VA-11 Hall-A puts you in the shoes of a young female bartender in a cyberpunk world where AI controlled prostitute robots and talking dogs exist and frequent your place of business discussing everything from world events to whether assassination is a hard day job.
I call it a simulator, though it really is a mix of visual novel and sim, as the stories you hear from the people that come and go are detailed and lengthy and make up most of the gameplay. Whilst they are meandering, the interactions manage to draw you in and are written well enough to pass as a believable conversation you might have in that setting, if you were able to talk to a cyborg assassin.
The writing and characters are well rounded and make you want to know more about them. Each time they visit you learn more about who they are as people as well as snippets of the outside world and its lore. These tidbits of lore about the outside world only served to make the game more interesting and immersive whilst giving the surroundings a sense of the mysterious.
I could only describe the writing as adults only, and the developers have not pulled any punches when it comes to lewdness and adult themes. Whilst they usually tackle these things with humor there was very few eye rolls coming from me as the game progressed. In other words, the game does not try to be edgy for the sake of edginess. Indeed, what it does do is manage to make the everyday musings of a bartender interesting and left me wanting more.
Graphics wise, the game is not super special, but the pixel art does the job and does not detract from the game at all. Though I did wish there was slightly more animation going on during the interactions with the patrons, as at some points the game can feel more like reading a novel than playing an interactive game. Something that I couldn't let go was the background wasn't very detailed, and because you have the same viewpoint throughout the game, became boring quickly. The only thing of note being the TV on the wall and it's different story relevant displays throughout the game.
The soundtrack is something special and I found myself bopping my head to the tunes more than once. The chiptune inspired music does fix in with the aesthetics of the game as well as the setting, and even allows you to choose a set of 12 songs each day to play during your time at the bar. Don't think the soundtrack is limited to 12 songs though. Indeed the selection is surprisingly hefty at well over 30 songs to choose from.
When not at the bar the protagonist Jill spends time at home where she can purchase items for her apartment and read news and other pop culture goings on via your phone. This element of the game does feel like it could have been a little more fleshed out as by and large if you do a good job at the bar, you can easily pay for whatever you need to without having to make decisions that could affect the character in any meaningful way.
The UI is largely intuitive and mostly comes into play when making drinks for customers. I didn't find myself looking for where something might be on the screen. Everything you need is displayed when you need it and hidden away when you don't. Nothing is obscure and the UI is explained in detail during the tutorial. One complaint I did have is when making drinks you have to drag the various components to the mixer when I think a better design choice would have been the ability to click on the ingredient to add it to the mix. Additionally taking away ingredients when you make a mistake may have been a good addition, with the only option available to the playing being resetting of the whole drink.
Game options are serviceable for the type of game it is. You are able to change sound volume for music and effects as well as change from windowed mode to fullscreen. There were no graphical glitches or crashes throughout my time with the game. Everything worked as it should.
Overall, VA-11 Hall-A was a very enjoyable game, and left me wanting more.
Final ScorePros/ConsLast edited: Jul 11, 2016