I Need A Couple Of Extra Shots
HIGH The worldbuilding.
LOW The stories.
WTF That was a werewolf/BDSM myth I didn’t want…
I’ve not given text adventures much time over the years and I must admit to having incredibly limited knowledge of the genre, which is unfortunate for Coffee Talk as I feel less qualified to review. Are the things I don’t like about the game, a staple of its type, or is this a badly executed version of it?
Coffee Talk is an interactive novel at heart, with the game presented in expressive pixel art of assorted colorful avatars. Most of it involves reading through text prompts, punctuated by a minigame in which different hot drinks must be mixed. Set in incredibly near-future Seattle, the player takes on the role of a coffee shop owner that stays open late into the night, making chit-chat and delivering delicious drinks upon request. This is a alternate Seattle though, so instead of just humans there are werewolves, orcs, and even entities from outer space gracing the establishment.
Whoever wrote the script shows a deft hand when it comes to imagining what the world would be like if it was inhabited by fantastical creatures. Vampires take on jobs as advertising models for anti-ageing creams, elves are immortal hipster-slackers, and succubi have to deal with the stigma associated with their kind.
The soundtrack by Andrew Jeremy nails the mood of a stylish coffee place, and is pitched at the same kind of people that listen to lofi Hip-Hop beats while they work late on coffee-induced benders.
But then there are the stories. At first, the humdrum conversations are endearing — a cop with a cold and a father/daughter pair with a complicated relationship (both of whom can turn into cats) are bookended by requests for beverages. The problem I had was that once the premise was set up, I wasn’t that interested in the continuation.
There are multiple endings for each character depending on whether they get the drinks they want or need, but I felt indifferent. For example, Freya is introduced from the outset as a struggling writer using her job as a means to work on what she really wants to do — write a novel. Knowing how hard it is to get a paying writing gig, I found her quite frustrating as I couldn’t help but think she was in a position of privilege that most would envy. Some of the others fare better. The werewolf nurse Gala is particularly interesting, but his denouement is signposted almost from the start.
There is a semi-interesting turn at the end of the game with some meta commentary which might intrigue some, but I found it a little twee.
The part of Coffee Talk I enjoyed the most was the Endless mode available in the main menu. This mode takes the drink mixing/making and spins it out as a timed challenge mode. Each successful drink adds time, and the longer it lasts, the more obtuse the clients’ demands get. I would have happily played a fleshed-out version of that as a roguelike for hours, but sadly, it was only designed as a slight diversion.
I am very much not the target audience for Coffee Talk and I think that fans of interactive fiction may enjoy this quite a bit, but for me, the formulaic stories betray the strong world building.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Toge Productions and published by Toge Productions. It is currently available on Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, and XBO-X. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO-X. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T. The game deals with mature themes, such as sexual relationships, abuse and drug use. There is almost no violence but some kids might find the werewolf frightening. The game earns its Teen rating.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound. Text size cannot be altered and the colour of it cannot be changed.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no screenshot of the controls. The left stick moves around around the screen options, the A button confirms selections, the B button cancels options, the RB button fast forwards through dialogue