While sitting in the ‘visual novel’ camp, Coffee Talk doesn’t deserve to be paint-brushed with the same criticisms that come with that style of game. It’s far more interesting, more fantastical and more entertaining than many other games that follow a similar path.
The premise is really simple. You take on the role of ‘The Barista’, serving drinks to your customers, listening to their problems and offering advice here and there. It sounds almost trite but immediately, Coffee Talk shows that it’s not cut from the usual cloth.
Set in Seattle, but not the Seattle most know, Coffee Talk’s world is one filled with fantastical creatures and beings. Elves, vampires, werewolves, orcs, succubi, unknown alien entities and, of course, humans. Everyone just exists in a state of attempted normality and, in a millennial twist, have adapted to the changing world and times.
Across its 4–6-hour runtime, you’ll meet all manner of beings and get to know them and their problems. Problems that are based in reality and deals with difficult subjects. Such as the elf/succubi couple who are dealing with disapproving parents. The werewolf who is desperate to find the right thing to help keep him calm. The struggling human writer who is taking a massive gamble and fears failing. Coffee Talk has a motley cast of characters, and you’ll really get to know them over the course of the game.
It’s not all dialogue and text boxes though. Coffee Talk tasks you with making the patrons drinks. After all, you are a barista and serving the right drink at the right time might just be exactly what the customer needs. At first, it seems like nothing more than a distraction and an attempt to distance the game from the visual novel tag but it’s actually an important aspect of how Coffee Talk tells its story.
There’s an experimental aspect to drink making too. Where descriptive terms like ‘strong’, ‘sweet’ and ‘chill’ are used to force you to work out exactly what the customer is asking for. Getting it wrong won’t result in a ‘game over’ screen but it will influence the customer’s story and outcome in small ways. It’s character arcs that matter.
In fact, the one that seems to not matter at all, is your own. However, you have your own secrets, and the game satisfyingly reveals all in a clever final act.
It’s a very well done game and, thanks to its relatively short length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even if you’re not a fan of these types of games, Coffee Talk does enough different to make it a worthwhile play.
Coffee Talk (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 7/10