Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
April 20, 2023
A great man once said, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation”. But if Toge Productions can attest to anything, it’s that late nights are equally great times to have a think over a warm brew. The 2020 visual novel Coffee Talk now has a sequel and much like its predecessor, Coffee Talk Episode 2 has you playing as the barista for the local café where you make beverages for your customers as you listen to their troubles. While there isn’t a large shift from the previous game, there are some slight upgrades and changes to the overall experience. And in a make-believe land where satyrs, banshees, and orcs roam, what’s not to love about this sequel? Does Coffee Talk 2 make you feel warm inside, or does it fail to inspire?
You were warmer than the scent of a cafè latte
The general premise of Coffee Talk 2 follows the previous game: you’re tasked with making a hot beverage for customers and listening to their problems. It picks up three years later, although everything feels the same as if you’re coming home from a long extended trip. Overall, there isn’t a huge difference in gameplay; you start with only one ingredient, but you’ll eventually get your full roster by the next day. While you can still make coffee, teas, green teas, and hot milk, there are two new teas to try out: hibiscus and butterfly pea. They can create some fun drinks for your customers. Barring three new characters, the customers are all returning from the first game with their own arcs that you have a part to play in. There’s a greater reward for completing these arcs, and by completing the good ones, you can get an achievement and a small item in-game relating to that character.
Some are easier than others to complete. Rachel, a shape-shifting cat, just wants a drink that inspires her. If you succeed in inspiring her, a few days later she’ll come in again and give you a song from her new album. Afterward, you’ll see it displayed on the wall behind the customers. It’s a cute little memento that both literally and figuratively showcases that the barista is proud of their friend’s accomplishments. You can also see this with one of Rachel’s CDs and a plaque for Freya, the writer from the previous game. You can see how much time has progressed, because they were things that both Rachel and Freya were worried about in the previous game. It rounds out not only the barista’s relationship and personality (considering that there isn’t much of a personality to begin with), but what both Freya and Rachel have been up to. It’s a really small detail that can be overlooked, but it’s a really cute insight that makes me feel happy that the barista cares, and these relationships aren’t just one-and-done.
Make my coffee sweet and warm
Among the things that have largely gone unchanged is your phone. This is where they store your signature drink recipes, along with apps for music, news, and social media. One of the things in video game sequels I find interesting is how they have to “de-power” you, so to speak. The way Coffee Talk does it is by saying you got your phone repaired but lost your data. A bonus to this is that most of the drinks from the previous game haven’t changed. It’s a genius idea, however, it does ponder the thought that… is the barista just bad with technology? You can save your data before you repair your phone, unless it got corrupted. Regardless, it is a great storytelling element mixed in with a technical element. Since the majority of the drinks are in the previous game, you’ll only get stumped on the new teas and the one or two additional drinks in the coffee, tea, green tea and milk categories.
One of the changes seen from the original game is to the social media app. In it, you’ll gain more information about your customers each time you correctly serve them a drink. One issue I found is that for some of the characters we met in the last game, their relationships with the player had been reset. I understand this for the new characters, but it feels weird to have grown close with the original cast only for it to go back to square one with no explanation.
Inside the social media app is an amalgamation of a Twitter/Instagram feed. Here, characters you’ve met will update their account each day. Some might update one to three times, and if you miss one and want to go back and find it, you’ll need to replay the entire day. It’s an interesting spin and really gives life to a world outside of your café. Seeing these characters be with other friends or getting updates from their job also allows you to see them in a different setting, which can reveal sides of them you may not otherwise see.
I don’t want any coffee home-ground
Throughout the game, the only way to acquire new drinks is to either make them right and serve them to the customer or use endless mode. Endless mode is a fun way to test out a drink recipe, and if you make a mistake you’re not punished for it. I did run into a bug though: when trying to bring up my phone, or even exit out of the mode there was no way for me to do it. I found a workaround by changing who you “serve” the drink to, so to speak. While not game-breaking, it is annoying, especially when I needed to try figuring out some specific customer’s favourite drinks.
