Because mankind has evolved beyond the simplicity of numbers to describe the passage of time, or maybe because some people really good at algebra want to mess with the world’s population, the year is 207X A.D.; the setting is Glitch City, a shining example of Corporatocracy if I have ever seen one. You play as Jill, a bartender at VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla), who guides you through a world of remarkable story telling and extraordinary characters.

The core action of Cyberpunk Bartender Action (we’ll refer to the game as this, and the bar in the game as VA-11 HALL-A from here on out to avoid confusion) centers around making drinks at the bar under the direction of your customers. There’s no real time limit or big challenge here, especially as you can just start over if you make a mistake. You don’t have to memorize recipes as you always have access to the recipe book. Just remember that “big” means a double; so, double your recipe. You earn bigger tips by making drinks flawlessly, which can be used to purchase items from the shop to boost Jill’s interactions with the bar patrons. For example, remembering and mentioning the drink order and mentioning it in the dialog box, which is highly convenient when dealing with multiple customers.

The shop also has items for the place Jill spends much of her time when she is not slinging drinks at VA-11 HALL-A: her apartment, which she shares with her cat, Fore. Like many crazy-cat ladies (I kid), Jill talks to Fore, and even provides a voice for him. While chilling in your apartment you can read on Jill’s tablet, pay bills (else be treated to the bad ending). You can purchase decorations to spruce up the place, and even a game system that gives you a mini-game to play.

Cyberpunk Bartender Action runs roughly 10-hours of gameplay, and includes the ever popular New Game + mode which allows you keep all the items and decorations obtained during your first run through. The soundtrack is no slouch as, in my opinion, it didn’t feel repetitive or bland during my whole playthrough. Looking a little further into it, I found that the composer, Michael Kelly, was inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei games along with classics like Policenauts and Snatcher, which he played as a kid. I cannot say that I haven’t put it on in the background while writing code for my day job. On the graphics side of things, I was left kind of wanting. Not that the visuals were bad. If you’re playing this game, you can’t expect AAA title, next gen graphics. No, it’s something straight out of the 90s; reminiscent of Blade Runner. No, I wish we had just gotten to see more. I would have loved to seen more than just the few small glimpses we got of Glitch City, not to mention many of the places the many characters describe during your interactions with them.

All in all, I had a great time with VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action. It’s really more of a visual novel than a game, but we need more of these I think. Definitely one of the most compelling games in the genre I have played in a while with elements of humor, tragedy, and adventure to tantalize your mind. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, I would still recommend this game as it could be the one to pull you in. It’s not that it doesn’t have its flaws. While I did say there are about 10-hours of gameplay, I wouldn’t recommend this in one sitting. Not even 4 sittings. This is a great game when you have about 15-20 minutes to kill. 30 minutes might be pushing it. Longer sessions invite a repetitive feeling that could deter you from wanting to play it out. Also, unless these games really get you and you don’t mind multiple playthroughs, I would definitely recommend using a guide, otherwise you may miss some pretty cool stuff. That being said, it is still a great game and one you should definitely check out.

4 stars out of 5.