Coffee Talk is an atmospheric indie fantasy game, where the player works as a barista and listens to the problems and ponderings of the various fantastical characters while simultaneously making them coffee. The player is quite passive when it comes to the story, with the main choices in the game being about whether you make the drinks correctly or not – without the minigame where you choose the drink ingredients and create latte art, Coffee Talk would simply be a visual novel. This might not be your cup of tea if you expect more action and intense gameplay from your games. However, if you prefer chill, slightly passive games where the main focus is on the cafe atmosphere and the storylines of various unique characters, this game could be your new favorite blend.
The very human problems of non-human characters
The player acts as a sort of bystander to the lives of the fantasy creatures who visit the cafe. The calm setting of a late-night cafe lets the characters feel safe to express themselves and their feelings to the other customers. Freya, the human regular who can always be found sitting in the corner of your cafe, often leads the conversations so that the player gets to know more even without being able to ask questions themself. This isn’t only due to Freya’s outgoing personality, but also because she writes think pieces to a local publisher.
Despite the game being set in an alternative fantasy version of Seattle and the characters being mostly non-human, the stories told are indeed deeply human: a biracial couple whose family doesn’t approve of them, a father and daughter who don’t quite understand each other, and an awkward shy mermaid who has trouble connecting with other people. Each character has a distinguishable design and their personalities come across through their mannerisms and outer appearance. Apart from the atmosphere and overall art style, the diverse character designs are definitely one of the game’s best features.
A cute but clumsy minigame
I played the Switch version of the Coffee Talk – specifically on a Switch Lite – which affected the coffee making minigame significantly. In the latte art portion of the minigame, the controls were confusing and it seemed like the mechanics were originally meant for PC, where the art could be drawn with a mouse instead of the clumsy controls of the handheld console. Lucky for me, the latte art seems to be more of a decorative aspect of the game as its quality (or lack thereof) didn’t affect how the customers responded to their orders.
I’m looking forward to finishing Coffee Talk some day, since it seems to have a somewhat overarching storyline or at least a theme of societal issues, the progression of which the player follows through daily in-game newspapers and the writings of the aforementioned writer Freya. Personally I’m also into coffee in general, so it’ll be fun to unlock new drink recipes as the game progresses and new characters are introduced.
See also the cyberpunk bartending game, to which CoffeeTalk has been compared to: https://www.tuni.fi/playlab/life-in-a-dystopian-future-va-11-hall-a-cyberpunk-bartender-action/
Publisher: Toge Productions
Developer: Toge Productions
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Release date: 29.1.2020
Genres: Indie, Adventure, Simulation, Communication, (Visual novel)
PEGI: 12 (sexual innuendo, mild swearing)
Image credit: Toge Productions, retrieved 29.11.2021 from https://www.togeproductions.com/project/coffee-talk/
(Switch Lite doesn’t support the exporting of screenshots)