You Want Me To Make A What, Now?

HIGH Great art, strong writing, likable characters.

LOW Not knowing how to make certain drinks, hidden path branches.

WTF The ‘best’ ending.

My first impressions of Coffee Talk were puzzling. I’ve played several visual novels before, but never one as passive and seemingly non-interactive as this one. I kept waiting for An Important Choice or perhaps a group of Potential Romantic Interests to appear, but none of those things happened. Instead, I was invited to forward through some text and mix a three-ingredient drink once in a while.

I have to be honest, I almost bailed. However, I kept coming back to it after putting it down, and the longer I spent with it, the more it grew on me. By the time credits rolled, I was genuinely sad it was over.

I didn’t originally intend to review Coffee Talk, but after I read AJ’s piece I felt like I should. I have no criticisms of his review — I think he states his case clearly and I understand where he’s coming from. However, I was somewhat surprised at how little he appreciated the dialogue. Everyone’s tastes are different, naturally, but as someone who puts a lot of stock in game writing (and writing in general) I want to chime in on the other side of the issue.

In a visual novel (or similar) experience, a project lives and dies by its writing, and I’m not the sort of person who’s interested enough in dating rainbow-haired anime girls to put up with a bad script. As such, the characters and conversations in Coffee Talk are what made the time investment worth it.

The attractively-illustrated characters are charming and interesting, and their concerns all felt relatable – well, maybe not the alien guy who’s on Earth to find a mate, but the rest of them, certainly. They’ve all got hopes and dreams, foibles and quirks, and despite the fact that most of them are partially fantasy creatures of one sort or another, it’s easy to see the humanity underneath.

It’s a good thing the writing in Coffee Talk is so strong because there’s not much gameplay to back it up, even for a visual novel. As I mentioned at the top of the review, there are no overt choices that ever pop up. The closest the game comes is when it asks the player to mix a drink, and while it’s never clearly stated, the accuracy of the drink is what drives some of the under-the-hood story branching. The narrative branching so subtle, in fact, that I wasn’t even aware there were branches until AJ told me about them.

This aspect is my only real criticism of Coffee Talk. The player’s character is supposed to be an experienced barista who’s been working in a cafe for years, so being unaware of what ingredients go into a specific drink and guessing incorrectly means the player will miss out on the best ending. It would have taken nothing away from the experience to give the player adequate in-game drink knowledge and then leave the choice of what to make (and how to steer the story) up to them.  

While slightly annoying and likely to make a player unintentionally go down a branch they don’t wish to, Coffee Talk remains a delightful narrative experience that doesn’t offer much actual gameplay, but instead delivers a charming cast of characters and a small series of stories which were interesting and satisfying. In fact, the content could actually be seen as a series of television episodes that just happen to take place on a Switch. I was happy to tune in for an ‘episode’ or two after settling in for bedtime, and it was the perfect way to wind down after a long day.

Coffee Talk might not be for everyone and the lack of overt gameplay will likely give some players pause – as it did with me — but my time in this faux-Seattle café was well-spent, and I genuinely hope that the cast returns for a sequel.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed 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 Switch. 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: I played the entire game on mute and had no issues at all — the game is fully accessible. Text size cannot be altered and the color of text cannot be changed.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no screenshot of the controls. The left stick moves between the options, the A button confirms selections, the B button cancels options, and another button fast-forwards through dialogue

Brad Gallaway
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