By Ronald Gordon
Right now, nothing seems more appealing than a warm drink and an open environment for a heart-to-heart talk. And even though I can’t experience that in person until businesses reopen in New York, I had the chance to do so virtually with a lovely game I recently discovered. Honestly, it just makes me crave the real deal of meeting and conversing real people even more.
Coffee Talk is a visual novel developed and published by Toge Productions, an indie company located in Indonesia. You play Coffee Talk in an unusual way. The game brings you into a not-so-normal coffee shop where you get to be a humble Barista who meets with more than 10 quirky characters, all with their own problems, and offers them a nice place to sit and have a hot drink to soothe their aching hearts.
The coffee shop exists in a parallel world where fantasy is reality. Oceanic people have migrated to dry land, Orcs and Goblins have civilized themselves, and Elves want to show off how cool they are. And they all live alongside Humans as if it were perfectly normal. But there’s no one place where they can all come together and just…unwind. That’s where you come in, to offer them a haven in the form of Coffee Talk, a cafe that only opens when it’s close to midnight.
Your goal is simple: Make the drinks they like and lend them your ear. That’s it. There’s a long list of different drinks to craft, all brewed by your masterful hand, but all you need to worry about is piecing the recipes together in the right order. Get the recipe correct, and you’ll get to learn more about the person because of how the drink made them feel: Comfortable. And as the old saying goes, “Comfort is King”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this game, not only because of its seamless blending of fantasy and 21st Century tech, but because of how real its characters seem to be. It’s like they’re sitting right next to you, spinning their tales. In most stories, such as Len Wisemen’s Underworld franchise, there’s always some antagonism between Werewolves and Vampires, as if they’re made to combat each other. But here, those stereotypes go out the window. Here a Werewolf and a Vampire are just two old friends having an idle chat. It felt Human despite them not being so, and it left me awestruck at how normal their conversations felt.
One of my favorite encounters in Coffee Talk is the Romeo and Juliet situation of an Elf named Baileys and his Succubus girlfriend Lua. Baileys’ Elven parents don’t want him defiling himself with a Succubus, but he loves Lua enough to leave his family behind. The problem is that Lua values her familial ties too much to do the same. What makes this feel new is how it plays out. You see the two struggle with their own mindsets, wrestle with others’ opinions on the matter, and then let all this information steep until they finally figure something out. Whether things end well or not depends on your ability to make the right drink for the circumstances, since your drinks, if brewed correctly, can help them think about their choices.
Coffee Talk may be just a pixel art game, but it’s one of the most beautiful ones I’ve witnessed so far. The styling of each character and the way they articulate their actions draws you into the unique designs of their outfits, the hints of their personalities in their reactions, and the way they express themselves as individuals. One of my favorites was Freya, a close friend and avid Writer who wants to make a novel about the Cafe. I never felt that her reactions and gestures grew dull over time. As I heard about Freya’s hopes and dreams, the music instilled the feel of the cafe in my head, giving me a rush of soothing emotions. I could totally imagine myself jamming out to this soundtrack if I ever needed some chill music to listen to, and I’m pretty sure others would feel the same way.
Coffee Talk is a relaxing breath of the freshest air, and I’d suggest it to anyone that values a good story. To my mind, there’s nothing more comforting in times like these than a laid-back chat with a friend and a hot cup of tea with milk and honey.
Ronald Gordon is a senior intern for the New York Videogame Critics Circle. He attends City Tech College.