Ysbryd Games appears to have the monopoly on “simulated life” games and Pax East this year appears to be no different. They brought with them the next installment of the Cyberpunk Bartender Action franchise, N1RV Ann-A (pronounced nirvana) to Boston so let's see if this game gives us a sympathetic ear like a good bartender should.
You play the role of Samantha, the bartender at the N1RV Ann-A bar where you get all kinds of interesting characters coming in for a drink and for someone to listen to their problems. The writing is pretty good in the game as it actually feels like the problems the bar patrons have were coming from real people. One woman hates her job and is only there to help provide the very best for her mother who raised her as a single mom. Then there’s another woman is an artist and draws “interesting” art so like I said, you get all kinds coming into the bar.
What would a bartending simulation game be without actually being a bartender, complete with mixing drinks? You’ll get the feel of an old-school point and click adventure game where you’re listening to the patrons' problems, clicking to proceed in the conversation, and then figuring out what drink they want and making it. Drink mixing is pretty simple as the recipes are basic as you’re told how much of each ingredient to put in. A welcome change from the first game for mixing drinks is that it appears that you won’t have to actually shack drink mixes for a certain time to make a certain drink. That was very tedious in the first installment and made preparing drinks for bar guests a hassle as you never knew how long to mix something.
Another addition to N1RV-Ann-A is during conversations with the bar patrons, specifically how you’re able to answer them. You’ll have a few anime-styled heads of Sam with different emotional responses attached to them. One might be flirty or stern but the head you pick will change the direction of the conversation. Choose the wrong emotion and the patron could react in a negative way, just as if you were a real bartender and upset a patron.
Samantha feels like someone you wouldn’t mind telling your troubles to; someone who is just genuinely likable. These are the traits you want in your bartender and it doesn’t hurt that she's good looking, right? As I mentioned prior about the anime-styled faces, Sam seems to know how to react when she doesn’t get the reaction she’s looking for, such as answering something flirty when the situation didn’t call for it. She knows the perfect way to calm the situation down, a great trait for a bartender to have.
I have to say that I wasn’t enamored with Va-11 Hall-A, the first game in the series, but N1RV Ann-A feels different and it shows. You should give it a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
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