Coffee Talk is one of those games that fits a bit into the VA-11 Hall-A sphere. Players are a barista at a coffee shop tending to customers and serving them drinks. It’s a visual novel where the tasks are there to add ambiance and atmosphere. But more importantly, it is a game about nuances and subtleties. So much is happening and going on. Rather than giving you plenty of backstory and insight, things build up gradually around you in this game, rewarding people who give it time and attention.
Each night in Coffee Talk plays out in a similar sort of way. As you work through your shift, a few customers will come in. As you fill their orders, they let you into their lives. As they sit and talk, their own stories intertwine. Some details fill in through obvious methods. As you correctly meet requirements, their Tomodachill pages will fill up in your phone and show you more information on their personal and professional lives. Your Brewpad app will fill up with more drinks you could possibly serve. However, the real rewards come from paying attention and learning about details that are never jotted down for you to permanently reference.
For example, Coffee Talk takes place in a world where humans, aliens, demons, elves, monsters like nekomimi and orcs, vampires, and werewolves all coexist. While tensions are mentioned, we actually see how this plays out through conversations at the coffee shop. One of the first couples that comes in happens to be a elf and succubus. They’ve been together for ten years and he wants to get more serious. But, because of racial tensions, her family is afraid his elite elven family will treat her badly and his family already refuses to meet her. He brushes aside concerns, but she’s terrified of being the reason he’d be ostracized.
It also comes down to identity and insights into personalities. We see people drawn out of their shells and forced to interact with others and consider their arguments and points of view. Myrtle starts off as someone who only comes in to read. As she spends more time in the shop, she ends up talking with one person who had a bad dating experience and another who happens to be a surprise fan of her work. A vampire ends up getting involved in the relationship between the elf and succubus, giving her advice about her forcing her ideals and lifestyle onto someone else.
The details also come when making drinks. While your first few days on the job will have recipes explained to you, you’ll quickly need to suss things out on your own. For example, Gala will ask you to help deduce a natural “fury” remedy to help the werewolf when his time of the month arrives. The order in which you add ingredients matters, as you won’t get it exactly right when you’re asked to make a STMJ if you add the honey before the ginger. Getting it right will typically result in a different looking drink at the end of the order and a new recipe added to your electronic device. (Plus, it’ll help you get closer to your customers.)
Then, there are the newspapers. Between each day, you’ll see a new issue ahead of your shift. If you aren’t looking closely, it could seem like flavor text showing what life would be like in a world where so many different species are all intertwined. But people who pay attention can see topics that relate to things they deal with at the coffee shop. As I mentioned earlier, Gala is a werewolf who is trying to find a drink that could act as a natural sedative when he’s going through his change. If you look at the headlines, you’ll notice that the official, medicinal fury medication isn’t safe and the level of concern surrounding it grows as the days tick down in the month.
It’s all incredibly thoughtful. Coffee Talk basically begs you to pay attention to it. You’re in a serene, safe environment, one where you can take your time to work out orders and listen to what people have to say. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with insights into what life could be like for people with fantastical origins and how, even if they are different, they can have so much in common.
Coffee Talk will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC on January 29, 2020. It will launch on the Xbox One on January 31, 2020.