I don’t know about you guys, but I love a good people watching session. Nothing quite beats sitting down in a comfy cushioned chair in a secluded corner of a coffee house, drinking something bitter and warm, watching as a myriad of people you know absolutely nothing about go on about their own lives, seemingly completely unaware that you’re even there. I can’t be the only weirdo that makes up my own narrative about total strangers’ lives, right? The only thing that could possibly be better than making up random life scenarios would be hearing all about those lives right from the horses’ mouths! I mean, it’s not technically eavesdropping if the people are having said conversations right in front you…
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Fantastic narrative |
+ Relaxing whilst also engaging
+ Beautiful soundtrack
|Negatives||– Fairly short|
– Heavy subject matter for some players
– May not be complex enough for some audiences
|Also Available On||PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One|
In Coffee Talk, a game by Toge Productions, you step into the shoes of a faceless, friendly neighbourhood barista, where not only are you charged with making delicious beverages from scratch, but you seemingly also moonlight as a therapist to weary visitors content on spilling the “T” to their resident coffee house proprietor (thankfully not the same delightful green tea latte you so artfully just crafted!) Essentially, Coffee Talk is a game where you make coffee and, you guessed it, talk! It takes the form of a visual novel with cute pixelated art of old, and is set in the fantastic version of Seattle, where you’re just as likely to bump into a long-eared elf, furry tailed neko, or a curly horned succubus as you are a regular human being.
Whether you’ve got a spare hour or two to sit down and really immerse yourself, or a fleeting 15 minutes, Coffee Talk is the perfect game to unwind with. Let’s be honest, as much as games are developed for the purpose of fun and entertainment, sometimes they can actually be incredibly stressful. From completionists hunting that last elusive trophy to boast the shiny platinum reward, to challenging puzzles and platformers where the slightest miscalculation of the analogues can send you careening back to the last checkpoint, there really can be a lot at stake. (We’re not even going to talk about those masochistic few that genuinely enjoy the gruelling punishment of FromSoft games – you know who you are.) Point being, the typical gaming experience nowadays can be just as traumatic as missing a deadline in your real life job. But not with Coffee Talk. This beautiful and serene game will have all of your daily worries simply melting away as you relax into the calming atmosphere of the world.
The flow of Coffee Talk is quite routine, with every chapter over a two week span opening to the headlines of the local newspaper, The Evening Whispers. Once you’ve gotten a taste (a sip, if you will) of the day’s events, you will start your evening by opening the shop and welcoming your nightly visitors. Most evenings you will be graced with the presence of regular and espresso aficionado, Freya. Freya is a journalist trying to break through into the novelist scene, and while her personality is generally very friendly and bubbly, she is often tired and burned out, running off strong coffee and little else as she struggles to pursue her passion whilst simultaneously keeping up with her work duties. As her friend, you offer her a sympathetic ear as she gripes about deadlines and insecurities about not being good enough, whilst also giving her some tough love on getting more rest and taking better care of her mental health. As every night passes, you see Freya develop, experiencing all of her ups and downs as you serve her coffee and listen to her woes, offering help and guidance wherever you can.
Similarly to Freya, the more you play, the more you will interact with your patrons, and the more of their lives you uncover. As the game is set in a fantasy parallel of Seattle, the patrons you encounter are… interesting to say the least! From an extraterrestrial in a space suit with a mission to breed with the inhabitants of earth, to a shy and socially awkward mermaid who happens to be an indie developer. And, of course, no supernatural narrative would be complete without the ever dark and brooding vampire, whose eternal youth and ethereal good looks have obviously landed him the rather prestigious gig as a male model. With game developer orcs, hospital worker werewolves and famous pop star nekomimis, there’s no shortage of colourful characters to form a connection with. Every character arc is unique and engaging, dealing with an array of quite adult and heavy societal situations. You will definitely go on a few emotional rollercoasters as the nights roll by and you delve deeper into the interesting and frankly chaotic lives of the characters around you – yourself included. It should be noted that, with elements of heartache, racism, homosexuality, and predatory behaviour towards a minor, the topics of conversation will not only keep you thoroughly bewitched, they could also be potentially triggering to some.
None of the game mechanics are too terribly complex or difficult. As you begin, none of the beverages are hard to make – you can only add a total of 3 ingredients, and some recipes only call for one or two different components. The challenge comes when customers start asking for trickier drinks with often cryptic clues as to what the ingredients may be. As you converse with your customer, they may ask for something straightforward, like a latte or an espresso. Not so bad, right? It’s when they hit you with “make me something warm but not bitter” that you’ve got to pop your mad scientist hat on and pull a Dr. Emmett Brown as you experiment with what’s on hand to conjure up what they need.
There are little gimmicky aspects to Coffee Talk too, for instance, you can practice your aspiring Picasso skills by creating latte art. Before you serve up the hot, yummy beverage, you have the option to show off your barista prowess and doodle all over the customer’s drink with milk. I, sadly, was not too proficient at this particular talent – though it didn’t stop me from trying every dang time, imploring those poor thirsty souls to wait as I spent upwards of 15 minutes trying to sketch a haphazard leaf onto the top of their gingerbread coffee… Oops! You also have access to a smartphone, allowing you to follow (read: stalk) your new acquaintances’ bios on a fictional social media app. The more interactions you have with a character, the more of their bio you will unlock. Another advantage of the phone is being able to look up all of your discovered recipes – score one for those of us with shocking short-term memories.
Another major plus for the game is it’s wonderful and soothing soundtrack. The music is so ambient and soft, it puts me in mind of games like Minecraft, where you can play and vibe out without a care in the world. Not to say that it doesn’t have it’s more high octane moments; the soundtrack is appropriately tense and even creepy where it needs to be, but when you’re simply hanging out with your patrons and calmly observing them in conversation, the tunes are so melodic they could put you into a peaceful slumber faster than the sandman.
To whom it may concern, the platinum trophy is not too difficult to add to the collection. Most of the trophies are collected organically as you play through the story, and a lot are easy to mop up in the games extra Endless Mode, where you can make and practice as many recipes as your heart desires, with no time restrictions or game directives. Similarly, you can push yourself in the aptly named Challenge Mode, which charges you with making as many correct cups of coffee in a row as you can, with each accurate drink adding extra seconds onto the rapidly dwindling timer.
All-in-all, Coffee Talk is a soothing and welcomed balm against the fast-paced aggression of a lot of other games. You can take the whole experience at your own leisure, with no pressure to complete side quests, level up or defeat OP bosses. If you like to chill out and lose yourself in a quality, winning narrative, then this is the game for you. (I won’t go spoiling anything, but let’s just say there is more to our friendly resident barista that meets the eye!) For those who go on to play Coffee Talk and love it as much as I did, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is out now and I cannot wait to delve in!