Alisa: Developers Cut Review

One of my formative gaming moments back in the 90’s was when I booted up the original Resident Evil; it cemented not only my love for gaming, but a life long fandom of survival horror. I still go back and play the Saturn/PS1 titles from time to time, and as much as I love the remakes and modern games, that nostalgia hit still does it for me after all these years. And so, when Alisa: Developers Cut crossed my desk I couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out – and man am I glad I did.

Alisa is, for all intents and purposes, a ‘new-old’ game; it may have been originally released on PC back in 2021, but everything about it is exactly how it would have been had it released in the 90’s. Pre-rendered backgrounds, tank controls, slightly awkward inventories and combat, b-movie story and performances, and even 480p, 4:3 presentation – it’s all here and correct. What this amounts to for me is a false feeling of nostalgia, but in all the best ways.

We can outfit Alisa here with different outfits (or take them off) that have different perks, as well as various other upgrades and weapons

I’ve had a fantastic time with the game over the last few weeks, and it’s reminded me both how far we’ve come in the genre, and how well it all started. Sure, younger players might find it a bit awkward, but persevere and you’ll find there’s a lot to like here.

We play as Alisa, an officer on the hunt for some stolen blueprints and the culprit behind the theft. He escaped on a train, and so her fellow officers and her travel the same track, taking it in turns to hop off at each station to look around. After a short exploratory section we find him and Alisa chases him down solo, only to be met with some disturbing looking creatures who drag her into an unknown, underground area.

From here, we are effectively in this game’s version of the Spencer Mansion, albeit even more creepy and bizarre. Our first encounter is with a human sized doll creature, but it’s not long before we meet fishmen, metallic knights, clowns, ghosts, and more. Those familiar with Resident Evil’s tank controls and combat will be right at home here, with us being rooted to the spot when raising our firearm, and having to contend with the static cameras making it harder to line up a shot. We do get a hand in the form of a target that lights up in the ammo counter box to let us know when we’re aiming in the right direction at least, though some of the enemies move fast enough so that it’s not overly easy to rely on.

Ammo and health are scarce, and can be bought from the in-game store with Toothwheels collected from defeated enemies or found hidden in the mansion. While they are fairly generous in number, there’s a lot they are used for which limits our ability to stock up on the essentials. From new weapons to upgrades and abilities, as well as to save the game, it pays to be mindful of how much we’re spending, especially early on.

The game takes plenty of surreal twists and turns, but is never less than entertaining

Saving the game is a must too as there’s no autosave or checkpoints here – just like the good old days. I’ve clearly grown accustomed to this feature as there were a few moments in Alisa where I became too brave, continuing on with a puzzle despite my intuition telling me there was danger ahead, only to die and have to re-do the last 30 minutes again.

Boss battles punctuate key moments, with five in total. These range from tense, yet fair, encounters, to a motion sickness-inducing affair that was far trickier than it needed to be. The final three are also in fairly quick succession, so be sure to take the time to travel back to a save point in between these. One of the trickier parts to judge in this style of game is when one will appear, and how prepared we are – the second fight I went into with hardly any ammo and health, and promptly had no choice but to die and retry. Luckily I’d saved recently.

One slight concession to modern gamers is that there is no limited item inventory space. We can pick up and carry everything we come across in terms of key items, ammo, and health. We are limited to two weapon slots and one outfit though, with these swapped out at the save point locations. Pro-tip – grab that sword early. I put it off figuring it’d be useless but it turned out to be my most used weapon by the end. Outfit swaps are pricier but can offer some great advantages such as better damage resistance, fast reloading, or more efficient healing. We can even remove it from Alisa and leave her in her undergarments, which has the benefit of letting her swim faster in a certain section of the game.

In being so true to the old days, Alisa also falls foul of a few of the issues of the era. There’s a lot of backtracking, and routes that require certain keys to open, but this isn’t noted on the map. I got stumped a few times partly due to this, and partly as I’m playing too many other games at once, but it’d have been a nice touch to note which key is needed where to save us running all over the place every time we get a new key. The mansion and surrounding areas can also get a bit laborious to traverse at times, with one section stopping us from doing a 5 second walk by an blocked door, meaning we need to take a good few minutes to go the long way round.

The nostalgia is strong in the presentation, from the 480p resolution to the static, prerendered backgrounds

A handful of times my game froze when entering the item closet to change weapons, forcing a restart from a previous save. Not ideal if you’ve not saved recently… And while the enemies can take some serious punishment, most of them can be cheesed by simply running past them and using the sword for a few slashes before rinsing and repeating. All but the boss characters don’t seem to be able to handle us moving slightly to their side, and as such most fights end up more a case of attrition than a fight for survival.

But how much the above will negatively impact your experience is most likely about how versed you are in the older survival horror titles. While I noticed all the above enough to mention them here, I can’t really say they ruined my time with Alisa, more just made me appreciate some of the quality of life things we’ve come to expect. It’s a game that even as I type this I’m tempted to load up again and make use of the New Game + option (that’s included for free – did you hear that Sega??) to see if I can get through faster or with a different ending, much as I used to with the original Resident Evil‘s. It’s been a weird sensation to have nostalgia for a new game, but Alisa has had that exact effect on me.


Alisa is as retro-accurate as they come despite being a modern release, and it’s a brilliant reminder of how we used to play, though also of some of the limitations we used to work under. One for older gamers who grew up with the birth of survival horror, but also new players looking to get a taste of where it all began.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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  • Excellent retro presentation and feel
  • Creepy atmosphere and story
  • New Game+
  • Map and backtracking can be a bit confusing at times
  • A couple of technical hitches in our playthrough that cost progression
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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