As a former barista, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to play Mega Cat Studios’ game, Coffee Crisis. With a summary depicting Coffee Crisis as a “neo-rogue brawler that puts you in the shoes of the only baristas on Earth with enough heavy metal in their veins to fend off an alien assault,” how could I not want to play? Thankfully, I made the right decision.
Upon the initial boot up that christened my worthiness with hardcore shreds of electric guitar in the opening song alone, I couldn’t help but get captured in the heavy metal coffee high. To my utter enjoyment, Coffee Crisis was dope, hardcore, and way more caffeinated than if you were to pour an extra hot americano brewed with 12 shots of single-origin espresso beans.
Main characters Nick and Ashley are baristas at Black Forge Coffee House. They are immediately thrust into a battle of life or death against the Smurglien alien race as these aliens capture musicians—like heavy metal musical gods Omega and Sin, and even Skinny Chestknee *cough* Chesney *cough*—to harness their power. Over the course of eight levels, you fight aliens, possessed old ladies, cowgirls, frat boys, and tubby “mayo” enemies, in the quest to discover the Smurglien’s motives and save the day.
Though I had immense fun playing the game for its cute tongue-in-cheek jokes and coffee puns, I also had some immense frustrations. For me, both fun and frustration factors were two sides of the same coin.
Overall, the game’s best quality would be its killer soundtrack. Boasting a game based on harnessing the power of heavy metal, the game’s opening menu track is an instant classic of shredded guitars, fast basslines and kickin’ drums. Aside from the metal riffs, the rest of the soundtrack was reminiscent of 80s to 90s retro and it was a fresh throwback to arcade games of those decades. The first game I ever played was TMNT: Turtles in Time, so I have a soft spot for these types of games and the nostalgic musings that incubate as you play. The major plot point of Coffee Crisis is to save the day with the power of metal, so I would have been very disappointed if they didn’t incorporate the genre into the score. Then, to tone it down, when you pause the game, the screen takes you to a “coffee break” with elevator-style music to help set the calm before resuming the game’s slaughtering storm. That was a nice touch that tied in a slow coffee shop vibe married with metal overtones, and I appreciated how the game could go from hardcore metal to soft and lo-fi; it was a great creative choice to shift tones in a nuanced way without being too obvious or abrupt.
Unfortunately, the music was fantastic up until I started dying. That blast of 10-finger power chords got real annoying real fast because the opening screen would screech it’s alluring melodic witchcraft every time I booted up a new game. Over and over and over again. Even after changing the difficulty to “easy” (which made me start wondering if it wasn’t the game that sucked, but just me), I still found myself constantly dying.
The game was also difficult for me because of modifier enemy drops. Modifiers are pickups that can either add an increasingly difficult swarm of enemies onto the field, or wild psychedelic screen filters. Different modifiers change the course of your game, and can either make your screen extremely claustrophobic or just plain hard to see. I found myself picking up a modifier that would make the enemy swarms more challenging than the actual boss fight at the end of the level, and it took away from the importance of the experience. Though I appreciate the modifier additions for their aesthetic value, I didn’t enjoy them as much during the gameplay because the game would get too hard—even on the “easy” difficulty. In retrospect, it is a nice creative touch that modifiers don’t always help you because it keeps you on your toes and deconstructions the notion that all enemy drops are good things.
Also, if you’re lucky, players are also given enemy drops that contain the opportunity for a coffee mini game that gives the player 1UP if they accomplish the task provided.
Baristas Nick and Ashley have their own fighting styles, but I tended to stick with Nick’s coffee bag twirl attack and quick one-two punches, as opposed to Ashley’s powerful uppercut attack. Nick played well with a more ranged playstyle, where Ashley needed to be right next to the opponent in order to hit them with her power move. I found that I really had to switch up my personal play style in order to finish this game and feel good about it. I had to really learn my character’s skill set, and use an actual play strategy to accomplish each level. Some enemies, like the possessed old men that attack with walking canes, have bigger hitboxes than other enemies. So, if I got close and attacked, I had to be quick and jump out of the way or get struck by an old dude’s cane attack in return. I admit I am not the most strategic player out there (unless we are talking about stealth genre games like Metal Gear), but I felt very rewarded after gaining the upper hand on the learning curve. After finishing the first run through, I went back in with my girlfriend as Player 2 and actually started to feel good about kicking Smurglien butt (and not the other way around).
I was both disappointed but thankful that the game was only eight levels—similar to other side-scrolling retro games, Coffee Crisis couldn’t beat off the repetition. Just like my issues with the blaring repetition of music during every title screen, I wasn’t that impressed with the fighting. Unless I had to complete a “Finish Them All” challenge, it was easy to skip any interaction with enemies and just walk by to the next portion of the game.
I beat the Coffee Crisis in about 3 hours, and then beat the game in about 1 with my girlfriend as Player 2. The plot is very linear—as are the plots of these types of retro-style games—but I wasn’t disappointed with it. In fact, I loved how short and outlandish the game was. I understood all of the coffee humor and laughed quite a bit at its joke about single-origin coffee; it was a fun game that was almost satirical but definitely an honorable homage to games like old school Turtles in Time with a new-age zest akin to 2010’s Scott Pilgrim. Though the gameplay was repetitive and frustrating at times, I genuinely had a great time playing.
The fact that Nick and Ashley adopted the baby alien they found and hired it as a barista? Awesome. When Nick and Ashley were “coffee high” and were stuck in a trippy, neon psychedelic world? A+ in my book.
What I found even more interesting is that Black Forge Coffee House is an actual coffee joint in Pennsylvania, run by Ashley Corts and Nick Miller, the protagonists of the game. Discovering that they were the driving force for the game, I can’t sing full praise unless the real Black Forge Coffee House is supported first. Ashley and Nick are doing really cool stuff in both real and virtual life, and they should get all the credit they deserve.
Coffee Crisis marries two things I love the most: coffee and kicking butt. Though the plot is outlandish and pretty wild, it is fun and full of coffee puns that don’t get old. I would recommend replaying the game with a second player if given the chance—arcade style beat ‘em ups are way more fun with co-op. This was a great game and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick burst of fun.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Coffee Crisis Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Coffee Crisis marries two things I love the most: coffee and kicking butt. Though the plot is outlandish and pretty wild, it is fun and full of coffee puns that don’t get old.