Play mini-games and play dress-up, all in one convenient package.
Lovely Lisa could easily have passed for a mini-game collection, but it's actually a little bit more than that. Lovely Lisa (based on the popular Licca dolls from Japan) is a genuine virtual doll, bringing all that entails to the table. Play with the game and ignore the doll, or play with the doll and ignore the game, and you've only got half the story.
If Lovely Lisa were to be judged simply on its game aspects, its wide variety of mini-games would be a factor in its favor. There are more than 16 different mini-games in Lovely Lisa, all easy to understand and requiring only the DS touch screen to play. Some activities focus around homelife, with Lisa helping her father construct furniture, helping her mother get all the items on her shopping list, or cleaning up after her younger siblings. Other mini-games involve possible careers for Lisa, like administering shots as a nurse, picking out the correct toddlers at a preschool, or even dancing as a popstar. Finally, the last set of mini-games revolve around Lisa attending charm school, involving such things as simple piano lessons, sewing activities, and typing practice. Players have complete control over which mini-games they want to play or repeat playing, with most of them taking under a minute to complete. A nice feature is a "For Grown-Ups" menu that allows parents to set the difficulty level and amount of points rewarded after each mini-game's performance.
These points tie into the game's other half: its virtual doll component. With the points earned from doing chores, jobs, and attending charm school, players can go shopping for new clothes, shoes, make-up, accessories, and hair-styles. Of course, character customization isn't a new concept, but the allure of shoe-shopping, as well as matching outfits, should not be underestimated. The prices to add new pieces to the wardrobe are significant, so there's a definite incentive for players to go back and play their favorite mini-games many more times. However, designing your own simple patterns for dresses and shirts is thankfully free.
Trying on clothes is one of the few times the game presents 3D graphics, showing Lisa and the player's chosen outfit in full 3D. The 3D model is strikingly reminiscent of real dolls, even those made of porcelain, a style that works everywhere but in the dancing "pop-star" mini-game, which features some awkward animation. The rest of the game is primarily done in a simple, bright, and clean 2D art style that suits it perfectly.
Like some real e dolls, Lovely Lisa allows its virtual doll to make use of voice-recording. Lovely Lisa isn't actually voice-acted, but there are pre-recorded phrases that Lisa will say during the course of the mini-games. Interestingly enough, there's even an option in the title menu to talk to Lisa instead of going straight into the game. Much like activating the voice recordings on some actual dolls, this mode will trigger specific recordings for the DS game to play, even selecting different phrases based on the time of day.
All of this makes for a surprising mix of both game and doll. Of course, there are still a few inconsistencies in the combination. Most of the mini-games are unlocked in the beginning, but the few that aren't immediately available take a very long time to unlock, forcing players to fill up Lisa's experience meter to almost full by replaying games over and over. And after that the game's final Contest Hall section takes forever to unlock, with no instructions or indications as to how close players are to accessing it. Instead, the best reason for players to keep on replaying the mini-games is to accrue more points in order to buy more clothing. And it should be pretty evident that older or more advanced players will quickly burn through the game's mini-games.
Still, the title does what it does with efficient appeal and a light-hearted sensibility. Anyone looking for a game with some doll-like aspects, or a doll with some engaging mini-games, is sure to find those qualities in Lovely Lisa.