Score: 7.5/10 | Visual Novel | Story Driven | Puzzle
“A fly-on-the-wall experience featuring customers from all walks of life as they tackle work life, home life and relationships while enjoying a nice warm brew.”
Coffee, it’s a drink the majority of us love and are possibly addicted to. I myself can’t go a day without it. We drink it in the morning, afternoon and even at night. We share a coffee with friends, family, lovers whilst chatting about our daily lives, the latest gossip you’ve heard or world news and issues. Whatever the mood, coffee brings people together and can sometimes bring with it a special moment. Moments like these have been created within Coffee Talk, a new visual novel game developed by Toge Productions. Set within a single location, Coffee Talk is a fly-on-the-wall experience featuring customers from all walks of life as they tackle work life, home life and relationships while enjoying a nice warm brew.
The year is 2020 in the city of Seattle, and it’s a very different time than we’re used to right now. Coffee Talk is set in a fantasy world where Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Vampires, Werewolves and other non-human creatures walk among us. But even so, things still aren’t perfect in this alternate universe. While some live in unity, race problems are still evident which you’ll learn more about within the stories being shared. But even with their differences, these creatures do share a common love among humans: coffee. This fantasy setting was a surprise to me as I went into Coffee Talk with a very basic knowledge of the games premise. All I knew is I needed a cup or two of java to settle myself in. The soundtrack of calm coffee shop jazz set the mood perfectly and the retro 90’s video game aesthetic always pulls me in. I was already in a happy place and alas, it was time to open shop for the night.
Your role within Coffee Talk is the barista, social mediator and owner of the late night cafe of the same name. Set across roughly a month you meet eleven very different individuals who over coffee share what’s happening in their lives. And apparently A LOT is happening. From relationships to work life as well as unexpected hot topics including the horrible health care in the USA and even game development. There’s always something that will be shared. Sometimes directly to you or with whom they’ve met up with. Their stories span across the entire campaign from the very moment you meet each character and will even open up to others who are sitting at the counter. Even as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of visual novels, I was fully invested in the entire ensemble cast as it wasn’t a different story each time you saw the same character. But how these stories are executed is slightly different to what I was expecting.
If you want to choose what you’re going to say in conversation, you’ll be disappointed. Dialogue is automated and the majority of your time in the campaign will be spent reading hundreds of dialogue boxes. As previously mentioned, I became a lot more invested in their stories than I had expected. But I do wish there was a way to steer the conversation in a different direction or have the ability to be creative with my responses. However line after line of dialogue does get broken up regularly by coffee orders and offers a more interactive cafe experience.
Making coffees for your customers is like a little mini-game and can either go really well or leave a bad taste in the customers mouth. Some orders are pretty straight forward with customers telling you exactly what they want and what ingredients are needed. While others however are a little more complex and only give you vague clues as to what they want. A couple of them will even just give you the name of a drink and chances are you won’t even know the recipe. I only came across one customer who wanted latte art. It wasn’t really my, excuse the cafe pun, cup of tea but it’s something a litte extra to get creative with. From my experience there’s little chance you’ll learn every recipe during the campaign unless you do some heavy experimentation. Outside of the campaign however is both an endless and challenge mode where there’s next to no talking and you just serve coffee. This was a handy way of stumbling upon a few new recipes to fill up my catalogue of hot drinks. Although I only tested my coffee making abilities in these modes after finishing the campaign.
Once you’ve served up a new recipe they’re stored in an app on your in-game cellphone. Which I only found useful for this reason. There’s also a Spotify clone called “Shuffld”, a social media app with very little use except for obtaining an achievement and a short story app. The latter will make sense when you play the campaign. It’s an interesting and sometimes weird read which updates per day in-game. There was a particular story where I had to remind myself of the world that this game is set in. I definitely wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
The campaign spans across a comfortable 5 hours of playtime and that was the perfect amount for me. It wasn’t too short that I was left disappointed but not too long to possibly make me fall asleep. Just like the perfect coffee, not too sweet but not too bitter. Each story arc wrapped up nicely with a couple of them leaving a smile on my face. Without spoiling too much I still have one or two questions but I’ll leave it up to you to see for yourself.
Coffee Talk is definitely one of the more enjoyable visual novel experiences I’ve had in a while. The aesthetic is perfect, as is the length and from my experience is paired best with the simple flat white.