Check out our Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly review, where we check out the 2023 sequel to the 2020 title, which was simply titled “Coffee Talk.” Play as a barista in the cafe called Coffee Talk, and lend your ear and shoulder to the many different characters who serve as the cafe’s patrons, as they share their stories with you and other customers as they enjoy the hot and cold drinks you serve them. Here is our review of Coffee Talk Episode 2.
Coffee Talk 2 Review: What is Coffee Talk 2?
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is a visual novel with bartending gameplay, developed and published by Indonesian indie studio Toge Productions. Release on April 20, 2023, on PC through Steam and on PS4 and the PS5, it tells the story of a variety of characters dealing with their hopes, dreams, struggles, and day-to-day life. As the Barista of a local cafe in cyberpunk fantasy Seattle, you provide a place for respite for these busy individuals as they navigate through the hardships of life, one lived in a metropolitan city that serves as a melting pot not only for different cultures but for different races as well. You will deal with all sorts of folks, from humans to banshees to aliens, as they spend some of their time in your humble cafe, where they share with you a part of their lives, with you serving them hot and cold coffee and tea.
Coffee Talk 2 plays mostly similarly to how the original Coffee Talk plays. It is a visual novel told through dialogue made between the Barista and different characters who frequent Coffee Talk, the setting of the game. Players get to explore the story and ride through the highs and lows of each character’s story arc based on these conversations. The only way the player affects the story is through their serving of drinks – characters will come to the cafe most of the time for a drink, and the player can serve them anything based on the dozens of drinks available. They may choose to follow or not follow the characters’ wishes, while sometimes customers would ask for open-ended drinks: regardless of the situation, the player’s response to them through the drinks they brew for the characters will affect their behavior, the way they respond to other characters, and the way their character arcs progress. As such, simply following everyone’s wishes will not actually let the player unlock all of the game’s different beverages, as sometimes going against the flow or experimenting with drinks would prove beneficial to everyone involved. The game features branching storylines and multiple endings.
Serving drinks in this game is akin to testing the player’s understanding and connection with the characters in the game. Most characters would be straightforward with their requests, and the player could just give them what they want. However, sometimes, the player could use their insight to provide something even better than what the customers ask for, or even provide them something that they might not have even thought about but would appreciate more than what they asked for. At other times, some characters would forget what they’d like to order and just give the player hints on what they want. Even in other times, some characters would test players by giving riddles on what they want to drink. So, paying attention to the dialogue, understanding where the characters are coming from, and connecting with them on a personal level would help players decide on what drinks to give them for the best possible results. To add, having some knowledge of the available ingredients and what they do to the drink will help players figure out the puzzles that are laid out by their customers requests.
New to Coffee Talk Episode 2 is the ability to hand items to the characters. Sometimes, some customers will leave behind items for the player to give to a different character. Other times, customers will leave behind items unintentionally, and the player has the option to return back the items or give them to someone else. The player has the opportunity to give these items whenever they serve a character a drink, and similar to how it’s not required to actually give the customers the drinks they ordered, it’s also not required to give the items they leave behind back to them. Characters will often react to these, though, and would sometimes remind the player about the items that they should be receiving. Sometimes, failure to deliver items will lead to some of the items suddenly disappearing, as the Bartender would sometimes misplace objects, or some items would simply be gone without a trace.
The game also has an innocuous latte art mechanic which allows players to make latte art whenever the player serves one. This does not appear to affect the story, as it’s more fluff than function. It’s a neat little feature that adds charm and character to the game, without actually requiring players to tediously design latte art for every drink with milk that they serve.
Another neat feature of the game is its social media system, where players add the customers they meet on the Tomodachill social network, with the player’s access level to their accounts improving based on how far their relationship with the bartender has since progressed. New to Tomodachill is its Twitter-like feed, where the player could keep tabs on characters’ stories even when they’re not inside the cafe. While these give players additional insight into the characters and add more depth to their personalities, they do not serve any strict gameplay function.
