Another Bar Game Review – Another Bad Game

The charm of arcadey simulators such as Another Bar Game comes from moments of successfully conquering a crazy and overwhelming situation. It is the feeling of empowerment when all the pieces quiet down and the player can congratulate their brain for not falling apart during the chaos that brings me back to the genre. However, from the humble beginnings of the arcades to the robust campaigns of modern indies, few titles of this kind have managed to bring my mood down as hard as this one.

The campaign here lasts around two to three hours, as described by the creator at least because I could not stomach finishing the final one or two levels. Pouring drinks and running around from table to table has never brought me as little joy. For such a mechanically plain title, Another Bar Game is filled with simple mistakes, while also lacking any sort of audiovisual flair to carry people through its lows.

The game's overworld, with four bars to choose from, three of which are locked in the screenshot
A map that only allows the player to walk to one of the bars adds nothing to the game

One of its lowest lows is the writing. What could have been a few short, simple lines preceding the gameplay sections, ones which I would forget in all the mayhem, turned out to be an annoying reminder that the game could just be better. The player character and the boss constantly poke fun at Another Bar Game’s lack of options, the simplicity of the mechanics, or possible ways of making the game more unique.

In the most egregious instance of this behavior, a character claimed that difficulty options are available for the player if they find the beginning of the game too easy. At that moment, I went to the menu, and noticed no such option, only to return to the conversation, with the next line of dialogue reading “I don’t think so.” I do not understand the idea of a game poking fun at itself lacking such basic options when it is clear the main draw is the gameplay, given the fact that an endless mode is available from the main menu.

The boss saying a previous bartender woman ended up in a mental hospital
Describing how someone else doing what the player is doing ended in a mental hospital is not exactly flattering

That is just the most memorable instance of such behavior, which is not even consistent. There are things that Another Bar Game does not poke fun at, which are arguably more egregious. The game lacks functionality as simple as a fullscreen option in the menu. It has to be forced manually. How about not being able to interact with objects from certain angles, and whole mechanics not working as intended? Yup, we got that here too.

Another Bar Game’s entirely 2D look makes for issues with understanding depth. Sometimes, picking up empty glasses is entirely impossible because the vertical table cannot be accessed at the required angle. In some locations, the sink, which is used for filling a glass up with water for drunk customers, just straight up does not work, and pressing it will almost always lead to wasting a clean glass.

A screenshot with several clients in one of the early bars
You know how nobody in this screenshot is smiling? Same

The game’s lack of clarity is caused by its simplistic art style and poor design choices. All but one tap towards the end of Another Bar Game look the same and is only differentiated by color. This color is displayed by a tiny dot above a client’s head, which is often covered up with a big textbox when the client arrives and orders their drink. There is no need for these drinks to have names, but the game tries to be cute by having a drink called “Oyster IPA” or something. Not very funny, but certainly annoying.

The most bizarre decision of all is introducing an RNG element, where running with two glasses may cause one to just break. There is an upgrade system with each level (which I believe also broke about halfway through the game and stopped counting the experience points) where a player can choose from either running speed, faster pouring, or lowering the chance of the aforementioned event happening. Without ever picking the third option, glasses would only break once every few days, but when that happened, it meant a whole shift went down the drain.

A singer saying not to undermine repetition, as it is a key to a memorable performance
What he’s saying is not all that wrong, but the thing you repeat should probably be enjoyable to some degree

That is because a certain level of performance is required to clear a day. Whenever an issue arises due to a bug, random chance, or something else out of the player’s control, the fun, chaotic restaurant sim becomes nothing more than a game of waiting for that one run where nothing breaks. Where the textboxes will not cover up the color of the beer, the glasses will not break, and the clients will sit in a place I can pick up a glass from.

This means repeating the same day over and over, listening to the same dull music, watching the same basic animations, interacting with the same broken mechanics, and experiencing the same frustrations. I reached my boiling point while working in the last bar, which introduced one new mechanic, but took away three others, and broke a fourth. I expect others will reach theirs sooner, and only a few will manage to squeeze the fun out of Another Bar Game.

Mateusz played Another Bar Game on PC with a review code.

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