Tag Archives: Adventure

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-1Cyberpunk has a lasting appeal to it. Since it was first introduced almost 40 years ago, it has steadily increased in popularity. There’s just something romantic about a high-tech neon city shrouded in eternal night. The tough part when making a game set in this backdrop is coming up with something that stands out from the crowd. Sukeban has done a great job of this. They’ve taken this popular aesthetic and wrapped it up in a visual novel coupled with a heavy dose of bartending. It sounds strange, but you’ll be surprised how well you mix drinks for clients by the end of the game. VA-11 Hall-A is incredibly engaging.

The game focuses on a women named Jill who lives in Glitch City. It’s a dystopian town where corporations rule the roost and a paramilitary group called the White Knights enforce the law. It’s a harsh place where one can hardly be blamed for wanting a drink. Sometimes folk need a moment to forget about all the problems the city has. So, from the start the game sets a tone that it takes place in a world where an oppressive regime calls the shots and there are groups constantly protesting it and trying to fight back. This backdrop is made all the more interesting one considers that the developers are from Venezuela.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-2While the story itself is quite interesting, what really brings it to life are VA-11 Hall-A‘s characters. There are a number of them and each are dripping with personality. On one end of the spectrum is someone like Donovan. He the no nonsense editor at the local newspaper. On the other end is Streaming-chan who insists on livestreaming every aspect of her life. This leads to all sorts of conversations when people come to the bar. Some people may want to talk about current events. Others will discuss minute details of their personal life. Then there’s everything in between. It makes for some interesting conversations and also gives hints as to what sort of drinks someone might like.

This brings us to the primary gameplay aspects of VA-11 Hall-A. While all of the conversations with clients take care of the game’s visual novel aspects, this is where players pick up the controller and get to business. From here it’s time to do some bartending. Sometimes characters will bluntly tell Jill what they want to drink, especially early in the game. Later on, though, it becomes important to be able to read their moods and personalities. They’ll hint at what they want and players have to figure it out for themselves.

This can be made easier or harder depending on what players do with Jill when she’s off work. She’ll often be hanging out in her apartment, and one can decide how they want to spruce up the place with some of the money that she earns at the bar. This can range from little decorations to doodads and entertainment devices. Be sure to always have enough left over to pay the rent, though. These little bits of shopping are important because it helps with Jill’s mood and keeps her better attuned to what her customers want. The better her mindset, the less likely she’ll make a mistake with an order.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-3Mixing drinks is actually a fairly involved process. There are a number of different ingredients that each impact the flavor of a drink in different ways. Then players can choose how much of each ingredient to put in. On top of this, one has to decide whether the drink should have ice or be aged. It’s even possible to make a drink a double sometimes. So, there’s a lot of depth to making these things for customers. What’s even more interesting is how players will discover they’re memorizing drinks and who likes what as the game progresses. The game has a book on how to make every drink, but eventually players will barely need to check it because they know how to make almost everything by heart.

While all of this is going on, players will be bombarded by VA-11 Hall-A‘s aesthetic. Visually the game goes for a very anime-inspired style of pixel art. Each character is full of personality and the environment has that dingy neon high-tech feel synonymous with cyberpunk. Meanwhile, the game’s music is an interesting mix of synth-laden tracks. Think of any of the recent electronic genres ending in “wave” and there’s a decent chance it shows up in the game’s soundtrack. With that, there’s a lot of good music to enjoy here. Players largely dictate what they want to hear as they pick all of the songs in the bar’s jukebox at the start of each shift.

va-11-hall-a-gameplay-screenshot-4As unusual as it may sound, “Cyberpunk Bartender Action” actually works quite well together in a game. VA-11 Hall-A‘s story and characters really go a long way in carrying the game because they’re all so interesting and likable. Meanwhile, organizing Jill’s apartment and serving up drinks is a lot of fun. People looking for something a bit different in a cyberpunk setting should seriously consider looking into this game. It’s well worth spending some time with.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG, as well as for the PlayStation Vita. The game is also slated for release on the Switch and PlayStation 4 some time in 2019.

In Development: WORLD OF HORROR

world-of-horror-gameplay-screen-1Games on the original Macintosh had a certain charm to them. There was so much detail for the time in many of the games to appear on it, especially graphical adventures. Seeing as the computer didn’t have a colored monitor, developers had to make do with the gray scale graphics that it was capable of.  Games like Deja Vu, Corruption, and Shadowgate all wowed players with what they could do with the Mac’s graphics.

