Lisa: The Painful RPG

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Lisa: The Painful RPG
Lisa RPG Logo.png
Logo of Lisa: The Painful RPG
Developer(s)Dingaling Productions
Publisher(s)Dingaling Productions
Designer(s)Austin Jorgensen
Artist(s)Austin Jorgensen
Writer(s)Austin Jorgensen
Composer(s)Austin Jorgensen
EngineRPG Maker VX Ace
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
  • WW: 15 December 2014

Lisa: The Painful RPG (stylized as LISA the painful RPG)[1] is a post-apocalyptic role-playing video game developed and published by American indie studio Dingaling Productions (now known as LoveBrad Games). The game was written, designed, and composed by Austin Jorgensen, and was released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux on 15 December 2014.[2]

In Lisa, the player controls Brad Armstrong, a balding, middle-aged man with a troubled past who journeys through the wasteland of Olathe in search of Buddy, his adoptive daughter. Along the way, he is forced to make choices that permanently affect both his own well-being and that of his party members.

The game received mostly positive reviews, with praise for its darkly comedic writing and soundtrack.


Fighting a Snake in Lisa using "Armstrong Style".
Brad using the combo-based "Armstrong Style" in combat against an enemy snake.

Lisa features a combination of traditional turn-based RPG combat in a 2D side-scrolling overworld. Brad, and certain party members, are addicted to a drug named Joy that can drastically increase their power, but gives them serious withdrawals when they do not use it. The overworld features an assortment of settlements with shops and bars, where recruitable party members can often be found. There are thirty different potential companions; in addition, all of them but Brad are susceptible to permanent death through either scripted events such as Russian Roulette or against certain enemies, who will occasionally use permanent-kill moves.

In battle, Brad and some of his companions are able to use combination attacks using the "Dial Combo" system, allowing the player to press a sequence of keys to use powerful attacks like fireballs. Other party members use a variety of techniques for both offense and defense, and applying status effects such as poison or paralysis. Each party member has a different playstyle; for example, the anti-Joy crusader Ajeet's standard attacks are various Pokes that do no damage but provide guaranteed status effects on the enemy, and as such his only method of direct damage is through his special moves.

Throughout the game, Brad is forced to make choices that affect the core mechanics of gameplay. Depending on the player's choices, Brad can lose one or both of his arms; this drastically lowers his stats and increases his Joy withdrawals. Without any arms Brad cannot use his Armstrong Style at all and can only bite at opponents.


At the start of the game, the player controls a child named Brad Armstrong, who is abused and neglected-along with his then infant sister Lisa-by his father, Marty Armstrong. After this opening sequence, the game cuts to many decades later, with Brad now a middle aged man, and living with his friends, named Rick, Sticky, and Cheeks, in a post-apocalyptic Olathe. Between the start of the game and now, an event known as the Flash took place, which appeared to wipe out every human female in Olathe. Brad finds a baby lying on the ground and crying, which hints at the existence of at least one living woman. What's more, Brad then realizes the baby is female as well, and his friends advise him to give the child to Rando, a famous warlord. There she will likely be raised better, and Brad's group of friends will likely receive many rewards for giving over the female baby. Brad ignores this proposal, as his troubled past leads him to want no harm to befall the child, and instead decides to raise her in secret, naming her Buddy. However, she is eventually found and kidnapped, and Brad embarks across Olathe to rescue her.

Throughout the game, flashback scenes depict a pre-apocalyptic Olathe, shedding light on Brad's early life, including his upbringing alongside his younger sister Lisa and their relationship with their abusive father. During his mission to find Buddy, Brad meets a wide variety of different characters, some of which may be recruited as party members by the player to be used in combat. Brad also repeatedly encounters a man called Buzzo, who forces him to make serious choices (such as severing an his arm in return for the life of one of his party members) which often have deep narrative or gameplay consequences. Furthermore, Buzzo appears to be spreading a highly addictive drug named Joy across the wasteland, and this drug allegedly makes the user feel nothing at all, functioning as an antidepressant. Unbeknownst to most of the population of Olathe, Joy can also cause strange, severe, and sudden mutations in its users, which becomes more likely with more Joy use overtime. Brad later encounters Rando himself after he crashes a motorcycle into the famed warlord. Surprisingly, Rando seems unfazed by the incident, and actually apologizes for breaking Brad's motorcycle before donating his entire supply of rations to him, leaving in tears.

Later, when Brad and Buddy are momentarily reunited, Brad realizes that Buddy left on her own volition due to Brad's controlling attitude towards her. Despite realizing Buddy's distaste towards him, Brad pushes forwards, with his personal past trauma causing him to desperately fear that harm will befall Buddy. Soon, Brad finds that Buddy had stolen a boat from a man named Tardy Hernandez, and presumably went out to sea. In order to follow her, Brad creates a makeshift raft with the help of Tardy after scouring the land for materials. That night, Brad makes the decision to abandon his sleeping party members and sail off alone with Tardy. Eventually Brad discovers his abusive father caring for Buddy on a desolate island. In a Joy-Induced rage fueled by his hatred for his father, and a thirst for revenge for his abusive past, Brad kills Marty, and blacks out. This leaves Buddy to escape on the raft Brad had used to venture to the island. When he comes to, Brad decides to use Tardy's corpse as a flotation device to follow after Buddy.

