Nintendad

[Review] VA-11 Hall-A – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Sukeban Games
  • Publisher: Ysbryd Games
  • Release Date: 02/05/2019
  • Price: £10.99 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by: Ysbryd Games

Reviewed by Thomas

Making Your Way in the World Today

Video games often put you at the epicenter of all the action. There is usually a pivotal moment where something major happens placing you at the forefront of altering the world. A job resume of such feats would be astonishing. Savior of the galaxy. Dragon slayer. Time traveler. Plumber. Ok, that last one isn’t too far fetched. VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action adds mixing drinks to the resume.

Instead of serving drinks until you hear a bit of gossip which catapults heroine Jill into a quest to save Glitch City, the team at Sukeban games take a different approach with VA-11 Hall-A. Jill is an average young woman with a familiar story. Not happy with the direction her life was heading she decided to put a pause on her post college future and sling drinks. She lands as a bartender at Valhalla.

Aptly called because of its code VA-11 from the British Trademark Council and location at Hall-A. Instead of pursuing her own journey she is in the unique position to hear the adventurous tales of her patrons. Each day she’ll serve drinks to various clients. From mega pop idols to assassins. Each customer has a unique story to tell over the few weeks you stand in Jill’s shoes. Pulling back the curtain and peeking into the lives of these strangers is exciting even down to the more mundane visitors. That alone is a testament to the amazing writing and stories crafted to see each day pass.

Takes Everything You Got

VA-11 Hall-A is categorized on the eShop as an Adventure and Simulation game. The developers colorfully describe it as a booze ’em up about waifus, technology and daily life in a post-dystopian world. I would add it fits well in the visual novel genre. As far as game play goes, you actively mix concoctions using using a recipe with simple instructions. There are roughly 24 drinks on the menu. Fulfilling an order is easy and relaxing. You simply fill a cocktail shaker with the required mix and serve. It never gets overly difficult. There’s no pressure from a time limit. Occasionally you’ll need to recall someone’s “usual” or past conversation to get the right drink. Some patrons place cryptic orders while others are pretty blatant. Part of the fun is deciding how accurate you’ll be.

You can also alter the amount of alcohol in most drinks without ruining the beverage. Since the game doesn’t offer a traditional dialogue tree, you influence the flow of conversation by the type of drink served and amount of booze. With a large cast of characters from varied walks of life, there are multiple endings to unlock and they are determined by these conversations and the drinks you place in their hand.

When Jill isn’t at the bar serving drinks, she spends her time at home. The second portion of game play has less impact. Time away from work is mostly spent reading a blog or news. There’s an option to make purchases to help Jill focus at work. Opting out of specific purchases causes Jill to forget and you don’t get any on screen clues. As long as your short term memory is good you shouldn’t have a problem. It is important to save up your money however since you still have bills to pay. After the next day starts when you complete your shopping and web surfing, it’s back to work. You open the bar by filling the jukebox with songs and wait for your next customer.

Taking A Break From All Your Worries

The graphics hearken back to the old PC days of visual novels and adventure games. You can also add scan lines for a more authentic look. Each character is easy to read from their facial expressions and the colors are what you would expect from a cyberpunk dystopia.

I really enjoyed the electronic soundtrack. There are a lot of songs to listen to and I quickly found my favorites. Loading the jukebox each day was enjoyable since I could customize a playlist based on my mood. Since I’m a slow reader I was able to hear a lot of songs and at times had one song play on repeat. This was a clever mechanic to help build ambiance and give each player a unique experience.

It Sure Would Help A Lot

Aside from a few spelling errors which we’re all prone to, I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches in VA-11 Hall-A. Considering you live in Glitch City I was a little surprised. In this bar the only hiccups you’ll encounter are ones intended for the game. As good as VA-11 Hall-A looked on my television I couldn’t deny how personal it felt to play in handheld mode. Overall it was a pleasant affair.

Wouldn’t You Like to Get Away?

The core of VA-11 Hall-A is mixing simple orders and reading the interactions. On paper it doesn’t sound that engaging since the dialogue is based on the drinks served and you don’t know what the outcome of the conversation will be or where it will lead. This is a unique entry which isn’t for everyone. Yet every time I played I felt invested in each character and found the whole experience relaxing. I didn’t know what to expect when I set out to add bartender to my gamer resume but I’m glad I took the time to learn the job. VA-11 Hall-A never felt like a chore and was a great way to blow off steam after work.

Pros

  • Unique Perspective
  • Relaxing
  • Niche Gameplay

Cons

  • Niche Gameplay

Verdict
VA-11 Hall-A is a safe place to leave your worries at the door and simply relax.
4.5/5

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