lisa

Monet’s cosy view of nature lives on inside lisa

I needed lisa this weekend.

After six hours of DMC: Devil May Cry‘s sophomoric dick jokes and frantically thrusting bolstered phallic steel into hell flesh, after frazzling my eyeballs with no-blinking play sessions of intense dungeon shooter Iron Fisticle, after another week of finger-punching a keyboard while staring longingly into a bright white Word document; my eyes and mind needed a break.

Usually, the answer to this isn’t “more videogames”—instead, I roam the highlands of south-west England on the weekends. This involves throwing a gooey ball for an incredulously happy dog and standing with my hands on my hips to oversee an expanse of forestry and hills. Breathing in deeply, mellowing the hell out; that’s how recovery is had. Sometimes I return home almost human again.

the same appeal as impressionist paintings of nature 

While I did attend to my usual excursion this past weekend, I also played lisa. Then I played it again. It’s a game that, well, it is my weekends packed up inside an .exe file. Rubna, the game’s author, describes it simply as “a game about a dog & girl (:”

I must have spent a good 10 minutes running around the bouncy grass as a dog. I barked at sheep. I startled a snoozing, dim-witted bear. I chased rabbits into bushes. The emancipation my dog must feel as it is let off its leash, freed into the wild rolling hills, a visible smile holding up its jowls and beating through each of its padded paws. I felt it.

Autumnal shades of orange blend in with the pastel yellow curls of grass blades and flat blankets of green. Pixels are made to look like furry spheres that you can cosy into. The game’s hazy composition of the outdoors has the same appeal as impressionist paintings of nature: the fruit punch strokes of Monet’s blooming gardens and drizzling currents of leaves; Van Gogh’s smeared blue skies and finger-swirled white clouds, the dotty green landscapes of harvest wheat. As with these classic paintings, lisa is without harsh detail and outline in order to be soft on the eyes.

There are arbitrary activities to complete if you wish, such as herding sheep and figuring out a puzzle made of tree stumps, but it’s not why I play lisa.  

It’s your freshly-made bed on a Sunday morning, or a weekend spent outside in a cool breeze. And, just because I’m listening to it right now, it’s the final track on Aphex Twin’s Syro—”aisatsana”, named after his wife (it’s Anastasia in reverse), closes the giddying album with a delicately soothing piano arrangement—which, as Pitchfork says, lets the “deeper beauty” sink in.

You can download lisa for free on itch.io.