VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action Game Poster Image
Mature sci-fi bartending sim leaves an awkward aftertaste.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

As bartender, you get a glimpse into the different characters' lives, listening to their troubles, trying to build a connection. Characters have intention of coming in and using alcohol to cope with problems, which doesn't promote positive mental health.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bar patrons range in personality types, with unique behaviors, problems, etc. Players can learn more about characters based on drinks they're served and interactions they have, but all seem flawed to an extent ... some more than others.

Ease of Play

Player's main goal is simply to mix drinks for various patrons based not only on their requests, but on what player determines that they need instead. It's difficult to make any mistakes, as there's no time limit, and players can always start an order over. Players also try to keep their character happy while off the clock to improve their observation of patrons' needs, but overall, it's simply a matter of making choices, watching them play out.

Violence

A few confrontations and descriptions of violence that players might come across, depending on their actions.

Sex

No nudity, but some characters are presented in a sexualized manner and frankly discuss sexual issues. Some sexualized characters, including an android with the appearance of a young girl that works in the sex trade, and a female "celebrity" that's said to livestream her life 24/7, including her sexual encounters.

Language

Frequent use of profanity, including "f--k," "bitch," and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Game's primary focus is mixing and serving alcoholic drinks to patrons of the bar. Characters are shown to be drinking, can often appear drunk and change their behaviors considerably due to alcohol. Also references to both smoking and drug use throughout game.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is a downloadable sci-fi-themed simulation available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, as well as Windows, Mac, and Linux-based computers. Players essentially follow along in a multipath story, affecting the outcome based on what types of drinks they serve to the different patrons of the bar. Players are, obviously, serving characters alcoholic drinks, while using the effects of those drinks to manipulate others' behaviors. Aside from alcohol, the game also makes more than a few references to drug use and sex, even going so far as to include an android sex worker as one of the patrons. The game also doesn't shy away from offensive language in its dialogue, making frequent use of profanity and sexual references.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysacadqwdqe March 7, 2020
Adult Written byRayne96 June 12, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byThe Addict of Gaming May 5, 2019

Just a damn good game.

This extremely mechanically simple game has an amazing story with an excellent framing device. You talk with people and end up linking all the reasoning togethe... Continue reading

What's it about?

Drinks are on the house in VA-11 HALL-A: CYBERPUNK BARTENDER ACTION. Under the neon lights of a dystopian future, oftentimes most people's solace can be found only at the bottom of a bottle. As a bartender at one of this world's local watering holes, it's up to you to give the customers what they order, what they want, or in some cases, what they need. On any given night, you can wind up playing the role of best friend, therapist, scapegoat, or fantasy ... all at the whims of your patrons and their drinks. Your decisions won't only affect your tips at the end of each night, but will also impact the lives of every person, robot, or even corgi that stumbles up to your bar for just one more drink.

Is it any good?

While bars may be the location where people have some life-changing moments, the problem with this sim isn't the content or the stories -- it's the manipulation of people with substances that feels awkward. VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action lays out a series of interconnected stories, with players' only option to guide the plot being their creative use of mixology. While it's an interesting concept, especially set against the backdrop of a futuristic society, from a gameplay perspective, it's a watered-down shot that's still somewhat hard to swallow. The whole premise is that you're trying to manipulate people through their drinking habits. And the clientele, while definitely diverse, are extreme personalities that can make for awkward and uncomfortable moments, like the android sex worker made up to look like a young schoolgirl.

Right from the start, the repetition of VA-11 HALL-A becomes abundantly clear. Even after sloshing your way through the opening tutorials, the story moves forward only after your character has mixed the same exact drink over and over again. There's no real challenge here either, between the specific list of drink recipes at your disposal and the ability to reset the drink and try again any time you happen to make a mistake. And there's only so many ways you can mix the same handful of ingredients. Sure, you can tweak things by "aging" a drink, adding ice, or even adjusting the alcoholic content, but by and large, you're just going through the same repetitive motions. It's a little disturbing, too, when you're occasionally encouraged to do things like give someone's drink an extra alcoholic kick to help them forget or become more pliable. It just feels as if VA-11 HALL-A relishes in showing off its seedier stereotypes a little too much, sacrificing gameplay and real character development in the process.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the affects of drinking alcohol. What are some of the ways that alcohol can affect a person's behavior and health? What are the risks and dangers of drinking to excess? What are some of the reasons people choose to drink alcohol?

  • What are some of the negative ways that people try to deal with emotional concerns? What would be positive alternatives for coping with your problems?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Themes & Topics

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