One of my personal favourite video game concepts is when the premise involves having an ordinary job that you wouldn’t expect to see in this lovely medium. From Ace Attorney to Trauma Center, I just can’t get enough of developers making real world professions fun. Well lucky for me Dexai Arts have decided to do just that, and are ready to put you in the role of the doorman of a nightclub in Techno Banter.
The game takes place over the course of five days, and for this hands-on preview I got to play the first one. I started the game waking up in my shabby apartment, and was immediately informed that I needed to head to work at The Green Room. On the way to work I walked down Rainbow Drive, and had my first taste of the world of Techno Banter.
The 2D characters in the 3D world of Techno Banter are for the most part completely outlandish, be they animal or human. The first few people I met on the strip seemed relatively normal, but it didn’t take long for me to end up face to face with aggressive gorillas, an outlandish chef with a mission to restore his food to its former glory, and even members of a sinister cult. Right off the bat this game wears its weirdness on its sleeve, and I couldn’t be more intrigued by this fictional version of Berlin.
Once you arrive at work it’s time to start your job as a doorman. Your frog boss shows you the ropes, and hands you a list of red flags to look out for in any potential customers. After reading that I couldn’t let in anyone with jeans or aggressive tendencies in (among other things) it clicked, Techno Banter is essentially Papers, Please, but with banging music and animals instead of a corrupt government and harrowing life or death decisions.
In this first day of the game it wasn’t particularly hard to weed out the less than savoury customers, but finding the troublemakers is only half of the battle. You see these ne’er-do-wells won’t get out of line without mouthing off at you first, and to get rid of them you have to pick the perfect comeback to shame them into leaving. These battles of wit are ridiculously entertaining, and actually made me laugh out loud at one point which I’d say is a pretty good sign.
Despite my best efforts to use my words to clear out the riff raff, one guy just wasn’t going to leave without causing a scene. The only way to get rid of him was to ignore him completely and starve him of attention, which was done by playing a bullet hell mini game. Yes I was suitably surprised by this too, and if this is only the first day of the game I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Once my shift was finished I was allowed to enter the club to see how the vibe was, and unfortunately I hadn’t done the best job. Failing at the bullet hell sequence meant that I’d allowed a real loser into the club, and coupled with the massive gorilla I was too scared to deny entry to, my club rating suffered accordingly.
After each night of Techno Banter you’ll be scored based on your performance and earn money that you can use to upgrade the club and make it the coolest place in town. My poor performance awarded the club a minus two star rating, but with the money we already had I was able to upgrade the speakers and dance floor for day two. I can’t say for certain how this system will work in practice, but I’d imagine the scores will go up as the quality of the establishment does on later nights.
As you’re exploring the club at the end of your shift, you can chat to all your colleagues and find out about their life. While doing this I had a particularly musical barmaid request my assistance in writing a new song and the shy girl on the front desk ask for help keeping the cult off her back. Each of these side quests was scheduled for the next day, but based on the choices I was able to make regarding the situation I foresee some branching narrative paths and different endings in this game’s future.
It’s been a long time since I got this excited playing a thirty minute preview of a video game, but I feel pretty confident in saying that Techno Banter is going to be something special. The combination of Papers, Please style gameplay and the Berlin club scene might sound a little odd, but the genuinely funny writing and striking visuals really make it work. We might have to wait until next year to live our bouncing fantasies, but I reckon it’ll be more than worth the wait.
Techno Banter is scheduled for release in Q1, 2024.