A nice hot beverage is essential during the colder months we find ourselves in. Be it coffee, tea or even a hot chocolate for those with a sweet tooth, nothing beats a nice winter warmer on a rainy day. We can all put some powder in a mug and add boiling water, but it is the art of the humble Barista to make a drink something special. Whether you’re a pumpkin spiced latte fan or a green tea guzzler, the Barista can help you find the perfect cuppa. If hot drinks (and visual novels) are your idea of heaven, then Coffee Talk may be just what you need.
You take the role of the Barista of the “Coffee Talk” coffee shop. As customers come and go, you’ll listen to their stories and serve them their drinks. The different patrons of Coffee Talk all have their own problems, and often end up bringing the whole of the shop into their discussions. Your humble hot drinks emporium seems to have an almost otherworldly effect on the customers, as they open up in the place that becomes their safe haven.
Serving the correct drink is also important in helping your customers with their problems, as well as being the core gameplay mechanic throughout. Each hot drink is a mix of three ingredients, a base and two additional flavours. Adding them all together in the correct order can create all sorts of interesting drinks I’d love to try in the real world. From the Galahad to the Teh Tarik, the different blends of herbs and spices create a host of cultural favourites that you can keep track of on your Brew app.
Adding milk at the end of a drink makes it a latte, and gives you the opportunity to make some latte art. This involves you pouring milk onto your customers hot drink, and etching shapes into your frothy canvas. Getting artistic has no bearing on your customers enjoyment, but it’s fun to mess around with the foam and make a pattern for your favourites. Nothing crude was ever drawn in the foam, I promise…
The loyal drink lovers who join you for a chat come in all shapes and sizes. There are a whole host of fantasy races in the world of Coffee Talk, with a host of very human problems that they want to talk through. From the incubus and elf interracial couple with a disapproving family, to the father-daughter cat people struggling with the death of the mother of their family – the fantasy elements of the game only serve to highlight the relatable issues the characters are having. My favourite character was the Werewolf who works as a hospital receptionist, trying his hardest to repent for his past transgressions during his monthly transformation.
Throughout all these storylines, there is one constant. Freya is a young human writing her first novel while trying to balance her steady job at the newspaper. The constantly upbeat and outspoken woman has been your customer longer than everyone else, and decides to use your coffee shop and its regulars as inspiration for her story. Her story is an interesting constant in the ever shifting cast of characters.
The characters are all well designed, as clever modern day adaptions of your typical fantasy races. Each of the colourful humanoids are dripping with character, and as you progress in the story you can discover more about them on the in-game social media, complete with a bio and profile picture.
Although the individual woes of each of the characters are often captivating, Coffee Talk moves at a pretty slow pace. Often days at a time will be filled with fairly mundane stories and conversations, and it doesn’t help that some of the narrative is definitely lost in translation. More than occasionally I had no understanding of what a character was supposed to be commenting on, and the regular spelling errors don’t help. The game also fairly regularly locks up entirely, and I had to close the application on multiple occasions.
Without spoiling anything it’s difficult to talk about the ending of Coffee Talk, but it’s very unexpected and gives you an important reason to fast forward through another playthrough and keep an eye out for some suspicious moments. One of the games’ more mysterious characters helps you uncover some big secrets that you would never have noticed the first time around.
Outside of the main game there is an endless mode. This little distraction is a timed test of your ingredient inputting skills, taking orders from the usual patrons and earning extra time for a successful beverage. There’s not much skill involved, but it’s a good way to discover a few of the more unusual drinks.
Coffee Talk is a relaxed and generally engaging visual novel. Making drinks is an enjoyable activity alongside the narrative, and the fantasy race setting adds an interesting element to the relatable stories between the characters. Despite a few issues with pacing, language errors and crashes, you could do a lot worse than a cosy night in with a cinnamon hot chocolate and some Coffee Talk.
Relatable characters portrayed in an interesting way
Mixing different drinks is compelling and informative
Very unexpected replayability
Unique everyday setting
Slow paced, even for a visual novel
A decent amount of language errors
Throwaway Endless Mode