Va-11 Hall-A was my game of the year for 2016, and every second of this game is an absolute treasure.
Va-11 Hall-A is a little visual novel telling the story of Jill; a bartender for the shoddy downtown bar named Va-11 Hall-A, or simply Valhalla. In this cyberpunk dystopian future, realistic androids, cyber police, and robotic idols are commonplace, and even bartending has been reduced to mixing ratios of five core components to create any number of different drinks. You play the part of Jill as she spends days talking to customers, mixing drinks, and listening to their troubles. That’s where Va-11 Hall-A truly shines.
Va-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action – PC- $14.99
The people that come to drink at Valhalla have so much personality that you can’t help but be drawn in. As Jill, you don’t actually have much control; she says what she wants, does what she wants, and ultimately reacts to people as she wants. The only control you have is over the drinks that Jill makes and what she spends her hard-earned cash on; be it her electric bill or the poster she just had to have. You don’t even see Jill for most of the game in the high resolution drawn state that most of the client base is presented in, save for one brief exchange where the top half of her body is visible. But trust me, you won’t need any more than that.
The interaction between Jill and the client base and how those relationships change over a few weeks is what Va-11 Hall-A focuses and executes on to perfection. Every character comes to life and bombards you with their personality. The soundtrack is excellent, and the artwork is above and beyond what you’d expect from an unassuming visual novel. The actual story is presented and paced well; it’s varied enough to keep you interested for the entire 20 hours you should expect from the game.
My only gripe with the game is its failure to delve deeper into the bar’s surrounding world; I wanted more information about Jill’s surroundings, the world these incredible characters live in.
Va-11 Hall-A is available on Steam for fifteen bucks, so stop whatever you’re doing and go pick it up, mix some drinks, and change some lives.