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Have You Played… VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action?

Shaken, not Wyrd

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I didn’t sleep well last night, but the sight of my brand new synthetic potted plant as I woke up at least made it a bit more bearable. I’ve just come back from my smoke break, and I’m mixing a drink called a Crevice Spike. The recipe calls for 2 Powdered Delta, 4 Flanergide, and optional Karmotrine, an alcoholic component. I’ve accidentally put 14 lots of Karmotrine into the drink. My client is a 24-year-old sentient humanoid robot sex worker with the body of a 13-year-old. She’s conversing with a talking Shiba Inu called Nacho Tumbleweed Jr. This is VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, a visual novel mixed (HAHA) with a bartending minigame. Only, pretty much the whole game is bartending.

It serves as the driving force for the story. You’re Jill, weary-eyed and incredibly bisexual bartender for VA-11 Hall-A, a bar in Glitch City. Your customers come to you for drinks, and will either ask for a specific cocktail or request that you make one that suits their tastes. There are manly drinks, girly drinks, bitter drinks, spicy drinks, and so on. The way your patrons behave can vary wildly depending on what drink you give them. Super boozy drinks will make them right pissed.

Despite Jill’s continual insistence throughout the game that her life isn’t going the way she wanted it to, and if we ignore the quite catastrophic things that happen to her along the way, there’s something I find awfully appealing about stepping into her shoes. I suppose running a pub has always been a retirement pipe dream of mine. The concept isn’t romanticised in VA-11 Hall-A, but it certainly is in many other pieces of media, and it absolutely is in my brain.

But see, I’m only 21. Even if we ignore the fact that in this economy I’ll be working until my bones crumble to ash, unless the proletariat masses rise up and overthrow the oil barons pretty sharpish, the planet will burn to a crisp faster than you can say “sex on the beach.” Will I ever retire? Who knows. Until then, I’ll always have the sticky floors, sociable droids, and talking dogs of VA-11 Hall-A.

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Who am I?

Astrid Johnson

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Deputy Editor of this very site Alice Bell once described Astrid as a "Neo-retro-revolutionary." Now, she embodies that aesthetic via an audiovisual medium for Rock Paper Shotgun's YouTube channel. Got a weird game that's political, or gay, or political and gay? Send it here: astrid.johnson@rockpapershotgun.com

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