The GWJ Adventure Game Club - Game 35: VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (2016)

IMAGE(https://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/447530/header.jpg)

An indie bartender simulation with visual novel elements, developed by Venezuelan studio Sukeban Games and published by Ysbryd Games, Va11halla has you embody the eponymous bartender in a small bar in a dystopian downtown. The nonlinear plot is influenced by the drinks you make and characters' reactions to them!
You can find the game's official website here, usual spoiler warning apply. How Long to Beat estimates about 11 hours to completion. Available platforms are Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4.

The main thread is over that way. We'll be playing VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action in September 2021, with an extra month for stragglers (yours truly included).

11 hours! That's definitely more than I expected, but I'm looking forward to it!

The premise reminds me of The Red Strings Club to an extent.

EDIT: Ok, wow. I thought I've owned this forever, but apparently it's only been languishing on my wishlist. Time to remedy that.

Cool! I started playing this game a while ago and for some reason it did not click with me. I'll give it another shot.

Looks like there isn't any voice acting in this one, so I might just pick it up and play it on my laptop on my own time (non stream time, ie, gaming in bed when I'm too tired to stream). Looking forward to it!

Somehow it's still August so I'm a little early I guess. Fired it up last night and had a little spike of instant dislike, but it wore off quickly as I clocked the time 30 minutes later and was quite contentedly digging in. Like Red Strings Club, this is the kind of game that I know is going to feel best when played until 1 or 2 am...definitely going to have to watch myself there.

It seems from the get-go that they're delving into subject matter that quickly enters potentially problematic territory, not sure what to expect there but I don't recall hearing about any controversies so hopefully it's handled well.

So I did some digging and apparently, there are some controversies around the character of Dorothy. The dev/writer addressed some of the concerns here. Obviously, spoilers ahead. And below on the nature of said controversy.

Spoiler:

Apparently, she’s an “underage seeming sex worker” (beat way I can put it, I guess).

I am SO EXCITED to watch/listen to people play this. IMAGE(https://emojipedia-us.s3.dualstack.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/thumbs/240/emojipedia/132/grinning-face-with-star-eyes_1f929.png) It’s one of my all-time favorites from the Vita era and is one of only two platinum trophies I have. IMAGE(https://emojipedia-us.s3.dualstack.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/thumbs/240/apple/285/trophy_1f3c6.png)

Re: Dorothy

Spoiler:

She’s written so well, as per the explanation posted. Some may still have trouble with her, and that’s ok.

It has such a wonderful cast of characters I cannot wait to hear other’s thoughts about. IMAGE(https://emojipedia-us.s3.dualstack.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/thumbs/240/apple/285/smiling-face-with-smiling-eyes_1f60a.png)

Thank you for your input. I’ve read it and I’m gonna keep an open mind going in.

I can’t wait to read what’s in those spoilers tags. I’m enjoying the story enough that I don’t want to know until it’s over.

This is like a visual novel created on 1990 pc hardware.

I’m in the middle of day 5. How far has everyone gotten?

Just an hour into the game so far, I'll play more over the weekend, I might even make myself a cocktail to go with it.

I'm a couple of hours in maybe? I think I finished day 2. I've since been mostly consumed by Hades, but I do want to get back to this. Definitely going with that cocktail idea.

I'm at the end of day 3. So far, I'd say that all the art in the game is great, the gameplay is mildly annoying (is there a better way of adding 8 parts of an ingredient than dragging and dropping eight times in a row?), and the writing is all over the place. Some parts are good and fun, others are a bit cringy. I'm still interested to find out where it's going.

As an aside, it was interesting to find out the game was made by a group of Venezuelan expats.

Considering it's 9/30, that I still haven't finished the game, and that I have so many other games drawing my attention including our next club game, I don't think I'll be finishing this... for the second time.

The game started feeling... not great. I think in the end the writing just didn't keep me interested after 5 or 6 days. I didn't find any overarching motivation or something I wanted to find out the next day. And then there's the cringe, such as a character insisting on calling you "flat bartender" (because boobs, amirite?). The bartending part also got repetitive, first because the menu and the requests just don't change or evolve, and second because I did not like the interface: dragging and dropping a small handful of ingredients just gets annoying.

