The visual novel genre is undoubtedly niche, especially in an industry stuffed with games filled with excessively violent and deadly situations. Coffee Talk took me by surprise, keeping my attention much longer than I expected. I've even continued playing the game almost daily, thanks to the inclusion of the endless challenge mode. In an alternative reality set in the year 2020, Seattle becomes home to many types of fantasy races (elves, succubi, orcs, etc.), living among humans. You manage a quaint late-night coffee shop, brewing cafe lattes, and honey green teas for a small colorful cast of characters.
Coffee Talk offers more than shelter from the endless Seattle rain and a steaming hot cup of joe or tea. It's a place about listening to your customer's job worries, family struggles, and their everyday life. As the owner and only barista, you'll need to lend more than an ear to your customers, as you combine up-to three ingredients to craft specific concoctions. You are free to experiment with any of the elements, and once you unlock a drink, you can refer back to the recipe at any point. As a visual novel, Coffee Talk flows through a set narrative without branching trees or necessary decision making. There are specific moments that may be slightly altered based on serving the properly requested beverage, or in one instance, finding something to calm the nerves of an angered werewolf. Still, you are just along for the ride. Across many of the days, you'll feel like a third wheel, watching conversations flowing between customers. While it may not seem like it at first, the love for a sweet, warm drink appears to bring people together.
Although easy enough to create, drinks must have at least one main ingredient and two additional elements. Strangely enough, the order in which you add these extra components does matter and will alter the drink you are making. On multiple occasions, I've gotten shade thrown at me from customers because I've swapped the order of the ingredients and produced the incorrect concoction. When first meeting new customers, you'll either be asked to serve something highly specific or to surprise them with something they will enjoy. Later on, your regulars will ask for their usual, requiring you to remember exactly what they want to be served, some easier to remember than others. You can toss a drink out up-to five times before serving. You can make latte art before serving lattes, something that is easier done with a mouse than a controller.
I had fun discovering all of the possible drinks to serve in Coffee Talk. The struggles and desires of each customer felt real. Although everyone's race is based on fantasy tropes, the issues surrounding them are grounded in the real world. You may listen to two young lovers caught between their family's desire for them to only marry within their respectful race, a struggling but talented writer, and more.Note: Coffee Talk was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.