Title: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly
Developer: Toge Productions
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide
Release Date: April 20, 2022
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Steam, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Chorus Worldwide provided Boss Rush Network with a copy of this game for the purpose of this review.
As I mentioned in my PAX East preview of Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly, this franchise is personal for me. I’ve lived in Seattle my entire life, worked in an all-night coffee shop as a barista in college, and have an obsession with coffee. Add to that an immense passion for video games, and I discovered an irresistible pairing.
Much like the first game, Episode 2 follows the lives of regular customers at the all-night coffee shop, which finally gets named “Coffee Talk” by the characters themselves. As before, players progress through the conversations in the manner of a visual novel, moving through dialogue via auto-scroll or by pressing buttons.
One of the game’s unique charms is that, just like a real coffee shop, conversations ebb and flow around the drink bar. As the barista, you take customers’ orders and then work the espresso machine to craft custom beverages. Most drinks will automatically be served with decorative flair, but players have the option of creating custom foam art for a more authentic experience.
When I first played Coffee Talk, I felt swept into the past, transported back to that Seattle café from my youth. The rain, the music, the sounds of frothing milk and espresso shots—this game just hit differently. As I progressed through the story, I fell in love with the characters, mythological beings that mirrored the complexity of human relationships while disarming with humor exchanged in the perfect intimacy of strangers.–Reflections on Coffee Talk
I won’t explain too much about the story here beyond an overview. Coffee Talk is a series best experienced firsthand, and to reveal anything about who walks in the door or what specific issues they face would be to rob you of the magic held within this game. It is enough to say that Episode 2 continues the character arcs of players from the first game while adding in several new characters; together customers and barista weave a compelling narrative about the connection between all living beings, the pain of isolation, and the importance of autonomy and diversity.
The following sections detail specifics of the gameplay experience and contain very mild spoilers about game mechanics. If you wish to avoid these, skip down to the Music section.
Episode 2 expands on the gameplay experience by adding new features not present in the first game.
- Item Drawer: In addition to serving drinks with decorative flair, players now have the option of selecting items from the coffee shop “lost and found” drawer to place on the serving tray. Occasionally customers will leave items behind or ask the barista to deliver something important to another customer. Deciding when and to whom to give the items to will push players along branching plot lines.
- Tomodachill Update: The in-game social media app Tomodachill has new features! Whereas the first game only allowed players to progressively view customers’ social media profile based on their progress in the game, Episode 2 features “live” social media posts (essentially Tweets) that allows players to interact with customers who are not at the shop. Players have the option of “hearting” the posts.
Returning Features: the game also includes Endless mode, which has two options:
- Free Brew allows players to experiment with drinks combinations and get more comfortable working the espresso bar.
- Challenge Mode is most similar to working the afternoon rush at a coffee shop; players are working against a timer, which ends play when it gets to zero. Customers order specific drinks, and the player has to make as many as possible to achieve a high score. Pleasing customers adds more time while frustrating customers detracts time.
Composer Andrew Jeremy returns for Episode 2 with more fantastic lofi music and is cleverly included as the in-game music source for the coffee shop under the name “Aremy Jendrew.” The game features creative fictional albums such as Hangout Season and Cafe Leisure Vol. 2.
Jeremy’s music is a powerful force in creating a sense of place and atmosphere, qualities at which the game excels. It masterfully transports players away, granting that merciful, yet perilous quality of timelessness held by certain cafès. Each song promises to lock the world outside, to pause the flow of time as long as a warm drink is held between hands. Yet the spell can never last: a bell rings, cups empty, and eventually the track changes.
But don’t worry, Andrew Jeremy always delivers. You can bring the music into your world by getting the Coffee Talk Part I soundtrack on 2xLP vinyl here.
At its heart, the Coffee Talk series is an examination of human relationships, the way we treat one another, the manner in which we categorize and marginalize when reaching for compassion seems to difficult or risky. Its power lies in its disarming approach; we are not talking about political parties, actual social media posts, or recent laws passed that legalize discrimination. We are exploring the world of mythical creatures, and in the process learning more about our own than we otherwise could. Coffee Talk disarms and by doing so invites us to choose empathy and understanding.
