At first glance, it’s practically impossible to think of anything but VA-11 Hall-A when booting up Coffee Talk. A visual novel experience where you play as someone in charge of making drinks for customers while discussing societal taboos makes for a pretty similar description. Indeed, you play as a barista making a variety of warm beverages for a cast of fantasy creatures – such as werewolves and elves – at your late-night coffee shop, Coffee Talk.
Mechanically, the drink making is quite fun, as you mix and match a handful of basic ingredients like coffee or tea with more specific ingredients like mint or honey. The end results vary based on the order in which you select items, and accidentally unlocking a new beverage for the glossary is quite a rewarding experience. The downside is that there doesn’t appear to be any consequence to serving incorrect drinks. You might not unlock part of a character’s social media profile, but that’s about it. Since there’s no economy tied to the drinks, messing up doesn’t make it harder to pay your bills or anything. Sure, that would be copying VA-11 Hall-A too, but adding visible consequences wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to overlook, as the cast of characters is wonderful. Everyone has their own quirks and personalities, but they are all engaging, and we love preparing drinks for them and hearing their stories. Helping a werewolf find a beverage that keeps him sane on the full moon or teaching an alien how humans live are all highly engaging and offer a great balance to more sensitive topics like classism and racism. One novel inclusion that helps repalyability is a challenge mode, where you go against a timer to craft as many accurate beverages as you can. As the descriptions get progressively more obtuse, things get harder and we found ourselves really rather enjoying the action.