I am with you on this. I’m guessing that I made it 75% through the game. It was ok. It had some good moments, but the writing turned out to be mediocre, and the gameplay was practically nonexistent. The thought of going back to this fills me with mild dread.

Did anyone finish?

I'm only on Day 4, been playing infrequently in pretty short sessions. I definitely dig the overall vibe, and the drink mixing is kind of soothing if not incredibly engaging. The dialog does grate occasionally, which is my only real downside. I'm guessing there's quite a bit more to go, but I figure I'll finish sooner or later unless something takes a turn for the worse.

RawkGWJ wrote:

Did anyone finish?

I'm hoping to start this weekend, I'm still catching up.
Will definitely report back!

So I FINALLY carved out about half an hour to start playing this, and I love, love, love, LOVE the soundtrack. Quickly got the hang of mixing drinks, but so far it's giving me big visual novel vibes (which I enjoy, of course). I don't like that I can't save whenever I want to, so that's something to be mindful of going in.

Starting day 5 now and I really like this experience. The writing is sharp and fun, the aesthetics pretty great, and the soundtrack is enjoyable. I think the interface could be a bit better (luckily I found out that you don't have to drag the drinks if you click just at the edge of the ingredient's box), and I made two mistakes on day 2 and one on day 3 without knowing what I did wrong. Actually, I did look it up, and apparently I was supposed to make "big" drinks, but I don't remember that being communicated.

I just bought some expensive wallpaper for my room, so now I'm worried that I shouldn't have done that.

What happens if you don't buy the thing Jill wants and she's not focused at work?

Every day seems to go by reasonably quickly, but when I'm back in my digital home and look at my real world clock, another hour has passed!

AUs_TBirD wrote:

11 hours! That's definitely more than I expected, but I'm looking forward to it!

Forget 11 hours. I'm just starting day 10 (so about halfway?), and Steam says I've played for 10 hours. I don't think I'm taking abnormally long, and I've never been told I read slowly...

It's interesting to see some early threads coming together while new ones are still being introduced. Others I haven't seen in several days. Looking forward to the rest! I love how frank some of the dialog is.

AUs_TBirD wrote:

What happens if you don't buy the thing Jill wants and she's not focused at work?

She tends to daydream instead of thinking about which drinks just got ordered (in the dialogue box), so you need to be on your toes.

AUs_TBirD wrote:
AUs_TBirD wrote:

11 hours! That's definitely more than I expected, but I'm looking forward to it!

Forget 11 hours. I'm just starting day 10 (so about halfway?), and Steam says I've played for 10 hours. I don't think I'm taking abnormally long, and I've never been told I read slowly...

It's interesting to see some early threads coming together while new ones are still being introduced. Others I haven't seen in several days. Looking forward to the rest! I love how frank some of the dialog is.

I've been playing half a day at a time and that takes me about half an hour, so that tracks pretty close to your time, although I'm only on day 5. I'm finding it a nice thing to wind down my night with when I have time, especially as I'm getting my playlist preferences dialed in

Got the good ending (and two character endings) yesterday. Went back and played Anna's demo (which made way more sense now) and Anna's "story" afterwards.

I really enjoyed this and am a bit bummed that the sequel has been in development limbo for apparently four years now. I did start referencing a guide at times because I made a big mistake - this is also my biggest piece of advice to new players:
Make notes of what drinks your clients - especially the regulars - order or talk about. You will need that knowledge later!
Especially because the game is so long (around 20 hours for me), I just couldn't remember what many clients wanted anymore when they stopped being specific.
Now for my second tip:
You can add ingredients with the QWERT keys....and REMOVE them with Shift-(key)! - I did not realize this until I was 3/4 through the game.

Overall, even though the game is light on actual gameplay, being primarily a visual novel, I really, REALLY enjoyed my time with it, connecting with the various characters and really digging the very direct, yet natural dialogue. It was a game I could play while my kids were around because it didn't really interest them, and at the same time I could only play it around them because neither can read yet. It's really saucy at times including frank discussions of some rather taboo sexual practices!

