When it is long past closing time for other coffee shops, there is one that is still open and happy to serve Seattle’s night owls. Coffee Talk is a shop open all night, owned and operated by a barista that is as happy to listen as she is to serve steaming hot drinks. This is good because the fantasy-rich denizens of this alternate earth have plenty to talk about in Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly from Toge Productions.
Years ago I tried the original Coffee Talk when it came to Games With Gold. While I instantly appreciated its chill atmosphere and endearing cast, something kept me from ever diving in too deeply. Maybe it was just that the game was so laid back that I didn’t feel the pull to continue. It lacked the sense of urgency that most of my gaming experiences come with. Whatever the case, I never did finish it. But when I got the opportunity to review Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly I saw it as my chance to go back to the little coffee shop and find out if there was something worth experiencing. And while the experience isn’t perfect, it delivers where its characters are concerned.
The primary gameplay is simple and straightforward. During each night you work at the shop, patrons come in, order coffee, and talk. Making coffee is mechanically simple, you just select the ingredients and click make, though the occasional call for latte art can be tricky to execute. However, the lack of proper instructions can become annoying. If you are not well versed in how to actually make coffee you need to be ready to get some orders wrong. Customers will sometimes give vague descriptions of what they want, and then be unhappy when it’s not right. As an example, at one point someone asked for a mild coffee. I assumed that meant with milk. Apparently, that’s not what that means. This system frustrated me as it repeatedly dropped sour notes in the middle of the wonderful experience that is Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly‘s story.
An important note where the game’s story is concerned is that it brings numerous characters back from the first Coffee Talk. Officer Jorji, the young love birds Baily and Lua, and even the vampire model Mr. Hyde are back along with others. While these characters all go through new plotlines in this entry, there is no shortage of references and callbacks to the previous game. After all, these are all friends who have already been through things together. You can get plenty out of this game without that prior knowledge, but having it will certainly improve the experience. Even with my limited experience with the first entry, I still had moments that hit far harder when I saw the familiar faces go through some of their biggest moments. But while the payoff for Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly characters and plotlines are big, there are a few hurdles to get over.
As I mentioned before, the cast in this game talks like friends do. Honestly, they may have some of the most natural conversations I’ve ever read in a video game or any other media. While this naturalness pays off in the end, as it helps make the cast feel real and endearing, allowing the big moments to hit, it also leads to some moments where the writing just feels boring. While I can enjoy hours of small talk with friends as much as anyone, reading it and clicking the A button to advance to the next dialogue balloon is not the same. Despite how much emotion Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly‘s pixel art graphics bring to the characters, some sequences just do not engage the reader well. These sequences, while often informative, are the game’s biggest struggle. Worth getting through, but are often hard nonetheless.
While those slow moments left me feeling separated from the story, there are several moments where Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly pulled me in as effectively as any game has. Since your point of view is that of your character, your patrons frequently make eye contact with you when addressing you directly. Numerous times this effect completely shattered the fourth wall, as I felt like these characters were actually addressing me, and not the barista at the Coffee Talk.
Woven throughout the numerous plotlines and character arcs are plenty of thinly veiled messages about our own world and how we should treat each other. From xenophobia the government shows toward extraterrestrial visitors, to ongoing social conflicts between the various magical races and humanity, this game doesn’t shy away from calling out some of the worst aspects of people. One storyline even addresses a big video game publisher trying to screw over an indie dev with a horribly one-sided contract.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly succeeds in what it primarily sets out to do. It gives the player a chance to peek into an intriguing world where people mingle with members of fantasy races and shows what their lives are like as they stop in at the coffee shop that is always open when they need it to be. And while it has its bumps, just like the lives it explores, the journey is ultimately worth it.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is available now on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X. Play now on Xbox Game Pass with our affiliate link.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly succeeds in what it primarily sets out to do. It gives the player a chance to peek into an intriguing world where people mingle with members of fantasy races and shows what their lives are like as they stop in at the coffee shop that is always open when they need it to be.