These games carved out a visual niche that hasn’t really been re-visited until now. One-person Polish developer, Panstasz, plans to do something about this with their upcoming adventure game WORLD OF HORROR.

The game will take the gray scale visuals of early Macintosh games, then combine it with the spooky sensibilities of Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft. Moreover, rather than telling a single story, WORLD OF HORROR will give players the choice of three creepy tales, each with their own protagonist. Well, there are three stories to choose from in the demo. Maybe there will be more in the full game? Who knows?

As mentioned, the game has three scenarios available thus far. One features Kirie Saito who is a recent transfer student to her high school. Students have been daring each other to stay in the abandoned washroom after school, which is apparently a scary place. However, when one of them dies trying this people start wondering if the legendary killer Aka Manto has returned. It’s up to players to help Kirie solve this mystery.

world-of-horror-demo-gameplay-2Next there is Kouji Tagawa, the classroom photographer. His friend was killed recently by an otherworldly being described as unnaturally tall woman with an monstrously wide smile. Kouji must go over his friends notes as to how he can correctly summon the creature to this world and kill it forever.

Finally, there is Mizuki Hamasaki who is an aspiring teen idol. She has been invited to a remote village for a festival that only happens once every 27 years. However, upon arriving she discovers strange sounds emanated from the nearby forest. This just don’t add up and Mizuki has to figure out just what is going on.

By the looks of things, there may be more that players will be able to do with these characters in the final game, but it’s hard to say. Presumably there will me more, otherwise WORLD OF HORROR would be very short.

Once players choose a scenario and are given the lowdown on what’s going on, they are then given a few choices on how to proceed. Some of these appear to have stat checks against the character being played. If their stats are too low, the check will fail. If it’s high enough things will be fine. This feels like it could wind up being a bit like Long Live the Queen where players will have to make mental notes of where they failed and either make sure their stats are high enough to succeed in future playthroughs, or simply pick another option the next time that choice appears.

While players are doing this, they will acquire items that should make life a lot easier. This is especially the case when discovering a weapon that they can equip. Battles aren’t terribly frequent, but being armed for them makes it easier to dispatch deranged foes. Combat itself is a simple turn-based system reminiscent of old 8-bit JRPGs. Players will be presented with a portrait of the enemy and a handful of options. These include observing the enemy to see what the player is up against. Then there is a special move (often associated with magic) and the ability to actually attack.

Events in the game give things a roguelite element, as they recur on multiple playthroughs and can happen in different characters stories sometimes. With that, there is a slight RNG feel to some of the events in the game.

Interestingly, with many of the choices that a player makes a Doom Meter of sorts begins to fill. It’s implied that when it reaches 100% an Old God of some sort will enter the world, and this really sounds like a bad thing. There doesn’t seem to be a way to reach 100% in the demo, presumably because there isn’t enough content to get there. However, it does act as a tool to nudge players along and not doddle. They will already have things that they need to do in a timely manner for their main quest (Kouji’s scenario in particular exhibits this), but the Doom Meter adds an extra layer of urgency / tension to the mix.

This is something that WORLD OF HORROR is doing a good job of so far: setting a tone. The game is heavily influenced by Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft after all. With that comes an onslaught of unsettling art and situations. For using such a simple color scheme in its graphics, the game quickly makes the player feel uneasy, worrying about something terrible happening to their character. There will be frequent situations where players enter a room and are greeted with a scene that makes them think, “Well, that isn’t good!”

There is also the constant reminder that Old Gods are returning to the world and people are losing their minds. As such, there will be random unsettling moments that may not even be entirely related to a given game scenario. These serve to give a sense that even if these high schoolers weren’t solving some creepy mystery, they wouldn’t have a happy, safe life to return to. The world as a whole is still going down the tubes in the worst Eldrich horror way possible.

From what can be seen of WORLD OF HORROR thus far, it looks promising. It has the art style and mood locked down. The stories being told are suitably creepy. Mostly what it needs is more content and maybe more ways to impact choices. There is plenty of time to work on that, though. The developer isn’t planning to release the game until at least 2019. As it stands, the game is being developed for the PC, PS4, and Switch, so a number of different platform users have something to look forward to. In the meantime, there is a demo available for those curious. Feel free to download it from the dev’s Itch.io page.