that I legitimately hate. I love the entire game except for this ONE part. You have to fix the main elevator so that you can travel between the different floors of the mansion. When trying to do this, you fall into a room which has the walls close in around you. By the door is an easy to intuit puzzle, but you don’t have much time. Great setup.

This is all fine, but what isn’t fine is that it takes 3 minutes to get from the nearest save point back to this room. I had to redo this about 3 times to get the solution down, and every time, those 3 minutes of empty hallways, stairs, and unskippable cutscenes felt like hours. I have no idea why this part is in the game.

Now, back to bugs. At one point, after beating an aforementioned puzzle (I wonder which one), my controller stopped responding. I plugged it in, I reset it, I checked the PS menu, but it just wasn’t working in-game for some reason. I had spent what felt like the last 3 hours of my life trying to beat that puzzle and just before I was able to save, this happened.

I experienced one more major bug like this, though it was immediately after a save and not quite as memorable.

Many of the trophies are also bugged. The game has a 0% platinum rating and I still don’t have any of the game’s ending trophies.

The in-game cursor also has no memory. Whenever you pause, the game highlights the item menu. This is fine, but if you pause the game and then quickly switch to the map, the cursor will snap back and open the item menu anyway. I think this one is just a bug.

Another irritant is that some enemies can knock you down when they hit you hard enough. Again, this is fine. But, what doesn’t seem right is that some enemies can knock you down, rev up an attack, and then hit you on the ground before you’ve even recovered.

All of this sounds worse than it is, as I’m sure most of this can (and hopefully will) be patched out, but it’s still worth noting.

Mend the scratches, load the guns.


This game is only $17.99. Granted, it’s also only around 4 hours long, but I squeezed over 9 out of it with some NG+ playthroughs.

The bones of this game are wonderful, hopefully we can just get a little more added to ’em. If the small things can get hammered out quickly through some patches, then this game will be wonderful. Add some additional content on top of that and it could be near-perfect.

Still, one hell of a first showing for a solo developer. Kudos Casper. Looking forward to what you got next for us.


  • Feels exactly like a late 90s horror game
  • Consistently good exploration
  • Varied puzzles
  • Boss health bars


  • Some bugs at launch
  • Lackluster NG+ rewards



Despite the bugs and some of the smaller issues I have, there is nothing here that can't be ironed out with patches.

Daniel Kelly
PS4 version reviewed.