Genre: Visual Novel | Casual | Indie
Modes: Single player
Developed by: Toge Productions
Published by: Toge Productions, Serenity Forge, Chorus Worldwide Games Limited
Original release date: April 20, 2023
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac & Xbox Game Pass
Platform I played on: Xbox Series X
Thanks to Toge Productions, Serenity Forge and Chorus Worldwide Games for the review code!
I stumbled across the first Coffee Talk title back when it released in early 2020 - ah yes, that year - but I didn't fully play start to finish until a bit later on. I love coffee, rain, and I enjoy branching out trying different genres of games. At the time I was in my 2nd year of Uni, and I needed something chill to play between assignments. Thankfully, I enjoyed Coffee Talk and how relaxing it was to play. So, naturally when a sequel was announced, I was keen to get brewin' again in an alternate Seattle where humans, elves, vampires and werewolves - just to name a few - coexist. So, how did I brew? Let's jump in;
Brewing in Seattle
Once again, you are a barista at a late-night café in an urban fantasy Seattle, and again you can pick a name for yourself. For instance I named myself Scully (X Files fans where you at). Everything plays out from your point of view with no spoken dialogue, but rather as a visual novel presented in a rectangular dialogue box as you'll see via the screenshot below. Music is weaved in as you sift through dialogue alongside the occasional sound effects - such as someone sipping on a hot drink, footsteps or the bells from the door opening. If you miss a bit of dialogue (aka if you press A too quick), you can re-read the conversation via a handy transcript option on the bottom right of the screen. So, fear not if you've missed a key piece of dialogue or need to re-read again.
The story begins like any other night. You open your café, and patiently wait for customers to walk in. Each day begins with a newspaper and the headlines for that day. They can vary from urban fantasy, to intertwining with things based off real life events. Once again, your regulars from the first game visit the café over the course of 2 weeks. While seeing familiar faces, you'll also meet new fresh faces as they intertwine with your regulars. The story dives a bit deeper with each character, with more fleshed out backstories and history of this alternate Seattle. While brewing their favourite drink, they'll also talk about their every day life while you, as the barista, listen and offer advice (aka, making them a hot drink).
Familiar faces from the first title make a return to the late night cafe, including Jorji, Rachel, Hyde, Gala, Myrtle, Aqua, Hendry, Lua and Baileys. Plus, a few cool surprise appearances along the way (literally). New faces into the Coffee Talk universe include Riona and Lucas as they too form a friendship with your regulars.
Coffee Talk is technically a choices matter game, but not in the traditional sense. Rather than picking dialogue or an action option as choice games give you, the choices you make in this game come from your ability to make the right drink. There are a few ways your story can go depending on if you get a customers drink incorrect. In fact, I made a few mistake drinks on my first playthrough, and compared to the 2nd playthrough I did? Wow, I missed quite a bit of story and character interactions. No matter for that though, once I completed my first playthrough, my second playthrough was a breeze. The game allows you the option to skip dialogue you already had previously, until you get new dialogue which unlocks more of the story. The restart a day feature from the main menu is also handy if you make a mistake, rather than playing the entire game over again.
The story and writing overall is fairly competent here, and I don't recall seeing anything particular that made me question it too much, or that took me out of the story. What I found most impressive though was how each character came across when it was their time to talk. Whether it be from specific wording, facial expressions or their drink order of course, you really got a sense of each character's unique personality throughout the game, which I thought was done spectacularly. No one felt two-dimensional, and while were are a handful of characters, I didn't feel it was too overboard or that anyone had overstayed their welcome.
Become the ultimate barista in Seattle
While pretty much identical to the first game, Coffee Talk Episode 2 does have a slight change with it's gameplay, but not too much of an overhaul. Characters can now give you items to either give to other characters, or for you to give back to them later in the game. For example, a character will give you a business card to give to someone specifically, and it's up to you to remember to do that. It's a neat new gameplay addition, but I have to admit it's genuinely so easy to forget about which is a shame. As I recall it doesn't impact the story too much compared to getting their drink wrong, but still.
