After playing through the first Coffee Talk game, I think we all dreamed of visiting that same very coffee shop in the dead of night in Seattle. I know I did. A place that only opens after dark, and where you can meet the weirdest and most wonderful of folks? Sign me up! Now, three years later, the sequel to the extremely chilled visual novel with simulation elements is here.
Set several years after the first, Coffee Talk Episode 2 sees players returning to the very same late-night coffee shop in an alternative version of Seattle with the likes of orcs, vampires, elves, and more coming to get the finest brewed coffee (among other things) from you. If you’ve played the first game then you will even see some returning characters such as Officer Jorgi, Hyde, and Gala.
Players who haven’t experienced the first game won’t be punished for not doing so. Even though the story does continue, in a roundabout way, it’s nothing that will leave fresh players confused or misunderstanding the plot (and I use that term loosely) of this game. Of course, if you have played the previous series, you will hear and see all sorts of easter eggs – and not just in the form of returning characters.
Coffee Talk 2 sees players talking to characters about what’s going on in their lives, like that of a bartender, so be prepared to do a lot of listening – or reading – as the game has an extremely text-heavy narrative. In fact, most of your time will be spent reading with very little gameplay to experience, and that’s fine. It’s supposed to be a relaxing and chilled experience, and that’s exactly what the game delivers.
It has to be said that the story is quite a forgettable one, and it’s one that never really feels like it has a structure. The first game’s story arc centered around Freya whereas Coffee Talk 2 bases its story around the lives of multiple characters. This makes it incredibly difficult to connect when there are so many faces weaving in and out. That’s not to say that the characters you meet aren’t interesting, they absolutely are! There are so many wonderful and humorous conversations to be had, and they touch upon some real-world issues such as the burdens of social media, and Officer Jorgi will often talk about his struggles with home life, however, the split between characters means it loses some of that more personable touch.
Onto the more interactive side of Coffee Talk 2, another big part of the game (understandably so, as a barista) is making your customers drinks just how they like them. The formula here is unchanged from the first game, players will need to select three ingredients to make a specific drink – the base, primary and secondary ingredients. Adding different things in each of these sections will create a different drink. For example, using coffee, milk, and milk will create a Caffe Latte, or selecting Green Tea in all sections will make Matcha.
So, how do you know what ingredients to use to make specific drinks? Well, all drink recipes are placed into the Brewpad, which will tell you exactly what to mix – the only catch being that you need to have made the drink for it to be there. The majority of the time, it’s about listening to what the character says before ordering their drink, which will usually give you an idea as to what to add.
The game does offer up a few different drinks for players to learn to craft, but ultimately a lot of them remain the same. Two of the new ingredients are hibiscus and blue pea, used to make new drinks such as Pink Spice and Blue Lightning. Although the game only offers two new ingredients, it adds another 14 drinks to the menu – somewhat making up for the lack of variety.
On top of that, a new mechanic that has been added is the ability to give items along with your drinks, usually consisting of customers leaving items which you must then return to the correct character. It’s a simple premise, but it has no input on the story whatsoever, and it must be said that you only have one opportunity to hand these items over – should you forget (and you likely will) you don’t have another chance to do it, rendering the entire premise somewhat inane.
The latte art mechanic that existed in the previous title still exists here, and it’s as difficult to use as ever. I couldn’t tell you the number of times that I attempted to draw a simple heart on top of a fine-looking drink. It never turned out looking like a heart, I’ll tell you that much. The mechanics of it are extremely fiddly, and although it’s a nice addition, it’s near impossible to get anything worthy out of it.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is more of what we know and love. For the most part, the formula is unchanged and that’s okay. It’s one of those games where you can just load it up and lose yourself in the chilled gameplay, lo-fi beats, and the sound of rain falling in Seattle. It’s a little on the shorter side with the story clocking in just over five hours, but it will be the most relaxing five hours of your life thus far.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly £12.49
Overall, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is a great game to lose yourself in for a few hours, but ultimately one that ends up feeling more like an extension of the first game in the series rather than a sequel.