Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly review: a recipe for relaxation
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Featured Image Credit: Toge Productions
Rain crashes down on the city streets. The drenched pavement reflects a neon-green sign. Lightning cuts through the atmosphere. Luckily, a window protects us from the elements, while an ambient, lo-fi soundtrack provides further comfort. This is an evening cafe, full of fantasy customers who all have their own tastes, and they come to us for warm drinks to suit. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is every bit as relaxing as its predecessor.
See the trailer for Coffee Talk Episode 2 here
Just like in its predecessor, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly puts the player in the role of a late night cafe proprietor who runs an establishment called Coffee Talk in an alternate version of Seattle, Washington, USA. The chief difference from the real-world version of this iconic city is the population, with fantasy creatures making up most of the friendly, in-game customers. Vampires, banshees, aliens, and even police officers politely order drinks.
Although mostly a visual novel, Coffee Talk Episode 2 also tasks you with preparing the warm beverages your customers require. The range of choice includes coffees and teas, as well as cocoa-based drinks. As you may have guessed from the game’s title, hibiscus and butterfly pea have been added to the cafe’s stock, opening up more drink options.
Each drink consists of three parts. For instance, you could use part black tea, one of ginger and cinnamon as the final ingredient to produce a masala chai. Not all these parts need to be different, though. Espresso, for example, is made by using coffee in all three slots. Once you’ve made a drink for the first time, the recipe will be added to a handy list, fleshing out your repertoire.
Often you won’t be asked for a specific drink outright, instead having to feed off of loose descriptions from patrons. This is where things can get tricky as the adjectives don’t necessarily match up with the definitions in the game’s drinks bar. The four words on screen when brewing are ‘warm’, ‘cool’, sweet’ and ‘bitter’, so when a customer says they want “bold” or “tart” beverages, it’s essentially like solving a puzzle.
If you serve the wrong concoction, the dialogue will reflect that, so the people-pleasers among us will feel the need to try again, which usually involves reloading the day. Luckily, you can speed through repeated dialogue, which is a godsend when replaying lengthy sections.
Playing on Nintendo Switch (usually in handheld), Coffee Talk Episode 2 is a relaxing experience that focuses less on the gameplay and more on the characters, world-building and dialogue. In addition to conversing with the roster of NPCs, you have an in-game phone that contains a social media app full of bios and posts from your clientele. It’s a lovely little touch that adds depth to the exchanges that play out in the game’s titular cafe.
Likewise, you can use the phone to keep track of recipes, check the latest written piece in an imaginary online publication, and even change the music currently playing in the cafe. On the latter, almost every tune creates a restful, lo-fi vibe, helping time slip by like you won’t believe.
In addition to a main story, which unfolds over a number of in-game days, there’s also an endless mode where you can serve drinks to your heart’s content. As a game that’s mostly designed to kick back and chill with, it’s nice to have more than just the campaign, but I found myself content to stick predominantly with the main story.
Being a visual novel, it does struggle slightly with the limitations of the genre. There are instances where you’ll want to interject with a useful detail or item, as you can also hand people objects collected throughout the game, but you have to wait for a specific moment. One patron lamented losing their lighter, but I was forced to wait until they ordered their drink before handing it back to them. This isn’t a massive problem in the grand scheme of things, but it breaks the immersion created by the game’s cosy, inviting environment.
Overall, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly makes my heart feel lighter. The relaxing soundtrack, interesting characters, engrossing conversations, wide range of recipes and world-building features all make for a rich yet delicate experience, like an expertly-blended cup of gourmet coffee. While it’s not without its flaws, it’s an experience you won’t regret drinking in.
Pros: Inviting atmosphere, rich world, pleasing soundtrack
Cons: Gameplay can be stiff at times, repeating sections can feel laborious
For fans of: Coffee Talk, visual novels, lo-fi vibes
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly releases 20 April for Nintendo Switch, PS4/5, Xbox consoles and PC (via Steam). Code was provided by the publisher for this coverage. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.