Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch,
January 30, 2020
Sometimes, after mowing down hordes of enemy goons and exploring massive fantasy worlds, you just want an experience where you can relax and listen to a good story. Developed by Toge Productions, Coffee Talk aims to provide that kind of slower-paced experience, placing you in the shoes of a barista at a late night cafe in a version of Seattle inhabited by shapeshifters, elves and vampires.
In Coffee Talk, you are the barista at the titular cafe as you serve a variety of customers and listen to their stories. The cast of humans and fantasy creatures all have their own dramas that they’re working through, and will open up over a warm drink. It’s a visual novel style of game, but not in the usual sense of branching paths via dialogue trees. Instead, the narrative is driven by your barista skills.
At first, things progress simply enough, with a greater variety of ingredients unlocking over time. The actual brewing process isn’t too in-depth: just pick your base ingredient, and then two sub-ingredients. Every time you create a new type of drink, its recipe is stored on your phone, which you can check if you have forgotten. Eventually, customers begin to ask for more complicated or obscure beverages.
“You’ll need to know your Teh Tarik from your Jahe Tubruk – Coffee Talk is the ultimate challenge of your barista knowledge”
There can be quite a bit of trial and error in the coffee brewing process though. Sometimes you will be given the ingredients to use, but not the order to use them. Other times I was given the name of a variety of coffee and I ended up having to google it to figure out what the customer wanted. You’ll need to know your Teh Tarik from your Jahe Tubruk – Coffee Talk is the ultimate challenge of your barista knowledge. I just kind of wish that there was a better way to unlock new recipes than randomly combine ingredients on Coffee Talk’s Endless Mode.
In terms of the story itself, I found each of the characters the narrative follows quite charming and compelling. In one chapter you might be helping an elf and a succubus work through their relationship dramas. In another, a shapeshifting pop star is trying to forge her own identity after starting a solo career. All of the various character arcs are framed around dialogue between you, the barista, and Freya, a struggling human journalist looking to write short stories about the regular customers at Coffee Talk. Despite the fantasy setting, the struggles of its characters are grounded in the mundane. You might not have horns or be able to turn into a cat, but you will likely still find the stories very relatable.
Coffee Talk’s presentation is what ties the game together. The pixel-art character designs were very appealing, and helped convey each character’s personality despite the very limited animation. The catchy soundtrack and comforting beeps of the coffee machine as I churned out another drink helped give the game a good sense of flow.
Depending on if you try and complete every character’s story arc, Coffee Talk will likely take you only an hour or two to complete. I always felt compelled to press on and find out what would happen next to the regular customers of Coffee Talk, and feel like it was the right length. Finally, if you feel confident in your barista skills, you can slam out drinks against a timer in Challenge Mode.
- Appealing pixel-art visuals
- Likable and diverse characters to get to know
- A unique take on the visual novel genre
- Story progression can feel a bit trial-and-error
Coffee Talk is relaxing, caffeine-flavoured take on the visual novel genre. The idea of a visual novel where the eventual happiness of its characters is decided by your barista-making skills certainly sets it apart from the rest. With a fun and appealing cast, and a smooth soundtrack to go with it, Coffee Talk is a hard game to dislike. While you may want to catch up on your coffee knowledge before diving in, if you’re looking for an experience that is a bit less demanding and more on the casual side, Coffee Talk is definitely worth your consideration.