Writing in December 2020, Coffee Talk (from Toge productions) is perfect for the times. It’s a fairly short game about owning a coffee shop and interacting with customers, with an ideal blend (pun fully intended) of cozy, calm, fun, creative, and emotional resonance. It’s exactly what I wanted (and needed!) to play right now. It even landed a spot on my top 10 best games of 2020! Let’s get into why I loved it so much with a Coffee Talk review.
Coffee shop charm
The best way to describe the genre of Coffee Talk is probably “visual novel with a bit of drink-making gameplay”. The entirety of the game is spent in your eponymous coffee shop, conversing with customers (both regulars and newcomers), and occasionally brewing them drinks. There’s not much to making drinks other than checking your in-game phone for recipes, listening to character’s wants, and looking up certain drinks on the internet if you need help! There are 14 in-game days, each of which only lasts 10 minutes or so, making it a very “quality over quantity” experience.
A very interesting aspect of the game is that it takes place in an alternate reality of Seattle populated not just by humans, but elves, vampires, werewolves, orcs and aliens! The lore the game establishes in its short run time is impressively deep and quite intriguing.
And you know what? I savored every single minute of Coffee Talk. I dearly miss the vibe of coffee shops and pubs like this, especially after so much quarantine. The chill atmosphere, colorful graphics, and true-to-form soundtrack of the game really nail the vibe of a coffee shop. It’s perfect. My wife played through the game right after me and felt exactly the same way!
Where everybody knows your name
I love every character in Coffee Talk. Seriously-all of them. Dearly! They’re very well written and have both believable dialogue and meaningful story arcs in the short time you spend with them. When each in-game day started, I would get very excited to see who would come in! And I especially looked forward to seeing Freya, your “regular” who comes in to write every day.
I’m amazed at how quickly I built a connection to each character. Huge credit to Toge for their masterful writing! I actually followed up Coffee Talk with Star Wars: Squadrons (I’m a big Star Wars fan) but found the characters and narrative in that “triple A” game ludicrously dull by comparison. I want more Coffee Talk!
Topical without being overwhelming
I’ve seen a few reviews online criticizing the way the game treats topical issues. Yes, there are a lot of them packed in here! Racism, relationship dynamics, social anxiety, health care, xenophobia, parent/child dynamics…the list goes on! Most criticism I see is that not enough attention is paid to any of these things, and thus it’s a sort of “mile wide, inch deep” phenomena.
I disagree. At no point did I feel any of the topics discussed were “forced” or not discussed enough to be meaningful. From what I gathered about each character, their concerns and thinking around each topic makes sense. They’re honest about their troubles and other characters help them work through them through honest conversation, which strikes me as very realistic. I won’t spoil how any character arc ends, but I like where the narrative leaves each of them.
Coffee Talk is a lot like our real world-we have a host of big issues and systems that need to be fixed, and no easy way to do so. But talking to each other, sharing our stories, and realizing we experience many of the same struggles is a great start. And that’s what happens in Coffee Talk!
Like a warm cup of coffee
To close out my quick Coffee Talk review, I can best sum up the game by saying it really makes me want to get back to normal! I miss casual interactions with other people, even if they’re brief and fleeting. Digital communication has been a “passable” substitute, but it’s no substitute for genuine in-person interactions. I can’t wait to get back to real coffee shops, and Coffee Talk really helps ease that wait like a cozy, warm, beverage.
Have you played Coffee Talk? What would you say in your own Coffee Talk review? Are there other indies you’d like to see me review on The Chozo Project? Let me know in the comments below!