REVIEWS
REVIEWS

April 24, 2023

Kenzie

Help Yourself To a Second Serving in Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly

April 24, 2023 | Kenzie

A chat over a cup of coffee is one of the prime ways to hang out with someone today. It’s affordable enough compared to a full-blown meal in a fancy restaurant. Most cafes have something for everyone. They’re public enough to feel safe but intimate enough to share some secrets. I’ve heard my fair share of strangers pouring out their hearts by the barista counter, for better and worse—such is the curious magic of coffee shops!

A simple cafe can be both an insular and magical place—as numerous fans of Toge Production’s Coffee Talk have experienced. The hit visual novel barista simulator landed in gamers’ hands just before the pandemic, and it exploded in popularity in numerous markets.

Three years on, the story of the humble Seattle coffee shop continues. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly picks up where the original game ended. Players of the first Coffee Talk who were angling for, well, more coffee and more talk.

Our favourites from the original game come back for new stories, and we even find new friends in the mix. Amanda is my favourite addition, giving those alien charms to the mundane everyday conflicts and conversations that float through the cafe. Her reliance on a hivemind connection presents an interesting parallel to how relationships and understanding work in Seattle, making me even more appreciate the cast and setting. Her cute animations also add a lot to her character!

Something that carried over from the original was its easygoing and natural dialogue writing. Coffee Talk has always felt like a sitcom, with easily digestible storylines and human reactions and resolutions. While I find the writing maintains the same level of charm as the first game, and new things happen for our night caffeine-loving friends, I feel as though there is something real missing in my interactions with these visitors. Of course, Coffee Talk is an idyllic cafe simulator, but it would be nice to see my character conflict with the people around him and not just act as a fly on the wall. This narrative formula has scratched many a visual novel lover’s itch, but with the ever-expanding world of Coffee Talk, it may be time for something new to shake up the recipe.

The main gameplay of the story where the player may affect the outcome of their run is the coffee crafting section. Getting the proper orders or messing them up could lead you to get certain events to trigger or not. With the addition of herbal teas like butterfly pea and hibiscus, you can serve your friends a bunch of pretty new drinks. There are times when the drink order is not as straightforward as it seems, and since the right drink may not have all the ingredients or balance of ingredients given to you outright. If you love this section, you might enjoy the Endless mode included in the game.

Another gameplay factor is the opportunity to give items you stash in a drawer alongside people’s orders. This is an exciting mechanic requiring you to pay attention to the story and think about how the things in your stash could help you move the story forward positively. At the very least, it ensures a gameplay run that feels more customized.

The options on your smartphone make the cafe feel more alive – particularly the Tomodachill social media platform and the Shuffld streaming app. They add a layer that serves as a breather for your continuous customer interfacing. Character information and lore build up as you unlock profiles and check out their Stories. I especially loved checking out the unique art that accompanies these posts. It’s funny to see Lucas’s intensely branded postings and Jorji and Riona’s no-nonsense updates. All of the game’s tracks enhance the atmosphere once again, and going through all these songs from the jump makes it feel like an even comfier experience. Despite the futuristic fantasy feel, these additions make the story and its characters even more contemporary and relatable.

This beautiful visual novel again stuns with its impressive pixel art and cool character designs. The animations give life to the environment and the characters. The polish of the overall game is exceptional. There must also be a shout-out for supporting ultrawide gameplay, as it improved my experience on my monitor!

While Coffee Talk 2 came out a lot like its large fanbase expected, I can’t help but feel there is more that can be done to push this popular franchise even further. We got more of the beautiful art, music, and characters the original delivered. Still, a part of me is definitely interested in learning more about the world outside the coffee shop—GrabFood coffee deliveries, anyone?

The lo-fi Clair-de-Lune vibes, plus a mix of feel-good and funny conversations, will surely make anyone drop by their favourite local coffee spot. If only more real-life cafes could have emotionally invested baristas and customers as Coffee Talk did.

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is available on Steam, GOG, Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.


Kenzie

Kenzie received a second childhood by crunching five generations of video game history in her free time – out of pure boredom and fascination. Since then, she’s been obsessively playing and writing about games and interactive fiction. She hopped aboard VirtualSEA to discover more about the regional game industry and help promote its talent and titles. She has a rolling list of favorite games, but Knights of the Old Republic and Horizon Zero Dawn come out on top.

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