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Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly review – slightly less refined than the original blend -By Fsk

The original third-place simulator gets a sequel with similar conversational charm, but its chit-chat also has some rough edges.

As someone who lived and died by midnight, playing Coffee Talk was a happy joke in the past when I had college deadlines and a much more flexible body. Now, caffeine tends to send me into a sweaty pain spiral after sunset, so it was easy to get emotional over a relaxing brew focused game at the end of the night. This charm and simplicity quickly drew me in, and the second chapter, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and the Butterfly, is more of the same: the player is the enigmatic barista (and apparently owner) at Coffee Talk, a small cafe that serves only Opens late at night, serving customers relaxing drinks while they talk about their problems.

The game begins several years after the end of the first, and features past regulars such as neighborhood police officer Georgie and lifelong best friends Hyde and Gala. It’s set in the same supernatural version of Seattle, filled with other creatures, from orcs and satyrs to vampires and gnomes, a “Main Six” list of recognized races and an excruciatingly slow rise to other previously “unknown” ones. with the integration process. Thankfully, Coffee Talk’s slice-of-life focus helps it avoid the worst pitfalls of hackneyed fantasy-race stereotypes, as the characters deal with relatable personal crises on a much smaller and more intimate scale than, say, orcs and elves. Hundred Years’ War between For example, a socially awkward banshee named Riona dreams of becoming a soprano in an opera scene dominated by sirens, and the ever-weary Georgie will talk about her home life and relationship with her family.

Here’s the Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and the Butterfly trailer to show it in motion.

The subtitle comes from the two new teas – hibiscus and blue pea (also known as butterfly pea) – that are needed to make new drinks like Nigeria’s Zobo, or Teh Jahe Rosella from Toga Productions’ home base in Indonesia. is required. Unlike the first game, which was purely drink-mixing and dialogue, this time the player also receives items left at the cafe and must give them to the appropriate person the next time they visit; The player only gets one chance to hand an item to the person serving their drink, which is easy to forget, and with a few exceptions, has no real effect on the major character arc. Things also disappear after a certain number of days. For example, failing to give Riona another character’s contact information is a non-negotiable part of the main narrative, so she will capture him despite the player’s amnesia.

Mixing drinks – the most interactive part of the game – is a straightforward process of combining three ingredients in sequence. There’s a base, primary and secondary ingredient, but I sometimes find certain combos impossible – Lucas, at one point, asks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte surrogate, but at no point does the barista have anything close to pumpkin Or even a gourd-like fruit in their arsenal. After randomly looking at one of the other drinks, I stumbled across a possible solution quite by accident. The latte art mechanic still remains a special hell where hand-eye coordination dies – my many attempts at scraping the heart were worse than when I was a kid. I blame it on my Joycons, but my experience using the keyboard and mouse at the first coffee talk was almost as bad. If this is a clear indication to tip your barista more when you deliver the latte art, it’s working.

Coffee Talk 2 review - screenshot showing a character in a red plaid shirt in the background with a messaging app in the foreground on the left

Coffee Talk 2 review - screenshot showing a complex purple fiery drink

It seems strange to complain that a game structured around everyday vignettes doesn’t feel as cohesive as its predecessor, especially with the understanding that the game has arguably done the most to subvert traditional expectations of what a “story” should look like. One of the effective means. Perhaps it’s because the first game had a consistent throughline in the form of Freya, the green-haired writer whose arc was integral to helping the player form a bond with the game; Hibiscus & Butterfly leans more heavily on an ensemble cast of several regulars, with a vastly different feel. For the most part, the writing is in a similar tone to the first game – a generally smooth mix of jokes, well-defined characterization, fanciful Seattle-specific colloquialisms, and a touch of formality on the barista’s part.

Hibiscus and the Butterfly does, however, have a noticeable share of stiff dialogue, filler, and cumbersome stretches of exposition that, while inevitable due to the nature of the visual novel format, could use more polish. The saving grace here was my genuine affection for the four main regulars: longtime couple Lua and Baileys, and old friends Hyde and Gala. More than anything, it’s the innate familiarity that has defined my Hibiscus and Butterfly playthroughs, whether it’s Lua’s very welcome first appearance in the game, or any old regular (at times, rather frustrating ) pairing with newcomers to create a warm sense of belonging. Georgie’s story about turning a case of sabotage into a history lesson was one of the best, and featured genuinely shocking interactions with random other cops preaching empathy and compassion. My best guess here is that the writers were trying to humanize the individuals in law enforcement, which is a strangely disjointed thing to do in a game that isn’t explicitly about interpolating race and identity, which is rampant. Against a backdrop of anti-immigration and tech-enabled racism.

Coffee Talk 2 review - Screenshot showing a character talking to a secret agent about aliens

Coffee Talk 2 review - Screenshot showing a cop talking to a strange goat-guy in an orange hoodie

Coffee Talk 2 review - Screenshot showing a man with pointy ears, another with pink skin, a vampire-like man and a ferocious man with mutton chops on the counter

Coffee Talk 2 review - Screenshot showing a man with blue-white hair in a face visor with a cosmic orange orb talking to an astronaut

Coffee Talk’s fiery appeal to me was its simplicity, building on layers of nostalgia and fantasy for not only an old-school coffee shop where the barista doubles as local friend and therapist, but one in time. The North Star is when the traditional brick-and-mortar third place – a public, community-oriented space that fulfills specific social roles – is an endangered concept. The Internet and social media have become a surrogate for many of these older interactions, and the game’s characters use a social media app called Tomodachil to post “Stories” that the player may enjoy (no emphasis on gameplay). no obvious effect). It became such a nightly source of low-stakes pleasure that I could easily overlook some of the more uneven writing and tiresome bits in order to relax with familiar faces helping my small flock of customers.

Games-as-a-third-place is not a new comparison – MMOs are perhaps the most obvious examples of virtual spaces where people have created low-key, low-stakes hangouts revolving around chat. I’m not talking about doing combat-intensive raids or high-level instances, but more along the lines of Final Fantasy XIV housing roleplayers in cute little cafes with other players (and bathhouses, and brothels, and so on) Let’s make Of course, this is all player-generated content, moderated by groups of players within the confines of the game’s parameters. And while other low-key hangouts are visual novels that focus on conversation and little (or no) stake conflict, Coffee Talk is devoid of gimmicks and just a reliable, well-executed formula: an overly chill soundtrack, never -relatable drama with sometimes grim consequences, makes an honest if not sometimes awkward attempt to give meaningful social and political context to its characters, and inevitably hears an innate sense of human need.

The entire Coffee Talk series is, on the most obvious surface-level reading, a narrative love letter to the third world, but with a slight practical twist – it encourages conservation (rather meta) as the player loading the game in his Through the characters to seek a rare kind of connection: extraordinary moments in time when strangers (or strangers who get off on the wrong foot) can stick together long enough to create the spark of friendship. Like the first coffee talk, Hibiscus and Butterfly ends with the understanding that there is never really an end, and the night owl in me is happy.