“Episode 2 will have more length of story, complexity of characters and choices. More branching stories based on conversations. There are multiple endings again.”–Coffee Talk Episode 2 Lead Writer Junkipatchi
Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly expands upon the themes of the first game while wrestling with new issues that reflect the challenges of 2023. Players who loved the first game will find the writing in Episode 2 heartfelt, authentic, and deeply moving.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is a desperately needed respite from the frenetic pace of game releases, epic adventures, and near-realistic graphics of today’s video game world. It’s a safe harbor on a stormy night, a zen escape from the demands of modern life, and a beautiful reminder that video games are indeed art.
Fans of the first game will no doubt find Episode 2 to be an extension of everything they love about the series; rich character development, compelling story arcs, and improved interaction mechanics make this game a must-buy on release day.
The Boss Rush Network staff is proud to score Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly a full five stars.
Interview with the Coffee Talk Episode 2 Development Team:
The following is my exchange with Junkipatchi (lead writer of Coffee Talk 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly) and Sarah Johana (Head of Marketing, creator/writer of Lua and Baileys from Coffee Talk):
What can gamers expect from Coffee Talk Episode 2? Any major changes from the first game?
Junkipatchi: “Episode 2 will have more length of story, complexity of characters and choices. More branching stories based on conversations. There are multiple endings again.”
Lasby: “Are there true endings or ones that are the best to get?”
Junkipatchi: “No bad routes, just different experiences. And more lore. More lore.”
What inspired a second episode?
Junkipatchi: “The success of the first game. People wanted more from their favorite characters. It just felt right to continue the story. People wanted to know what happens next for the characters at the coffee shop.”
Lasby: “Yes, the characters feel like family. I want to know what happens to Freya!”
Junkipatchi: “Hibiscus and Butterfly was actually supposed to be DLC. Five new days. But the company liked the new story so much, they expanded the writing team to fill the whole game. Anna Winterstein, who is from London, helped write the side story, while I focused on the main game, which is now a full fourteen days like the first game.”
What has been the impact of the loss of Mohammad Fahmi and how has the team carried on his legacy with the game’s sequel?
Junkipatchi: “At first, we felt frozen. The death was sudden. It shocked the team. The process of making the second game was difficult, and I asked for more time because it was emotional. We wrote the game to honor him and what he meant to us.”
Johana: “The first game took place in Seattle because it’s the place Starbucks Coffee was founded. Fahmi always wanted the team to go to Seattle; we hope one day to visit there to remember and celebrate him.”
Lasby: “Was a love of coffee the source of his inspiration for the game?”
Johana: “Fahmi and I worked together in marketing. He always talked about wanting to design a game where you could just serve coffee and talk. We laughed about it, but then we made it together. It was fun. It was originally called Project Green Tea Latte. Fahmi doesn’t drink, but he wanted people to have that intimate experience of talking with a bartender about life.”
Lasby: “Did he write any intentions for the second game or any major narratives he intended to explore? It must have been difficult to carry on his vision for the sequel.”
Junkipatchi: “He actually had moved on to designing another game. But he did have a song list from the first game and two of those songs are in the second game.”
Coffee Talk tackled major social issues through the guise of mythical creatures. Any major themes for the sequel?
Junkipatchi: “The games both deal with issues in Indonesian culture right now. Interracial relationships, gender, romantic love.”
Lasby: “That’s definitely a strength of Coffee Talk, exploring these issues with mythical creatures instead of directly.”
Junkipatchi: “Yes, it gives more freedom, less conflict for people.”
Lasby: “Thank you so much for your time!”
Tell us what you think! Will you be playing Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly? Share your reactions in the comments below or join the conversation on Boss Rush Network’s Discord and Facebook.
David Lasby is the Editor-in-Chief for Boss Rush Network. His favorite video games franchises are The Legend of Zelda, Halo, and the Aliens franchise. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.
Images: Courtesy of Chorus Worldwide
2 thoughts on “GAME REVIEW: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly Is a Beautiful Reminder that Video Games Are Art”
Great review! I especially appreciated the interview at the end.
Thanks James! I appreciate you reading!