VA-11 HALL-A is kind of an odd one. It’s a bartending simulator meets a visual novel somewhere in a cyberpunk dystopia. You play as the bartender at the bar pronounced Vallhalla. If you’re looking for a very “game-like" game here, you may be disappointed as this is really a story and dialogue-driven experience. Your interaction is limited is figuring out how to make the drinks based on various instructions, but the meat of the game is the storytelling and the experience. The demo at PAX Prime had our bartender interacting with Streaming-chan, a woman who is constantly streaming her life on the internet. You have limited choices – you can, for example, make her a super-strong drink when she leaves the option up to you and pry very personal info out of her, or make her a weaker drink and keep her on guard. Well, as on guard as a person livestreaming 24/7 can be. There’s an ingredient that is often optional, and your usage of it can affect how much your clients get drunk. There’s the promise of branching storylines, influenced by the drinks you make and how your customers react to them.
This certainly is something unique, I’m not completely sure what to make of it, and I’m interested to see how it works out when completed. After all, a game that’s story-driven lives and dies on the quality of said story. This certainly is aiming for a salacious side, based on the sexually-suggestive talk in the demo. But as we saw with Her Story ($2.99), a great comparison for the level of interactivity compared to the experience, this could prove to be something really cool.
This one is releasing on desktop, Vita, and is currently planned for iPad. Sukeban Games is considering it for iPhone, but getting the interface to work on phones. I recommend taking the desktop prototype for a spin just to see what you’re up against here, it’s definitely well outside my normal area of expertise, but the tone and just the drink-making part of it puts it in a unique place.