If you've never played Coffee Talk, the gameplay is fairly simple. Most of the time you'll be clicking A to continue the conversation at your own pace, and using the analog stick to choose ingredients to brew for your customers. That's pretty much it. You can also scroll through your phone which has a list of hot drink recipes if you forget, choose a song to play in the background, and browse social media.
After making a hot drink, you'll be given an option (depending on what kind of drink it is) to do some latte art if you choose to, or if the customer has asked for it. Thankfully it doesn't matter how awful the latte art is, because my latte art was... questionable to say the least. If you're unhappy with your drink or if you've made a mistake with an ingredient, you can ditch it and make another one! Or, if you're happy with it you just serve the drink and continue on with the story. It can be a little frustrating when you get a drink correct, but it's in the wrong order. It is crucial to make sure these said drinks are made in a specific order. Some characters will outright say what they want, while others may be a bit cryptic and you just have to guess what they're referring to.
What's also cool is that this game is fairly accessible for any type of player to jump into. Whether you're new to gaming or if you're just looking for something more relaxing, this game does just that. Aside from the main story, you can also play Free Brew and Challenge Mode. Looking to just relax without the story? Free Brew. Looking for a bit of a challenge and being the best barista Seattle has ever seen? Check out Challenge Mode!
Latte Art who
Coffee Talk once again showcases it's retro, 2D pixel art aesthetic wonderfully throughout the story, with it's moody colour palettes and eye catching visuals. One of the best aspects about Coffee Talk is it's visual design - and once again, the team have crafted the perfect atmosphere for it.
Brew, sip and relax as you listen to lo-fi chill hop beats composed by the incredible Andrew Jeremy, once again. Returning for it's sequel, Jeremy certainly knows how to craft the perfect atmosphere while sipping on a hot drink. Be it coffee, tea and anything in between, the soundtrack is arranged accordingly to match it's pixel art aesthetic, and overall tone of the characters and narrative. This time around, there are over 30 tracks to dive into while playing, or even while you're having a coffee in real life. You can check out the entire soundtrack here via Spotify.
Glitches | Bugs | Issues
Nada. As I say in all of my reviews though, I can't say for certain that there are or aren't any technical issues, but for me personally, I didn't experience any. From my end, it's a pretty polished game, and hopefully it's the same for everyone who plays it.
Length | Replay-ability
Coffee Talk Episode 2 takes around 5 hours to complete, about an hour longer than the first game. Of course, this time may vary depending on if you've made everyone a correct drink or not. Without spoiling anything, if you happen to get some drinks wrong, some characters may not come back to the café at all, which will shorten your play time.
As for replay-ability, I can highly recommend it. At the time of playing this review I've played through it twice, and I might do a third one at some point down the track. If you're also an achievement hunter - this is will definitely require another playthrough. As I mentioned previously in the gameplay section of my review, once you complete a playthrough you can forward dialogue you've already gone through already, and skip ahead until you get to new dialogue.
The final brew
Coffee Talk: Episode 2 overall delivers an exceptionally competent sequel in a wonderfully, crafted 2D pixel Seattle. From it's intriguing narrative, character relationships and development, to it's chill lo-fi soundtrack weaved in as you read through dialogue. Coffee Talk: Episode 2 is a great example of a relaxing game to take you on a journey for a few short hours. With it's simple gameplay, the game is made for any kind of player to jump into. My only minor nit-pick was how easily forgettable the new gameplay mechanic was to give certain items to characters, a prompt would have sufficed or any kind of reminder. Despite that though, I would be more than content with a Coffee Talk: Episode 3 if there's a more compelling story to tell. If you liked the first game, there's a high chance you'll enjoy this sequel too. So, brew yourself a hot drink, and do yourself a favour and check out Coffee Talk: Episode 2- Hibiscus & Butterfly.