Set three years from the original, Coffee Talk 2’s story isn’t exactly a direct continuation of the original. It’s been three years, after all. Many characters return, most of them with new outfits. Their stories from the original Coffee Talk sometimes get referenced, but it’s definitely not a requirement for players to first play the original before diving straight into this one. It’s great to see character relationships develop, and if you’ve played the original, you’d also appreciate seeing relationships that were built and nurtured from the first game get carried over to the new stories we have in the new one.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly does not deal with any fantastical or grand story. It deals with the daily lives of characters in a world where different sentient species co-exist together, in a cyberpunk world where faes, succubi, satyrs, ghosts, banshees, humans, and aliens all interact with each other.
There are overarching stories that play out in the entire game, and it’s nice to see how these stories entangle with each other. It takes time and patience to see everything unfold, but Coffee Talk Episode 2 will reward anyone who’s willing to invest. While the stories aren’t of any grand or epic adventure, the very human and very relatable stories will enhance people’s empathic and social skills, as long as they are open to learning from these conversations and willing to listen to people’s stories, relating to their struggles, and empathizing with them like how a real friend would.
Coffee Talk Episode 2’s graphics remain the same as the original, making it a true sequel of sorts, if you think about it. It’s pixel-based, but every render of a character oozes charm and personality. The character models (sprites?) are representative of how different races would assimilate to human culture – wearing human clothes and accessories. Hints of the characters’ races are prevalent but are never the focus, making them feel as natural as possible. It’s a simple cafe, with normal creatures walking in and out of it, drinking coffee and tea while talking about their days and their lives. It’s amazing how such an art direction says so much about the world the characters live in without spelling anything out or making anything too on the nose.
The short animations that accompany the brewing of drinks are also a nice touch, which was improved upon by Toge Productions from the previous game. It’s still the same three-panel comic that shows the Barista’s craft in action, but it’s a charming little animation that really adds a lot of character to this game. The many different drinks that you can make in the game are also rendered with very pretty artwork, which enchanted me and made me want to actually try some of these drinks in real life.
Toge Productions did really well in creating a game with a look and feel like Coffee Talk’s. Its themes of friendship, solidarity in spite of differences, and the normalcy of people of different backgrounds coming together are portrayed really well with the game’s colorful, vibrant, and charming design.
Music and Sound Design
The game also features a lo-fi soundtrack that puts the chill factor of the game to 10. I seriously struggled staying up while playing the game, as it’s so relaxing, and the music is so calming and soothing. The sound design helps portray actions and activities, like chimes indicating the arrival or exit of a character in the cafe. The game also has nice sound effects that come alongside the brewing animation.
Just like the first game, Coffee Talk 2 doesn’t feature voice acting. It feels like the right direction for a game like this, as it leaves something fantastical to the imagination of the player. While I’d be interested to actually hear how the voices would sound like, replacing voice acting with the sound of classic old-school dialogue ticks adds a sense of nostalgia and homey-ness to the game. I think adding voice acting to the game won’t really ruin Coffee Talk, but the absence of it actually enhances the experience.
Verdict: Is Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly Good? Is it worth your time and money?
It’s definitely not a game for everyone. It’s a chill game where you will read line after line of text, and understandably, many gamers would rather do something more active than reading. However, fans of visual novels should definitely have a great time with this. If you’re a fan of fantasy and/or cyberpunk worlds and are curious to see how these two worlds would collide, then this is a nice game to sink your teeth into. If you want a visual novel that is personal without any hint of romance (at least for your player character), then this is the game for you. If you like roleplaying as a barista, then this is great. If you’ve played VA-11 HALL-A and enjoyed it, then you should try this one, too.
However, it will take a bit of time to determine whether or not Coffee Talk 2 is actually worth the price it’s asking for. It’s arguable, but I’ve seen some have issues with the game’s price tag being the same as the original’s when it launched. Perhaps the knowing that Coffee Talk 2 was originally planned as a DLC instead of a full-fledged sequel bothered them. However, for me, the $12.99 price tag is well worth the price for the game and for the experience it has given me. Coffee Talk 2 is a relaxing game that helps me sleep better at night, both figuratively and literally, and I hope more people would have the same sentiment after playing this game.
Editor’s Note: ClutchPoints received a PC review copy to allow us to cover this game. This copy does not, in any way, affect this Coffee Talk Episode 2 Review’s final score and verdict.
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