It also contains many, many fun pop culture references, of which I only caught a fraction.

Spoiler:

Seinfeld, Lou Bega, The Rock, Kanye West, Chapelle Show, innumerable anime references that I barely got....

I loved the branching dialog paths depending on what you served/how much karmotrine they had consumed (really, how screwed up is the world if they don't even have real alcohol anymore), and the topics discussed were almost always interesting.

Towards the end, I stopped buying the daily "wishlist item" because I was too worried about being able to pay my bills. Honestly, it didn't make much difference except that - like trueheart said - you need to be on your toes and focus for Jill. The last few days are some of the best income-wise, so I had enough cash left over to splurge at the end.

The only two "complaints" I really have are that at the beginning of the game, you need to know to buy a specific item (there is no hint that you should do this), otherwise you are already unable to get one character ending. The other is that as great as the soundtrack is, I eventually got a bit tired of it (20 hours!). It didn't help that I never figured out how to get the final 15 or so songs for my playlist until after the game, when I realized it's part of New Game+.

I'm not ruling out that I will try to speed through New Game+ eventually. I wonder if some of the threads that are left open will be wrapped up then, but if not, I'm ok with that. Some people just come and go and leave no lasting impact.

All in all, an experience I highly recommend. Thanks to everyone who voted for it!

AUs_TBirD wrote:

Make notes of what drinks your clients - especially the regulars - order or talk about. You will need that knowledge later!

Well, crap. Is day 5 too late to start keeping tabs on that?

AUs_TBirD wrote:

You can add ingredients with the QWERT keys....and REMOVE them with Shift-(key)! - I did not realize this until I was 3/4 through the game.

I thought that your edge-clicking method improved things significantly, but this is a real game changer! Thanks for sharing.

Glad you enjoyed your experience. I'm hoping to make some headway in the next few days, but more than likely it'll be December club game time before I finish.

benign1 wrote:
AUs_TBirD wrote:

Make notes of what drinks your clients - especially the regulars - order or talk about. You will need that knowledge later!

Well, crap. Is day 5 too late to start keeping tabs on that?

Remembering what the newspaper guy wants was pretty easy.

Spoiler:

Definitely try to figure out what Dorothy and Alma like the most. Not sure anymore if it's crucial to remember Stella's favorite.

benign1 wrote:
AUs_TBirD wrote:

You can add ingredients with the QWERT keys....and REMOVE them with Shift-(key)! - I did not realize this until I was 3/4 through the game.

I thought that your edge-clicking method improved things significantly, but this is a real game changer! Thanks for sharing.

Glad to help! I was annoyed that I didn't figure it out sooner, though tbh I mostly stayed with the edge clicking. Being able to incrementally REMOVE an ingredient was huge though.

Tip #3: pumping a drink that allows "optional karmotrine" full with up to the absolute maximum possible units of karmotrine that the glass will hold will not change it into a "big" drink unless it already is one. Karmotrine does not count towards being "big" when it's optional. Just a bit of info in case you really need to get someone hammered.

Three drinks from the game, recreated with real ingredients.

Oh wow, those drinks are insanely cool, great find, AUs_TBirD!!! And a big thank you also for the tips, those will definitely come in handy for me. I've yet to put more time into it, sadly, because I really got into it. It's been a time thing, mostly (and especially since I have no plans to stream it, as I read quicker than I speak). Hopefully I'll get back to it sooner rather than later!
How is everyone else coming along??

Day 11 here, and I feel like enough details and relationships are coming into focus that I'm getting more invested. I've been away from it for a few days and I'm eager to dive back in.

Also those drinks look amazing and I doubt I have even half the ingredients for any of them.

Finished! I grew very fond of the central characters over the course, and was pretty happy with the way storylines played out and were wrapped up (or not, as the case may be). Had a couple of missteps along the way, but I managed to barely squeeze by and pay rent (with only a couple hundred left over!). Didn't go through and get all the endings but I think I'm good with the ones I got. As usual, glad to have played this one!

That's awesome, Benign, love to read that! I was thinking of trying to min/max my run, but now I'm wondering if I should just wing it, and see what happens. I'll put more time into it as soon as NaNoWriMo ends.