Coffee Talk has you managing an eponymously named coffee shop in a world where fantastical creatures like succubi, werewolves, and beings from outer space live in some semblance of harmony. It mixes a slice of life narrative provided by your patrons with a beverage brewing mini-game that requires you to select three ingredients–the order and quantity of which affect the outcome. Incorporate some soothing, hand-picked tunes as your background music and you’re ready to roast those beans! Or, you know.. make teas or hot chocolate or whatever else your guests prefer.
Enter: a coffee shop open only after most businesses are closed for the night. That can’t be good for your traffic, but as you find out fairly early on, your character has quite a bit of health and therefore can keep this quirky establishment afloat with or without the help of customers. What your business lacks in traffic, it makes up for in an interesting trickle of persons–not all of them human–and some of that quality brewed magic one can’t find in your average chain cafe. The “brewpedia” on your phone lists a few oldies/goodies that you can start making right away, but to fill out that index you’ll need to do some experimenting. As mentioned before, beverage brewing boils down to choosing three ingredients–and then hitting brew. The order in which you add secondary ingredients (the first will always be coffee, tea, etc) determines what you’ll come up with and there are a good number of recipes to discover. For lattes and the like, you’re also able to add foam art on top by pouring milk and drawing in it. While that’s a cool touch of authenticity, I found it impossible to make anything that even looked remotely artistic and often just settled for drawing a circle and calling it a day. Every task in-game, from advancing text to brewing masterpieces, can be accomplished with the Joycons or touch screen.
Besides the Brewpedia, your cellphone has a friend list, a music player, and an app for the local newspaper. The first, presented as a social app complete with a profile and photo of the friend in question, populates automatically as you speak to individuals and learn more about them. Through the music player, you can cycle through the BGM tracks available and select your favourite ones to brew to. These tracks are unobtrusive, yet catchy, and they add to the atmosphere quite nicely. The newspaper app allows you to read articles by Freya, a regular at Coffee Talk. This function, in my opinion, is the weakest part of the game as the quality of writing dips in terms of prose and drawing interest.
Because Coffee Talk is so heavily reliant on text, the brewing mini game can sometimes feel like it falls to the wayside. Add to it the fact that most guests ask for the same old thing or something vague and nearly impossible to mess up and sometimes brewing feels like an afterthought. There’s no voice-acting, but characters change facial expressions in order to better portrait how they feel. Some characters are more expressive than others–Freya, for example, seems almost out of sorts with how frequently her expression changes, while more minor characters get a happy and a sad expression and not much else.
Character design isn’t anything you’ve never seen before. Heavyset orcs, beefy werewolves, and skinny elves will grace your counter in pixelated form. Outside of the coffee shop, the same three silhouettes will patrol by a little more frequently than is believable given the supposed time of night. It’s pretty difficult, after experiencing something as unique and well-made as VA-11 HALL-a, not to make comparisons and that doesn’t exactly work in Coffee Talk’s favour either. I believe it would be easier for someone brand new to the genre to enjoy the slice of life stylings of Coffee Talk, but those of us comfortable with the zany, unpredictable world of VA-11 HALL-a may be left wanting for more.
Good, but not great. There’s a lot of potential here that isn’t quite realized, especially given the similarities to a game sharing the same genre, VA-11 HALL-a. For those looking for a slice of life affair where the world has basically been re-skinned, but possesses all the same problems then maybe Coffee Talk will appeal to you more than it did to me. For those looking for an experience that stands out and really pushes for something brand new, you won’t be missing much if you pass on this one.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Coffee Talk Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
Coffee talk is a nice alternative for those too young to bartend in VA-11 HALL-a.
- Drink mixing and discovering new combinations is engaging.
- Tackles modern issues.
- Soothing background music and a selection to choose from to jam to while you’re on the clock.
- Slow pacing.
- Making drinks is sprinkled very liberally through text exchanges.
- Writing quality varies from one area to another.