Fancy a brew? Oh boy, do I fancy a brew.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly by Chorus Worldwide was released on April 20th, the follow-up to 2020’s Coffee Talk. You can buy it on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Nintendo Switch for around $15, or, at the time of writing, it’s included with Xbox Game Pass! Set in Seattle in the near future, you play as a Barista and owner of Coffee Talk, a coffee shop that opens from late to early. Your task: to serve drinks to your eclectic clientele and do what many baristas and bartenders do in pop culture. Listen to people’s problems like a psychiatrist and offer friendly advice to overcome their adversities while serving delicious drinks.
Ok, “people” may have been stretching it slightly. Your customers range from Jorji, a human police officer, to Lua, a friendly succubus, and many other species in between. Heck, your character, the Barista, is more than they seem, too!
Coffee Talk Episode 2 is a visual novel. The story is what matters and the customers’ lives in and around the coffee shop. The game’s message is that good communication makes the world better, so your aim is to get the clientele to open up to you. And how do you do that?
Serve them bitchin’ drinks, of course.
The gameplay doesn’t stray too far away from the previous entry in the series. You need to combine three ingredients to make a drink for your customers. Those customers, generally, don’t know exactly what they’d like, and it’s your job to understand their needs. Episode 2 introduces two new base ingredients, Blue Pea (or Butterfly Pea) and Hibiscus. The extra bases are a welcome addition, although it’s a tad disappointing that the rest of the ingredients were identical to the last game. Give me iced drinks, please!!
An interesting enhancement to the first installment was that there are items that you can provide to your patrons to ensure their best ending is realized. Like when I used to use the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle with everything in The Secret of Monkey Island, I gave those items to whomever, no matter if it made sense or not. The responses were polite versions of “Why are you giving me this, dumbass?”
The mechanic added a level of complexity, which was welcome. And I definitely did not forget to give out items at the right time because I spent too long creating awful latte art.
Ok, I did. But I definitely didn’t get the trophy for spending more than an hour cumulatively creating latte art by accident. Honest. Why are you looking at me like that?
The individual patrons’ stories were compelling and fit the characters’ established arcs. Because all but three of the characters continued their stories from the first installment. There’s a reason it’s called Episode 2. You could jump in at this point, and it would still make sense. You would probably even enjoy it. But the experience would be enhanced by playing the first game, and that’s a blessing and a curse. I liked catching up with Hyde, the vampire model, and Baileys, the elf planning a wedding, but I played the first game. I don’t feel like you get to know and love some of the characters in the same way in Episode 2 as you do in Episode 1. You’re expected to have fallen in love with them already.
I had, but it could be hard to connect to some characters without that grounding.
It does a great job with the new characters, though. I loved Lucas, the content creator satyr, and Riona, the banshee opera singer wannabe. It may have been an illusion, but I felt that most of the core story beats were filtered through those two. I ensured that the correct drinks were prepared for Lucas and Riona so I could hear more of their stories.
As I did for everybody. I take my barista-ing very seriously.
However, if you don’t take your barista-ing seriously, there could be trouble. There are multiple endings for your patrons, meaning that replaying the game and making different choices is a must. When you serve the wrong drink, you can uncover interesting details by causing disappointments with your customers. But it’s emotionally scarring!
You may think that replaying would be tedious, but it’s not. There’s a handy fast-forward button on dialogue that you’ve already heard. If you’ve completed the game once, you can skip forward days to see the result of your choices. They are terrific quality-of-life features.
There’s also a separate challenge mode where you make drinks for your patrons on a time limit. Towards the 30-drink mark, this can get damn tough! The customers become increasingly vague but demanding as the drink tally ticks upward. There’s an achievement to reach 50 drinks in this mode, and I failed the first time at 47! Heartbreaking!
One of the defining characteristics of this game is its soundtrack. Andrew Jeremy has, yet again, constructed the coziest collection of Lofi beats to accompany the goings on in the titular coffee shop. Not only is the music excellent, but it also becomes a plot point. Aremy Jendrew (Jeremy’s fictional counterpart, *wink*) is the favorite artist of the Barista and is playing throughout the events of the game. The music is very important to the vibe.
And it’s not just the music. It’s the sound design. The game is set in a fantasy version of Seattle. So… rain. Every in-game day is accompanied by the sound of torrential rain. The combination of Lofi beats and the pitter-patter of rain is a perfect cozy gamer experience.
But the music is almost too relaxing! I found myself on the precipice of dozing off on a couple of occasions!
Coffee Talk Episode 2 excellently builds on the first game, continuing interesting story arcs and adding some mechanics that enhance the experience. What Coffee Talk did well, Episode 2 does better. It’s almost the perfect cozy gamer’s game.
If I’m being picky, I’d like a few more ingredients and another one or two characters to be introduced. And, although it can be played in isolation, it works better as a sequel rather than a standalone game. Hell, one character even asks you to make them a drink they’ve enjoyed before, including the previous game.
I’m going to make another brew.
Just like I hope the Coffee Talk series does in the future because I loved it, and I hope more sequels are in the offing.