When he reaches a shore, Brad soon re-encounters Rando, who has found Buddy and taken her under the care of his massive army. Unexpectedly, Brad's party members arrive as well, and try to convince Brad to stop and let Rando take care of Buddy. Seeing this as a sign of aggression and opposition towards him, however, Brad promptly kills his party members. Then, despite the odds, Brad manages to massacre Rando's forces, much to their horror. He finally defeats Rando in hand to hand combat, which reveals Rando to have previously been Brad's adoptive son Dusty. At the end of it all, when Brad reaches Buddy, she blames him for destroying her chances at freedom alongside Rando. The player is then offered to choose if Buddy should hug Brad or not (although this choice has no gameplay nor story impact), and Brad falls over, presumably dead. After the credits-which reference many characters and themes throughout the game-it is revealed that Brad later transformed into a Joy Mutant.

The game's DLC chapter, Lisa: The Joyful, takes place immediately after the end of the first game. In this DLC chapter, it is revealed that Rando was not killed in his battle with Brad. He accompanies Buddy-who is now the main playable character-as she attempts to become the most powerful person in Olathe by killing the warlords ruling it, despite Rando's disapproval. Buddy's violent conquest of Olathe causes Rando to leave her after a while. After a while, though, the player finds that Rando has been kidnapped, and is suspensed over a large pit by barbed wire wrapped around his body. Buddy has a choice to either hold onto the wire keeping Rando from death, allowing the kidnappers to take advantage of her, or to let go of the wire, letting Rando die and allowing Buddy to fend off the attackers. Later on, after defeating all of the game's warlords, Buddy confronts a man named Dr. Yado, a trumpet-playing professor who is frequently seen in secretive locations as an easter egg in Lisa: The Painful. Buddy's biological father, Yado is a mad scientist who created Joy, and presumably caused the Flash. He is said to have used Buzzo to spread Joy throughout Olathe in an attempt to destroy what remained of civilization after the death of every human female, with the end goal being that he could rule over it. The last part in his diabolical plot is to murder his daughter, now the one force strong enough to bring him down. Yado is unable to murder his daughter however, and retreats when Buddy has a Joy-induced blackout in the middle of the fight. While unconscious, Buddy has hallucinations of her father, Brad. These hallucinations provide more insight into Brad and how he sheltered Buddy from the outside world and tried not to let memories of his past-such as Rando/Dustin being his son-resurface. Along with this, however, the player finds that Brad overtime did truly come to care for Buddy, seeing her as more than simply a replacement for Lisa, whom he failed to protect. Buddy wakes up and encounters Yado yet again, and while talking to Buddy, the doctor is suddenly betrayed and killed by Buzzo, who renounced both of their evil actions.

It is revealed that Buzzo was formerly Lisa's lover, and blamed Brad for failing to prevent his father's abuse, which eventually led to Lisa's suicide. This is what made Buzzo torment Brad throughout the first game. Buzzo confides in Buddy that Brad was not to blame and that he was a good man, despite the drastic actions he took against him. Buzzo proceeds to mutate due to his use of the Joy drug, though he commits suicide via biting off his own neck. Throughout the course of the game, the player had been taking copious amounts of Joy, which likely allowed Buddy to defeat as many enemies as she did. As a result, Buddy is far overdue for a mutation, and is prompted to make a choice. Using a vaccine that Dr. Yado had in his possession, the player can vaccinate themselves from the effects of the Joy drug, or they can reject the vaccine, causing Buddy to mutate. Either choice ends the game with a cutscene which changes depending on what was chosen.


Prior to the 2014 game named Lisa, Dingaling had created another game called Lisa that saw release as freeware on October 9, 2012.[3] This 2012 Lisa is the prequel to the 2014 Lisa and stars the titular Lisa as the protagonist. Upon the 2014 game's release, both games received alternative names, Lisa: The First and Lisa: The Painful respectively, to distinguish them.[4] According to developer Austin Jorgensen, the original Lisa was inspired by a former relationship of his.

Lisa: The Painful was funded through Kickstarter with a goal of $7,000. The campaign was launched on November 14, 2013 and raised $16,492 from 847 people, reaching both of its stretch goals. As a result, Dingaling also developed a sequel expansion, Lisa: The Joyful, which features Buddy as its protagonist.[1]

Dingaling has cited EarthBound as his main source of inspiration working on Lisa, drawing from both its art style and use of comic relief in a serious setting.[5]


Aggregate scores
Review scores
Kill Screen81%[9]

Lisa received mostly positive reviews from critics. Praise was specifically given for the game's soundtrack, which was released as a separate download on Steam, along with an art collection featuring character profiles and concept drawings created by Chase Anast, the same man responsible for the Mother 4 project.[citation needed]

Lisa has received a handful of notable fangames, most notably LISA: The Pointless by Edvinas Kandrotas, and LISA: The Hopeful by a developer under the alias Taco Salad with help from other members of the community. Pointless and Hopeful (as well as all other fanmade efforts) are stated by developer Austin Jorgensen to be canonical.[11]


  1. ^ a b Jorgensen, Austin (November 14, 2013). "LISA the painful RPG". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  2. ^ "LISA on Steam". Steam. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  3. ^ Jorgensen, Austin (October 9, 2012). "Lisa 'The First'". Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  4. ^ Lopez, Carlo (September 8, 2015). "LISA is charming, heartbreaking, scary, and fun". Haogamers. Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  5. ^ Smith, Adam (November 26, 2013). "The Sacrificial Limb: Lisa – The Painful RPG". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Archived from the original on July 6, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  6. ^ "LISA for PC". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  7. ^ "LISA for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  8. ^ Barnhard, Thijs (15 February 2015). "LISA: The Painful RPG - Earthbound voor weirdo's". (in Dutch). Sanoma. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  9. ^ Carmichael, Stephanie. "LISA Makes A Monster Out Of You". Kill Screen. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  10. ^ Welhouse, Zach. "LISA - Review - Joy to the World". RPGamer. CraveOnline. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  11. ^ Austin Jorgensen [@COMETandCROW] (January 10, 2017). "i said it once already. Anything and everything is canon" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

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