One thing that I enjoyed seeing — in a masochistic way — is that there’s sometimes some harsh consequences attached to your actions. If you get a particular character’s order wrong twice, they will stop visiting the cafe and cut off their arc completely. Not only that, but their arc is directly tied to another character. Thus, if you cut off character A’s best arc, you also cut off character B’s best arc. Essentially, you can only get a neutral ending for both of them if you don’t serve the correct drinks. I love this approach, because sure, characters A and B never come into your cafe together, but their endgame is together. Their friendship attests to the idea that you can find friends in places you’d never expect. And that’s what this game ultimately feels like, creating friendships with unlikely people. And don’t worry — it’s pretty hard to mess up the orders except on purpose.
Meet me at the coffee shop
Coffee Talk has a lot of strengths going for it, and one of them is the music and art style. The art style is so vivid and vibrant. While sure, it’s only 2D pixel sprites, it feels refreshing and really harkens to the genre of visual novels. The character designs are all unique, and they all have their different styles. Even characters from the same fantasy race have different elements to them, different colours. You can really get a sense of who they are from just how they look, even including their phones. Each character will have their phones on the table, and the type of phone they have tells you a lot about them. Some will have smartphones, which gives the idea that they’re up to date with technology. This is especially true for the characters who work in entertainment or a creative industry. And some will have flip phones, which says that they’re not so much up to date, but all they need is a phone to make calls and to text people.
“Coffee Talk 2, underneath it all, is a love letter to Fahmi.”
Along with that, the music for Coffee Talk is still as good as the previous title. There are the same lo-fi beats, but they’re still pretty modern and trendy. It’s music I can play while writing or reading. The ambient sounds are fantastic too. The rain hitting the window and roof is so relaxing, I was almost ready to snooze while playing. Using a controller is sweet too because it vibrates whenever someone got a message. It’s a small detail that really brings you into the world.
Throughout the game, conversations feel really natural. This is something I already thought was a strength from the previous game, but it’s even better in the sequel. The conversations don’t feel otherworldly, even though I’m talking to a werewolf and a vampire, their issues feel like one you or I might have — even if the vampire mentions that he might’ve been around since the 1600s. Obviously, if you plop him into our world it’d be weird, but these characters are talking about arguments they’ve had with their kids, or their partners about such mundane stuff. These character dynamics, the relationships they have, and the conversations are all real-world problems. I know that I can relate to a few of these characters because of it.
Bring me java, bring me joy
Whenever you start a new day, you get to see what the front page of the newspaper says. I got excited whenever a day would end just so I could see what was happening in the world. Not only because it gives you an insight into the world. What the geopolitics are like, what crime is happening, and even entertainment. But the fact that the art team would pepper in a reference to a real-world meme for the cover images added an extra level of humor. It’s exciting to try and decipher what meme is being referenced.
One of the major plot points in the game is the idea of memories, the act of remembering someone through something and dealing with mortality and death. It is something that I think about a lot, due to working in a creative field. Will anyone remember your art? Will what you create keep you alive in the memory of people? It’s clearly evident that the passing of Mohammad Fahmi, the original creator of Coffee Talk, took this game in a different direction. Coffee Talk 2, underneath it all, is a love letter to Fahmi, showing that he really cared about these characters and how, in a way, they cared about him too. It’s hard to try and separate why they’re talking about mortality, especially when you know why. And in a Post-Covid world, it’s something a lot of us had to deal with. But I honestly believe that Coffee Talk 2 is a game that Fahmi would be proud of.
- Good and normal endings galore!
- Characters can react to your choices in surprising ways
- Art style is vivid
- Music and ambience really pulls you into the world
- Conversations have depth and feel authentic
- Some slight bugs
- Will have to max out friendships with old friends
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a fantastic sequel. The art style is simple but amazing, the music is great and the ambient rain is relaxing. Choices do indeed matter in this game, and with a (pretty hard to miss) mistake, you can cut off character arcs completely. Admittedly, there are some annoying bugs, and issues with the social media app. But the game is so grounded and authentic in its characters that each of them has their own wants, desires, and problems. While you can’t solve them with a coffee, you can help steer them in one direction or another. Their issues still feel really natural, even if they’re not human. Coffee Talk 2 is a beautiful game, and I can’t wait to jump back in again to collect all the nick knacks.