Take a beat from the hustle and grind of the city by grabbing the best sip and bite it has to offer. Tucked away in between two districts, Clawville and the Hive, is a single-operated cafe built on new beginnings. Developed and published by The Wild Gentlemen is Zipp’s Cafe, a technicolor visual novel that blends with adventure and cafe management. This one-off noir film-inspired title places itself sometime after Chicken Police: Paint It Red! and is a precursor to the upcoming sequel Chicken Police: Into the Hive!
In Zipp’s Cafe, players step into the role of the cafe owner, Zipp H. “Stinky Fingers” Murphy. Like most, Zipp has a past. One he can’t seem to shake. Even with his new spot and shop name, the past is still ever present. The bell above the glass door of the cafe jingles, and what awaits players is a rich world with a short tale about love and revenge.
Each day begins bright and early for Zipp. A drive to the edge of town to a little cafe that he proudly claims his own. The large, clear, open windows grant a scenic view of the distant city skyline from behind the counter. As cars whiz by on a nearby bustling street, the atmosphere of Zipp’s three-seated cafe offers solace from a world that can often displace us from the simple pleasures of life. And that’s precisely what Zipp wants: simple and easy. A chance to start over and do things the right way. Each new day brings someone familiar to Zipp. Some are pleasant, while others are not. Regardless of who and what, his aim remains the same: brew the best damn coffee in all the Wilderness.
As a narrative-driven title, Zipp’s Cafe breaks up the narration with three types of mini-games: brewing coffee (or tea), preparing meals, and washing dishes. During Zipp’s Cafe, players are introduced to a select cast of five recurring patrons. This bite-sized cast is key to the small story that ties to some larger teasing for Chicken Police: Paint Into the Hive! guesting some familiar faces. Through conversations, brews, and meals, players will become entangled in their lives through the perspective of Zipp.
Each patron will take a seat at the bar top. From here, players will choose to engage in a conversation that moves along with the click of the mouse. Other interactive options are indicated by an icon like a newspaper, that will show the news of Clavicle for that day. It’s a minor detail that further tells the contrast between the chaos of the outside world and Zipp’s cafe, a cozy setting with surprisingly delicious meals. Once the initial conversation ends with a patron, players are prompted with their order: brewing a beverage or making a meal. Sometimes it can be both.
Once the order is taken, players move away from the cafe’s bar top to either the brewing station or the stove top by clicking on the indicated icon below the patron. Whether at the brewing station or stove top, players will be initially briefed on how to operate the area, as well as how to prepare the orders. Additionally, recipes are always held at the screen’s bottom left corner, marked by a notepad and pen. They can be accessed at any time, so there’s no pressure to memorize them should you forget. Along with prompts with the tutorial, objects that players can click to operate or move are highlighted in aqua blue. When moused over, the cursor will change to blue from standard white. Players will click and drop items, and once a recipe is completed, it is ready to be delivered to the patron.
Engagement with each patron progresses the gameplay. Slowly, it pulls players into a world full of woes and desires. After a long shift, the day ends when you are prompted to wash the dishes. In this section of the mini-game, players are not told how to navigate this area, unlike the brewing station or the stovetop. Instead, you’ll have to pull from what you know from the basic order of operations when washing dishes. Players will fill the sinks with water by clicking and holding over the knobs of the sink, placing gloves on, soaping the water, and finally placing the dirty dishes in. At this time, while Zipp is washing dishes, he reflects on the day’s events, and players will gain a little insight into how he is feeling about his interactions. Once the dishes are done, the day is over, and a new day starts, prompting the looped narrative noir adventure.
Ultimately, Zipp’s Cafe is bittersweet. It’s the cherry on top for those who enjoyed Chicken Police: Paint It Red! as it adds more context and depth to its already existing characters and world. It’s a one-off that successfully wets the palette for those anticipating the upcoming sequel Chicken Police: Into the Hive! as it sets the stage a bit for what players could expect with its story.
As a long-standing fan of time management games, Zipp’s Cafe was a breath of fresh air. It is the in-between course that perfectly prepares you for the next plate. While Chicken Police: Paint It Red! hits heavier on the nose with its cheeky puns and witty banter, Zipp’s Cafe calms and soothes with gameplay and style that subdues you just to be and take the perspective of the other side of noir. On the shorter side, with no amiable incentive to try to achieve a perfect score every time for your returning patrons, it favors those who enjoy a narrative piece without the classic time management anxiety.
There’s no time limit for how fast you need to deliver the orders. There’s no negative drawback to messing up on an order. Players, instead, are encouraged to try again. After all, Zipp just wants to make the best coffee. In this brief title, Zipp’s Cafe tells how an individual can do all the right things, and sometimes, things still don’t go how you’d want them to, but thus is life. Conclusively, Zipp’s Cafe is about the desire to start over. Life can be cruel, but you don’t have to be, so come to terms with the past and brew the best cup of coffee in all the Wilderness.
Zipp’s Cafe will be available on PC via Steam on November 15, 2023.
Conclusively, Zipp’s Cafe is about the desire to start over. Life can be cruel, but you don’t have to be, so come to terms with the past and brew the best cup of coffee in all the Wilderness.