Coffee Talk understands the appeal of a nice warm drink. You play as a barista, and from your cosy first-person perspective behind the game’s bar, you can see the perpetual rain of the city outside.
As customers come in and order drinks, it’s up to you to figure out the right ingredient combination to satisfy them, and then to listen to the stories of their lives.
Your interactions with the world of Coffee Talk are limited. There are no dialogue options, no movement, no real choices beyond which drinks you make and serve.
In any given scene, you’re only asked to serve a few drinks; most of your time is spent reading, clicking through each new line of dialogue, and sneaking glimpses at your in-game phone to check your growing drink database or change the music.
It’s wise to pay attention to characters, to try to remember their tastes and what they ask for, but the punishments for getting orders wrong are extremely light. You’re mostly there to be a supportive ear for the game’s cast of characters.
Coffee Talk is set in a fantastical version of Earth where humans co-exist alongside orcs, elves, werewolves, vampires, cat-people, and other mythical beings, but the dramas that unfold between characters are, at their core, relatable and human.
A quarrelling couple might consist of an elf and a succubus, but their problem – that they come from racist families – is only slightly heightened by the fact that one of them is risking their immortality for the relationship.
The script is pleasant enough, but not always particularly engaging, as Coffee Talk intentionally keeps the stakes low for most of its running time. The fate of the world doesn’t rest on your barista’s shoulders, and while you become privy to some characters’ secrets, there’s no option to do anything with them.
There’s little incentive to serve your customers anything other than what they asked for, assuming you can figure out the recipe (which will always consist of three items out of a possible nine you have to work with).
The characters are the game’s strength, with each of them feeling distinct by the game’s end, and the script has the good sense to take their struggles seriously.
Even the characters played for laughs, like an alien in a spacesuit who’s come to Earth on a breeding mission, are given enough pathos that when the game ended, I was surprised to find myself feeling sad to say goodbye.
There’s a pleasant warmth to Coffee Talk, but it’s also just a little too slight for its own good. It’s like instant coffee and skimmed milk on a rainy morning – comforting, but it’s hard not to wish for something stronger.
Sometimes a customer orders something you haven’t made before, and you need to try to figure out the ingredients. I found myself googling the real-life recipe for certain drinks on my phone, and it was easy to imagine my barista character doing the same thing, discreetly, under the counter.
A small, pleasant visual novel with low stakes and fun characters that could stand to ask for more from its players.
Genre: Visual novel
Format: Switch (tested) / XBO / PS4 / PC
Developer: Toge Productions
Publisher: Toge Productions
Release: Out now