If the AAA scene is trying to destory gaming, then it is the Indies that will save it. Because there is no way a game like Coffee Talk would be even considered, let alone made, if the big publishers had their way.
Taking place in a present day alternative version of Seattle. Coffee Talk is centred around a coffee shop that is only open at night. Playing host to orcs, elves and various other fantasy races that live alongside humans. You get to hear their stories.
It makes Coffee Talk pretty much a visual novel, one that will live and die by the characters and storytelling. Thankfully the game nails both in a really cool way.
Breaking up the dialog by tasking you with making each customer a coffee is a great way to keep you focused. Some are simple to make, others require thought and even have you attempting latte art. It isn’t anything overly taxing and isn’t there to stump you. It is just a nice added mechanic to keep things ticking along with the themed location.
I won’t spoil any of the stories, as I think they are worth taking in for yourself without knowing anything. However it is interesting that the stories you are told are effected by how you treat the customers. It isn’t a massive effect, but you do get a sense of reaction from them.
Each new character you meet has a charm about them, making you want to hear their story. They aren’t all thrown at you in a way that you get overwhelmed either. Each character is given the space they need to open up to you.
I found myself after a short while voicing the characters in my head, internally verbalising them based off what I learned about each one. It says a lot about the writing, that itwas easy to do this and spot the different personalities.
It is not to say I liked every character, because for this game to work, you cannot do that. Customers are flawed, just like all of us are and Coffee Talk does a brilliant job of getting that across.
There are also comment on modern society, which are slightly amplified by using mystical creatures as some of the characters. It is a really clever way of making a social commentary without it being in your face.
I wondered if I’d made a mistake playing on a PS4 over a Switch, as I felt the game would be something very personal. One that would work in handheld. Yet having it on the big screen and sitting back to relax just worked. The time just flew by as I was engrossed by the stories I was being told.
There is a wonderful atmosphere to Coffee Talk too. The pixel-art has a 90s feel to it, but also with a slight Anime tone. At the same time it still feel very down to earth and natural, despite having a cast of creatures.
The soft jazz tones from the soundtrack make you feel oh so comfortable in the game and add to the relaxed nature of Coffee Talk. You feel like you are part of this little community and the comforting music helps with that.
The idea of playing a visual novel can be off-putting for some, as it conjures up a certain aesthetic. One mainly associated with anime waifu characters with skimpy clothing. But there are many titles out there that don’t follow that and Coffee Talk is a shining example of just how good a visual novel can be.
It is understated everywhere it should be and allows the characters and stories to shine. It really cannot be underestimated just how well done this is. By the time Coffee Talk had finished, I wanted to go back for another shift and get to know these characters all over again.