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Coffee Talk is just as warm and cozy in its sequel

Coffee Talk is just as warm and cozy in its sequel


Part visual novel, part barista simulator, the latest episode of Coffee Talk brings more of its soothing charm.

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A screenshot from Coffee Talk: Episode 2.
Image: Toge Productions

The original Coffee Talk was a game about, well, coffee and talking. Set in an alternate version of Seattle, one where harpies, elves, vampires, and werewolves were as common as humans, it put players in the role of a barista at a late-night cafe. You had regulars who would chat about their problems, ask for their favorite drinks, and you mostly listened and offered advice. The sequel — dubbed Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly — doesn’t change much. And that’s exactly what makes it so endearing.

The second episode picks up a few years after the original (you’ll definitely want to play the first before the sequel) and takes place in the same coffee shop in the same perpetually raining version of Seattle. The game is structured as a series of days. You start by reading the newspaper headlines and then wait for the familiar chime as the door opens and your first customer strolls in. The world itself is essentially the modern day but with the added wrinkle of a city full of all kinds of supernatural humanoid creatures.

For the most part, Coffee Talk plays out like a traditional visual novel, which means most of your time is spent reading dialogue. For whatever reason, your barista character really puts people at ease, and customers will open themselves up almost as soon as they sit down. There are returning characters, like the elf and succubus couple who are now planning their wedding or the actual alien who is trying to fit in on Earth. There are also some new characters, and for the most part, the fantastical creatures are used to tell deeply human stories. I may not be immortal like a vampire, but I can definitely relate to the struggle of finding an enduring passion in life.

A screenshot from Coffee Talk: Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly.
Image: Toge Productions

While this is going on, customers will order drinks, which is where the main interactive portion of Coffee Talk comes into play. It’s simple: you have a shelf of ingredients, and each drink requires some combination of three of them. Sometimes customers will tell you exactly what they want; otherwise, you’ll just get a hint and have to experiment. Over the course of the game, you’ll build up a nice little collection of recipes, all housed on your phone (where you can also check out a Twitter-like social network for gossip and read daily short stories). There isn’t much punishment for being wrong, aside from some changed dialogue, making it very low-pressure, which is nice if, like me, your latte art skills leave something to be desired.

Hibiscus & Butterfly adds a few elements. There are colorful new tea blends expanding the kinds of drinks you can make, and a lost and found drawer so you can return key items to characters. Also, there’s a cat that regularly appears for some reason. These don’t change much, though. Really, the second episode is a chance to catch up with these characters and see how they’ve changed a few years later while helping them through the next phase of their life. While the writing can be a little stilted at times, I absolutely loved just hanging out, listening to these people I’ve grown to understand over two games. The ending is especially heartwarming.

Part of what makes this work isn’t just the characters themselves but Coffee Talk’s whole vibe. The entire game takes place inside a cafe that feels designed for maximum chill. There’s the sound of perpetually falling rain and the lo-fi beats soundtrack (the original Coffee Talk soundtrack has been in regular rotation when I need writing music), and the warm, comforting pixel art visuals full of familiar faces and steaming mugs. But there’s also the ritual of making warm drinks, which, simple as it is in the game, is still very satisfying, especially when you manage to make exactly what your customer wants. All it’s missing is the smell of freshly made brew.

It only lasts a few hours, and it doesn’t change much from the original, but that’s just fine. Like the customers in Hibiscus & Butterfly, I just need a space where I can spend a little time to ease my mind.

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly launches April 20th on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam.