Coffee Talk is a relaxing visual novel that casts you in the role of the owner of a coffee shop that exists in an alternative fantasy version of modern day Seattle, inhabited by Humans, Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Vampires, Werewolves and all manner of different fantasy races. You’ll spend your nights listening to your customers as they talk about their lives, try to work through their problems or simply just try to escape their issues over a cup of warm coffee.
This game is incredibly chill. Imagine the atmosphere of a late night coffee shop where the patrons get to know each other, chat about what’s going on in their lives - whether they’re working through their problems or simply catching up with each other, all set in the middle of Seattle. If that sounds cosy to you, you’ve absolutely imagined the vibes that Toge Productions have nailed in Coffee Talk.
Maybe it’s just that Coffee Talk came around at exactly the right moment for me to be really receptive to what it’s trying to be, but I absolutely love its laid back nature. This is very much a visual novel, as such there’s not too much of an interactive experience here. Instead, Coffee Talk cranks on the excellent lo-fi relaxing beats and invites you to sit back, relax and let it tell you its stories.
As such, there’s not a great deal for me to actually review here. Coffee Talk features some branching narratives of a sort, based on the drinks you serve as opposed to dialogue options (of which there are none). In your role as the owner of the coffee shop and its sole barista, you’ll occasionally need to serve your patrons some drinks. You’ll have various recipes stored in your phone, and your available ingredients will vary from night to night.
Sometimes it’ll be easy to figure out what drinks you need to make. Like with your most loyal customer Freya, who generally always wants a triple shot espresso. Other times, people will straight up ask you for specific drinks or a specific mix of ingredients. There’ll be moments, however, where customers will be vague. It’s nothing that’ll particularly trip you up and it’s still fairly straightforward to figure out what to make - you just need to look out for keywords in their requests and match those up to either your ingredients or the results of your concoction.
Everything you add to a drink will affect one of four meters - warm, cool, bitter or sweet, and it’s usually just a case of balancing these meters to serve the correct drink to the correct customer. You can also try your hand at some latte art, if your drink contains milk and you’re feeling particularly artistic. While I can imagine some players will be able to create some truly wonderful art, the combination of my playing on Xbox One & using a controller and the fact that I’m incredibly bad at art meant that this wasn’t something I really attempted (outside of the one time someone requested it).
Aside from a couple of instances where the drinks you serve can affect the endings you’ll see, serving drinks is kind of redundant for the most part. Instead, Coffee Talk’s main focus is on the many different stories of the various characters that walk through your door. Which is totally fine, as the writing is on point and the characters and their stories are really interesting.
I don’t want to give too much away, considering the writing is everything here, so I’ll focus my examples on one particular pair of characters - Lua and Baileys, a succubus and an elf who are struggling with the fact that their prejudiced families don’t approve of their relationship. They’re the first customers to walk through the door in Coffee Talk (aside from the almost ever present Freya) and the way their narrative is presented and played out defies what I’m sure sounds like a fairly cliched setup.
It’s a fascinating story about two likeable characters going through a crappy situation with no easy answers. It’s always neat to see issues that people face in the real world ran through a fantasy filter, adding a neat spin on a fairly mundane story. And it helps that the characters involved are well written, which invests you in their struggles and stories, to the point where I kept wanting to click through their dialogue to find out what would happen next.
The characters in Coffee Talk are strong across the board - from the Human beat cop who is stationed near the coffee shop to the quiet Half-Orc who just seems to want to keep to herself while enjoying a warm drink. And as the cast continues to grow with each new customer, it’s really engrossing watching different character combinations interact with one another as their various stories progress.
Coffee Talk is one of the cosiest games I’ve played in a long while. It’s light on gameplay mechanics and interactivity, as most visual novels are, but if you feel like you’re in the mood to sit back, relax and enjoy some interesting stories, starring some colourful characters & set in a wonderfully cool modern fantasy world, then it might be worth giving it a look.
Final Score: 7/10