LudoNarraCon 2022: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly

LudoNarraCon 2022: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly

Check out our coverage of LudoNarraCon 2022: with a look at Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly on Steam! LudoNarraCon is a totally free digital convention hosted on Steam from May 5th – 9th. It was created to celebrate narrative games and the developers who make them. It’s a great event that hosts loads of great demos and talks by some of the leading narrative creators in the video game world!

We are massive fans of narrative games and when it came to covering some of the best in the industry with LudoNarraCon, we became very excited at being able to cover the demo for Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly*. If you have to ask, it probably means you haven’t tried Coffee Talk, the 2020 visual novel from Toge Productions. The premise is relatively simple. You play a barista in a Seattle based coffee shop called… well Coffee Talk.

We love the smell of Coffee in the evening…

Coffee Talk only opens in the evenings and you serve specialist hot and cold drinks to your set of regulars and newcomers, becoming involved in their personal stories as a friendly ear. Oh, and it is also set in a fantasy version of Seattle where fantastical races live side by side. Such as Myrtle, an Orc game developer, Gala the Werewolf health administrator, Hyde the Vampire model and Neil who is from somewhere… else. Imagine Netflix’s Bright, but you know… good.

YouTube player

The story unfolds across a set of evenings as different patrons come and go. Your main interaction is guessing what drinks orders your customers want, using your barista app, as well as monitoring social media. It’s pretty simple. Which is what makes describing and reviewing purely narrative games quite difficult. Yes it’s simple. The thing is, it’s utterly engrossing.

The setting of a story within a bar is hardly a new literary device – plenty of media have them. In gaming, look no further than 2016’s Va-11 Hall-A, a cyberpunk cocktail serving visual novel. With Coffee Talk though, it provides a really great framing device to give rythmn to the story. Characters come and go each evening, you aren’t sure who will walk in the door and what will happen.

A direct sequel

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly with its 25 minute demo shows that the game will be a direct follow on from the original game. It gives the player a quick overview of the world and then goes straight into an evening of drink serving. The fantasty social element is front and centre with the introduction of two new characters as well as a familiar face.

One thing we’d comment on with the original is that a lot of the satire and social commentary is not particularly thinly veiled. The same is very true here. The first game dealt with topics like video game crunch, racial prejudice and abuse in the entertainment industry in a fairly plain and obvious manner. The Episode 2 demo carries on in the same way with Pete, the burnt out social media influencer Satyr and Riona, a banshee that wants to break social norms by becoming a professional singer.

If that last paragraph made you groan then Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly probably isn’t for you. The inclusion of Officer Jorji (a staple character from the first game), hints at more social trouble on the streets of Seattle and we’d guess this will be one of the main narrative directions. We like it and feel it approaches the topics in an inventive way but this does come down to personal taste.

Gorgeous pixels

Still, it should be noted that the focus will continue on characters and that is how the story is delivered. The art style is identical to the last game – detailed and vibrant pixel art and some nice character design & expressions. The text is clear and easy to read. There is no audio voiceovers, everything is text but it is accompanied by a nice lo-fi chill soundtrack.

There seems to be a few gameplay tweaks – new ingredients for drinks and a bit more emphasis on making stylish patterns in the coffee. So that was cool, though we couldn’t make our coffee design look good if our lives depended on it. Rack that up to our terrible design skills though.

LudoNarraCon 2022: Coffee Talk Episode 2 – Hibiscus & Butterfly

All in all, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly is a fantastic fit for LudoNarraCon and the demo made us want to dive back into the world of fantasty barista slinging. The characters are front and centre, giving reference to the previous game but with hints as to what direction the story will go. Our only complaint now is that the game is not due until 2023. Still, if you can, check out this demo.

*Note that this demo was previously available for a limited time in January 2022 and is not a new demo.

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