Coffee Talk is an interesting, narrative-driven game, set in a small Seattle coffee shop. It’s packed with memorable characters and offers a bite-sized experience that kept me interested from start to finish. So interested in fact, that I decided to write this review while sitting in a coffee shop.
A Cup of Joe To Be In The Know
At its core, Coffee Talk is essentially a barista simulator. Players take the role of a coffee shop owner, who not only brews patrons their favourite drinks, but also lends an understanding ear. Sure, you make and serve drinks, but that’s not all there is to it. Coffee Talk is a game about stories, shared by your customers, that unfold and intertwine right before your little Seattle coffee shop eyes.
In this modern-day Seattle, different races inhabit the city. Werewolves, elves, and humans are all forced to coexist and form a functional society. The game progresses day-to-day, with each day acting as an open to close for your coffee shop. Allowing you to delve into these well-told (and often gripping) stories that kept me from putting my Switch down.
Coffee Talk’s main hooks are the regulars’ stories. Acting as a friendly and familiar face, you chat up the folks who enter your coffee shop – listening to their stories while offering a warm environment for them to open up to you and other patrons. They’ll ask for specific beverages, from coffees to teas, and it’s up to you craft the perfect brew. You can even try your hand at drawing some latte art. Whether their request is the name of a drink or just specific ingredients, you’ll simply have to do your best.
Serving up the right or wrong drink will effect the stories that you hear. This “alternate ending” aspect is what makes the barista gameplay element so important. Making the wrong beverage for your regulars can change the way the your customers interact in a given day and even result in missing certain story beats.
As a barista, you have multiple tools at your disposal. From the many different ingredients used to craft and brew, to an app-packed cellphone full of useful recipes. Handy if you forget how to make a drink, need to check your contact list, or want to check the news for the latest info on what’s happening in Seattle. The gameplay is as simple as it is inviting and draws you in with a sense of intrigue. Generally, I don’t lean towards difficult or narrative-driven games, but Coffee Talk certainly had me hooked.
Humans, Elves, and Werewolves, oh my!
Coffee Talk’s overall plot is tied together very well, with multiple sub-stories unfolding in between. Freya, a regular at your shop, is an aspiring novelist who has tentatively scored a publishing deal. She struggles to establish a story though and ultimately decides to base it on your coffee shop and all the stories that you’ve come across.
There are a number of regulars to your shop, from vampires to werewolves, elves to humans, and even cats. The relationship between all these characters weaves together brilliantly, and even tackles some modern-day issues like racism, family spats, and even viral pandemics. All of these story beats interact with each other, characters advise other characters, joke with each other, and become friends. All these stories, elements, and interactions create a relatable “coffee shop” environment. The game concludes with updates on each of the regulars, after some time has passed from the last day you interacted with all of them. These story updates depend on how your barista skills advanced throughout the game. I found this interaction between story and gameplay perfect, as it makes your skills as a barista just as important (and enjoyable) as the stories the game tells.
My only gripe with the story, is that I felt it could have used a few more story beats before the end of the game, and the ending overall seemed a bit abrupt. While I was slightly disappointed by this, it wasn’t enough to take away from my satisfaction of the game as a whole. This could also have something to do with the fact that I served up a few incorrect drinks as well.
As a little ending bonus, an eccentric character that you are introduced to in the middle of the game gets some very satisfying closure towards the end. Something which provided an unexpected twist, making me both laugh hysterically and smile at how full circle all of these characters had come by end of the story.
Keep your barista skills sharp!
Coffee Talk sports a tasteful retro art style but incorporates more modern elements, like proper facial expressions, the ability to move the camera around the shop, and incredible music that fits the environment perfectly. Being able to adjust the volume of special effects (like bells ringing when a customer comes in) was also a nice option to have.
If you want to sit down and enjoy the game with a coffee in hand, then you can also opt for the in-game text to auto-play. This option, which is activated at the press of a button, became extremely useful for me, as I sipped my own cup of Joe.
Commenting on frame-rate or resolution in a game like Coffee Talk doesn’t make much sense to me, but rest assured the game had no hiccups through my playthrough. Load times were blazing fast and while loading, you are greeted with some news from Seattle.
You can save the game at any time which was a pleasant surprise, because you are not forced to get through the day before you are able to save, and you can save in the middle of any given day which suited my play style of quick gaming bursts.
Coffee Talk also sports some extra modes in case you want to touch up on your coffee making skills. An Endless mode provides you with two options: Challenge Mode and Free Brew. Challenge Mode puts your barista skills to the test and challenges you to make specific brews based on name and ingredients alone. Free Brew is just that, you can make whatever you want. There is also a Gallery, which acts like an in-game artbook which is very pleasant to spend some time in considering the unique art style and character design.
Overall, Coffee Talk was an extremely pleasant experience from start to finish, and my only gripe is that the game was too short! I can only hope that there is room for a sequel in this very unique take on a Seattle coffee shop. Worst case scenario, I can see myself attempting to recreate some of the interesting recipes from the game.
For a 3-5 hour experience, the asking price seems reasonable enough to add this unique experience to your Switch library. There’s also a demo available on the eShop, for those who want to try before they buy. If you are looking for a bite-sized experience to keep you interested between bigger releases, or are looking for a relaxing narrative-driven game, then Coffee Talk is absolutely worth your time.