Have you ever met a random person in a coffee shop and ended up making lifelong friends? Have you ever wondered what the world would be like in a world filled with creatures of myth and legends? Well, there is a game here for you to experience these things and that game is Coffee Talk.
Coffee Talk was developed by the independent Indonesian studio Toge Productions and released in 2020. The game is designed to be reminiscent of a ’90s pixel visual novel. Now, the game has a lot to offer and a lot to unpack and we here at Robot Republic are here to tell you if you should give this game a try if you haven’t already.
The first thing to talk about is the gameplay, or rather the lack of it. As I originally said, the game is a visual novel so it’s more about reading than it is about playing. Characters will walk into the store and talk to the player and slowly reveal more about themselves and their lives, as well as talk to each other. There isn’t much for the player to do in these circumstances other than reading along and listening to the music.
Now, there is one aspect that is actually player influenced but it’s not what you think. You see, the plot of the game has branching paths that the player can influence but it isn’t affected by the conversation. Instead, the player's actions as a barista will change how the characters interact. The coffee-making mini-game is pretty simple to play, but it becomes engrossing over time. I never had any interest in being a barista in my life, but this game helped to create a vague interest in coffee making.
The game's plot is the most important aspect when it comes to a visual novel. However, there isn’t one overarching storyline for players to involve themselves in. Instead, it’s more like a hundred smaller stories with each character having their own issues and plots for the players to experience. They are all well crafted and become interesting parallels of our own real lives. For instance, there’s the story of forbidden love between an elf and a succubus that is hampered by the classism and racism of their families.
The world the game manages to create is an interesting one, especially with the fantasy characters. For instance, there’s the unwanted migration of the ocean-dwelling people into America or the riots that the orcs are engaged in for their rights. It’s a world that doesn’t feel too different to our own and that helps to bring players into the fold and engage them with the characters despite their appearance. The writing for each of the characters feels solid and real and their stories are engaging enough to keep the player invested.
Visually the game is a homage to ’90s games in the best way. The game characters each feel individualistic while also maintaining what we would expect from their specific species. The developers have managed to combine the visual designs we know and impose the styles of today onto them. This also helps to make the few human characters fit into this world in such a way that nothing feels out of place.
I wish I could say everything was perfect, but there are a few things that could be improved. Mainly, the coffee-making minigame does have a few flaws. The main one is that the actual latte art is hard to make work properly, especially if you happen to be playing on a PC. The main issue is that the default control display on the screen is set to a controller, so certain actions aren’t shown to have a button input.
Coffee Talk is not a game as many would expect, at least not at an initial glance. There isn’t any real gameplay here. Instead, there is a world for the player to see and experience. This isn’t a game that you play to test your mind, instead, this is a game you play to escape into. If you enjoy good world-building and character art then this is one you need to play. If you want to shoot things or test your finger's ability to press buttons then this really isn’t one for you. So go, go have a coffee and try not to grab a broadsword and attack anything or cast a fireball…unless you want to make a fireball coffee.
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