Much like a cup of coffee, Toge productions’ Coffee Talk is both simple-seeming and complex. It’s a narrative experience that left me feeling warm and more than satisfied.
From the start of my playthrough I could see the love and care that developers Toge Productions had put into making Coffee talk something special, and during my time playing this becomes more and more clear with each coffee I made.
Set in an alternative Seattle with fantasy creatures living amongst humans, players will serve a variety of characters. Each offers unique stories and struggles that evolve and progress over time touching on subjects such as family, love, racism, and prejudice.
Upon starting my game I immediately met one of the central characters Freya, a lively and sassy writer who sits down to order her usual: a simple espresso. It’s during this first interaction that players are shown how to create each order as a mini-game styled set of menus that lets you pick and choose your combination for each beverage. Having it be a simple mechanic like this allows the gameplay to feel smooth and quick no matter what complex coffee concoction you’re asked to make. But this tutorial doesn’t just showcase this simple yet varied part of Coffee Talk; it also shows a glimpse at its most important aspects, its characters, and its dialogue.
Everyone I served was different in almost every aspect.
Ranging from cutesy, timid ocean-people to tall, dark and handsome vampires, every customer showed so much character with every animation and sprite, conveying emotion with subtle changes to facial expressions or posture that helped sell their stories. This really makes the whole experience better as a result of the attention to detail for each customer.
Everyone who entered the shop was brought to life immediately, with each having such different looks that were beautifully detailed thanks to some fantastic pixel art. It remained a standout during my time playing, with the coffee shop and its patrons looking superb in every interaction.
Talking with customers feels like a genuine conversation, not just text on a screen, and with each visit I found myself becoming more invested in each personal story, with the only downside being a lack of dialogue choices that could have made the experience feel a little more personal. Having customers talk with each other, as well as you, adds another layer to these already well throughout characters, with each offering different opinions and advice to each other, slowly becoming more like friends with each conversation.
Every interaction I had felt completely organic and natural due to the clearly tremendous amount of time spent making them all feel and sound like completely unique people. Neil was a particular favourite of mine. All of this is enhanced by a brilliant selection of slow lo-fi, jazz-inspired music that fits tremendously with the mood and atmosphere.
Thanks in large part to the excellent dialogue, Coffee Talk uses its fantasy-inspired characters to explore difficult themes in an interesting way. Using the unique world and its setting, developers Toge Productions use all the different aspects of their characters, from their employment to their relationships, to touch on real-life subjects like racism, love, and family.
With each new coffee I made, I learned more and more about the troubles of each patron, varying from strained relationships with their daughter or partner, facing prejudice and disapproval from family, or simply dealing with unfair conditions as a game developer, every one of these topics was specifically tailored for each character and is handled respectfully. By touching on these subjects in this way and using these fantasy inspired characters, with conversations and dialogue feeling so organic, Toge Productions have been able to tell richer stories with these characters without it feeling forced, just further enforcing the focus of the game.
Make coffee, sit back, and listen.
It became clearer with each drink I made that the developers have put a lot of time into making these characters and their stories believable. With each night I came to care more and more about my patrons, and even with the simple and very minimal gameplay, it never failed to keep my attention. Plus with multiple endings, there’s a nice amount of replayability for players to enjoy.
Diverse, interest and captivating, Coffee Talk offers a narrative experience that can be as complex as the coffee you serve and one that any fan of well written, thoughtful and meaningful stories should keep in mind the next time they sit down for their next hot brew.