Do you enjoy spending time in cosy coffee houses when exploring a new city, do you start your days sipping from a dark roasted americano or do you simply enjoy a good chat? Then you should definitely take a look at Coffee Talk, the latest indie brew from developer Toge Productions that debuts on Xbox One with this title.Story
As an experienced barista you receive customers in your little coffee shop, you prepare their hot drinks from behind your counter, enter into conversations with them, during which you sometimes listen, or occasionally adopt the role of psychologist.
The characters who visit your shop are varied, from a middle-aged policeman to the hipster girl with green-dyed hair, age is not a factor when it comes to the love of coffee.
The characters you interact with come straight out of the fantasy world, there are still ordinary humans, but there is also an elf, vampire, orc, werewolf, cat and even a mermaid.
Those different creatures and anthropomorphic animals are important throughout the story, there are some references to racism and prejudice, and they are deliberately used to create a satire. They also all have to deal with everyday problems and worries that they continuously discuss throughout the story.
Your most loyal customer, Freya, is an author who, during one of her visits, decides to use your coffee shop as the subject for her next book. The plot then develops as you get to know your customers. It is quite possible that you recognize yourself in one of them, because the backgrounds and motivations of the characters are taken directly from real life. The Millennials among us will love the references to pop culture that are spread throughout the dialogues.
One of the characters talks about a game she is working on, and there are numerous references to the game industry, which creates a meta feel, and makes the game self-aware.
Eventually, the storylines flow through each other, and each one is carefully crafted to provide a satisfying ending.
Overall, this game is rather short, which is usually the case for an interactive visual novel like this, where the gameplay is secondary to the story. It is an ideal pastime on a rainy Saturday afternoon.Presentation, Image and Sound
When you start the game you can select one of the three save slots, then you create a name for your barista that appears above your text frame in the game, a small detail, but always a welcome addition that intensifies your experience.
Each working day starts with the newspaper cover page highlighting some humorously tinted or socio-critical headlines, you then subsequently start receiving customers and prepare their drinks.
At the end of each day you are presented with a descriptive quote that matches one of the hot drinks you usually serve. The espresso one, for example, reads "Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than hell itself." Artful as only the best indie games are.
The presentation has a retro feel as it adopts a pixelated artstyle, the animations are limited to a smile, sip interaction or a blink of an eye, everything takes place on a plain 2D background.
The environment is rather static as the whole story takes place in the coffee shop. Though limited, the visual style lends itself perfectly to the story, and as a whole it manages to immerse you in a coffee related atmosphere.
Towards the end you will be rewarded with more elaborate animations, but don't expect anything close to CGI cutscenes.
The music consists of some twenty lounge tracks, very relaxed tunes that fit the setting and boasting on the nose titles such as' 'Stay Awake' and 'It Smells Good'.
In addition, there are atmospheric effects such as the doorbell that rings when one of your customers enters, the cash register that rings when you checkout or the key sound when you navigate the dialogues. Everything has been meticulously picked to contribute to the setting, they have definitely managed to make you feel like you are in a coffee shop. Gameplay
There is little in-depth gameplay, the focus lies explicitly on the narrative aspect, you will spend most of your time reading dialogues, and you mainly press the A button to proceed.
When your customers order a drink, however, you will have the opportunity to show off your barista skills, a mini game starts where you can choose the ingredients from a rack.
You can add them together, for example coffee, milk and honey, and finally you can choose to brew the drink. With some coffee drinks you can even add some latte art, you have the option to make a drawing with milk, it's basically like using a brush in paint.
Finally, you have the option to use your smartphone, there is an app that looks suspiciously familiar that allows you to navigate the profiles of your customers. Furthermore, you can consult a recipe app, then there is a music app that you use to change the tracks and finally there is an app that allows you to read Freya's latest writings.Achievements
You should manage to grab most of the achievements during your initial playthrough, most of them are easy and straightforward, you can refer to an excellently written walkthrough as well, overall, the full completion should take you around 4 to 5 hours. Once you have finished the story you have to go back to pick up a few remaining cheevos, the last ones have to be completed in the endless game mode.
The achievements have beautiful pixelart and are quite humorous in nature, if you're into coffee you might want to unlock them on your gamercard. Final Verdict
As a coffee lover, I thought there should be more references to coffee culture, especially for a game that puts you in the role of a barista. It would have been nice if you could actually learn something while playing.
Unfortunately, most of the recipes are fictional, which I consider a missed opportunity.
In the end, the game still manages to evoke the coffee atmosphere, and in conjunction with the heartwarming conclusion of the humorously written story, it is well worth your time.
Now I have to excuse myself, because I am going to take a little break and treat myself to a warm Chocobee Miruku!