Coffee Talk is a unique indie title from developer Toge Productions. Combining a visual novel with brewing coffee, the game emphasizes relationships and drink mixing. Throughout the course of 14 days, the player gets to know their clientele intimately while providing advice to aid them with their problems in life.
Coffee Talk? More like Therapy Talk!
Plot-wise, Coffee Talk takes place in a post-humanist Seattle. Elves, orcs, mermaids, cats, werewolves, etc. all live among each other (though there is one human, green-haired journalist, Freya). You take on the role of “Barista,” the owner of a late-night café. Every day, various personalities visit your establishment asking for something to drink and someone to lend an ear to their plights. The concoctions you serve them determine different branching storylines and impact the ending you receive.
Being a quality barista requires both good listening skills and proper deduction methods. Sometimes, a patron will be clear about what drink they want and how they want it prepared. At other points, you’ll be on your own figuring out in what order to mix ingredients. And a few times, you’ll have to use your eyes more than your ears. Luckily, you can trash any inventions you think look suspect (five per day). Additionally, any drinks you come up with are recorded in a notepad.
These cocktails are used as a means to connect with all the separate races coming to your business. Many of them come in pairs (orc/mermaid, vampire/werewolf, etc.), and it’s up to your brew mastery to make them open up to you, as well as each other. Heavy themes are peppered throughout Coffee Talk: obligation to family, PTSD, racism, and drug use, to name a few. It’s quite engrossing and will keep you invested throughout the short playtime.
An engaging tale with little gameplay
Usually, visual novels are not strong in the gameplay department, and Coffee Talk is no exception. To be fair, the act of making drinks in a café is a nice gimmick that breaks up dialogue sequences. But this is a title where the story is central. If you are put off by reading large walls of text, this isn’t an experience for you. Sure, you can fast-forward entire sections, but doing so will lessen the impact of the narrative.
Also, Coffee Talk‘s usage of a save-anywhere system is both a blessing and a curse. Being able to do so means players can stop at any point and pick up right where they left off. However, there is no penalty for saving before making a branch-altering blend. Why have a limit for trashing your beverages if you make a mistake when you can just reload a checkpoint?
All that said, Coffee Talk is a game well worth experiencing. The music and art are exceptional, as well as little things like an app that displays more details on clients the more they connect with you. And when the credits rolled, I was saddened there weren’t more nights to complete. (There is a secret ending you can unlock by replaying certain days, though.) As it happened, I grew attached to every single entity that entered my shop, no matter how disparate they were from each other. Making sure everyone ended up happy was my primary goal while playing. If all that sounds as heavenly as hot cocoa, give this hidden gem a try.
A review code was provided by the publisher.