I played VA-11 HALL-A at PAX this weekend. Va-11 HALL-A, developed by Sukeban and published by Ysbryd, is set in the futuristic Glitch City, brought to life through pixel art. It’s reminiscent of ’90s anime and old Japanese computer games. It’s also a game about cyberpunk bartending, so be careful about handing it to younger family members—there’s plenty of drinking and flirty dialogue. That said, if this description doesn’t pull you in I don’t know what will:

“In this world, corporations reign supreme, all human life is infected with nanomachines designed to oppress them, and the terrifying White Knights ensure that everyone obeys the laws.

“But, this is not about those people.

“You are a bartender at VA-11 HALL-A, affectionately nicknamed ‘Valhalla.’ Although it is just a small bar downtown, it attracts the most fascinating people this side of dystopia. Keep your clients lubricated and you will be made privy to the most interesting stories.”

In the demo I—Jill, actually—was introduced to the bar and asked to make a drink. The drink-making itself was straight forward. You just add ingredients by dragging and dropping, and make sure to remember ice or no ice, then mix. Certain drinks will yield different information from clients, which you can find out by listening closely to their rants. The rest is very much a visual novel, so all of the dialogue is text-based, and the reward is the VA-11 HALL-A patrons’ storytelling. So, make sure you’re ready to sit down and do a lot of reading. For a better sense of what’s happening with the story and setting you can check out the trailer below:

I was surprised that I loved the aesthetic so much. I’m not usually that into pixel art, but VA-11 HALL-A managed to be something inspiring even for me. The atmosphere is immediately obvious and the character designs are cute and interesting. If you like visual novels and stuff like Ghost in the Shell, you’re in for a treat. And, of course, female protagonists are always great.

In short, VA-11 HALL-A is cool, interesting, nostalgic and atmospheric, but probably not a good bet for younger folks due to the alcohol and sexual content. Its release date is still TBA.

Keezy Young

Keezy Young

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.