Take a short, black-haired bartender girl and put her in a tiny bar in some economy-fucked city with some crime but individuality, along with the bar smelling like dog urine and soap with lots of strange, sometimes annoying regulars. What do you get when you mix all of these things (seems to be something like 3 adelhyde and 7 karmotrine, if you ask me) is what is called VA-11 HALL-A, a 15 dollar computer game available on Steam, for Windows, Mac and Linux. Always good to be available on everything. Still waiting for the TempleOS port, though.

VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel of sorts, where you play as Jill, a 'short, black-haired bartender girl' with a crush on her boss (lesbian alert!) and have to serve many customers. Some come often, and some come rarely, some not even appearing in Chapter 2 of 3. The most different gameplay you're getting from the visual novel 'gameplay' would be mixing drinks - which is done by dragging and dropping, sometimes putting ice in, aging it, or blending it. It all depends on the recipe. Early in the game, regulars tend to ask you for the drink directly, though in the near future, they start to ask you for more...vague things, such as "bitter but sweet". Thankfully, with you CamiComp computer, you can just search up "bitter" or "sweet" and find something that fits the bill for both, then serve it.

Aside from that, there is some relatively game-changing stuff at the end of chapters 1 and 3, but chapter 1 is just your boss visiting you and you can get drunk as fuck and start talking about 'stupid meat rods', and chapter 3 is a...lukewarm game of truth or dare. If you're not gonna make one person suck another person off, then truth or dare ain't worth it. Truly, the magic is from the character development and interactions - these are all very, very well written characters and some of them, like Dorothy, aren't bad people but aren't so overly positive or anything that it makes them annoying. Some of them are surprisingly sharp (Art Van Don for instance, Virgilio too if you're into fat ugly men) and some of them look like Danny Devito (Art Van Don for instance, Virgilio if you take Danny Devito and crank his already maxed out ugliness factor to 300%).

Lots of the character focus is on women, which isn't a bad thing! Instead of being like your usual dumb slice-of-life anime with cute girls doing cute things, they all have a little bit of conflict one way or another, and have genuine feeling to them instead of "hey, let's go to the beach and get raped by fat ugly ba- (proceeds to get raped by fat ugly bastard)". The conflict that got me the most was roughly half-way through the game, and it's not because of the character it affected at first, it's because of everyone else's genuine reactions to it. First and likely last time a visual novel will get a tear or two out of me.

Overall? If you're willing to dish out 11 or so hours for 3 chapters of incredibly good written characters and interesting, sometimes tear-jerking conflict, by all means, buy VA-11 HALL-A. It may be a bit much for 15 dollars, but I think it's well worth the price, and if you don't want to pay 15 dollars, wait for a sale. As of writing this, a Spring sale should be coming up sooner or later.

Click on the image below to go to the Steam store page for VA-11 HALL-A.

Rating: A+