We’re not much of a coffee fanclub. In our house, the loose-leaf law of tea tolerates few challengers. That said, Toge Production’s Coffee Talk is seriously tempting us to head out for a latte. Whether we’d enjoy the drink is up for debate, but we certainly fell in love with making them in this soothing indie delight.
Coffee Talk review
Set in a fantastical version of Seattle, you run a midnight coffee shop, open to any and all customers in need of a warm drink as the moon rides high. When we say fantastical, we mean it; werewolves, vampires, succubi, and more form the bulk of your patrons, with a healthy bunch of humans thrown in the mix as well. Though the inhabitants of this Seattle may be unfamiliar, the problems they face hit much closer to home.
The America of Coffee Talk is rife with tensions of race and class, with headlines regarding immigration and workers rights plastering the newspapers each day. You’re not here to solve these grand problems, mind. Your job is to listen, chat, and most important of all, serve a good cup of coffee while your friend and writer Freya takes inspiration from their stories. Customers arrive at the end of their shifts, or before the start of a long night, and look to you to fix them with the pick-me-up they’re after.
What’s your order?
Selecting three ingredients, Coffee Talk allows you to craft a range of drinks from bases of coffee, green tea, black tea, chocolate and milk. Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief, bean-haters, there are plenty of other warm beverages to discover on Coffee Talk’s menu. The variety of herbs, sweeteners and spices in your store increases as the nights roll by, and everyone who stops in has a different taste to sate. While you do start off with a few recipes, you’ll more often be making an informed guess as to the ingredients.
The smarmy-looking elf who just sat down is after a regular latte, decorated smartly of course. That older, animal-eared fellow? A Jahe Tubruk, if you please. If you’re not sure what that is, don’t stress it. Coffee Talk wants you to experiment with flavors, testing combinations to discover new and classic drinks. Each recipe you uncover comes with a tidbit of information about the flavor, history or origin or the drink. You’re given five chances to play around with ingredients each time, and messing up rarely holds any serious consequences.
If you hadn’t guessed it yet, Coffee Talk isn’t a game that cares about challenging you. There are no inventory management, income or expense systems to worry about here. Running the late-night coffee bar is an immensely soothing experience, and brilliant for loading up for a short read while you cradle a warming mug of joy yourself.
By listening to their conversations and problems, you’ll come to know the regulars in your store better over the evenings of the story, building friendships and unlocking more information on their Tomodachill profiles (yes, that's Japanese for friend + chill).
That elf we mentioned earlier? He’s in love with a succubus, but his family aren’t best pleased about the idea. A young pop star catgirl is struggling to communicate with her father after her mother passed away, while an ex-military werewolf has found his place in life helping others in a hospital. Coffee Talk is packed with people problems, and delivers each of them in an engrossing, caring way. It’s a great game for short, relaxing breaks, but you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to put it down when you need to move on.
The reality is that serving drinks, satisfying as it may be, forms very little of your playtime in Coffee Talk. But, that’s genuinely for the best. The crafting minigame could easily become monotonous if forced in your face every minute. Instead it, it smartly serves to break up the story; customers arrive, order a drink, then chat for a while before asking for another or heading on their way. The chance to practice latte art is a rare delight, though we’re ashamed to say that we barely improved at it over the length of the game.
A blissful reprieve
The biggest gripe we can raise with Coffee Talk is that the version we played had a fair share of typos littered through its text, and a few confusing sentences thrown in as well. Occasionally you’ll also find yourself shooting in the dark regarding a drink you’ve never heard of, and your actions have little to no ramifications for the story; but against the lovely touches peppered through this game, these feel like minor quibbles at best.
It helps of course that Coffee Talk is accompanied by a wonderfully mellow soundtrack. If you’ve ever cracked open that classic lo-fi hip hop radio stream when working or studying, you’ll feel right at home enveloped by the gentle tracks on offer here. So stick on the kettle, prepare a warm mug of your favorite drink, and put your feet up for a few placid hours with this lovely little indie.