Developer: Befun Studio
Release Date: August 17, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Spiral Up Games
Sometimes, the oddest of combinations can end up concocting a magnificent result. You’d be surprised how much an Oreo tastes like a cheesecake if you add some sour cream on top. Affogato is an ambitious game aiming to combine elements of a reverse tower-defense game, a coffee-brewing simulator, and a social simulator into one amalgamation. Though there are components and bits of high potential, the fallout of this effort becomes a prominent example of style over substance.
You play as Affogato, a sorceress who acclimates into the city of Arorua as she opens up a new coffee shop. This coffee shop acts as an HQ as it is also your place of residence. You are joined by your demon companion, Mephista, an energetic character that may be a bit too much to handle. While managing her own cafe, Affogato is tasked with delving into and resolving the mysteries happening in this unique city. These events are perpetrated by evil demons aiming to wreak havoc on society. It is up to you to conquer these forces of chaos and bring this city back to peace.
As you investigate the mystifying occurrences, you encounter those affected by the demon’s power. To free these souls from the grasp of evil, you must delve into their psyches. The majority of your gameplay will reside in these sequences, as this is where the reverse tower-defense combat comes into play. As you enter these stages, you have cards that are stylized as tarot cards–these spawn familiars that automatically wander through the map in lines, attacking stationary enemies and traversing their way to the end.
It’s up to the player to survey the map and choose which paths to move toward in order to achieve victory. At first, this can become confusing, especially if this genre is unfamiliar to you. These stages have a promising outlook but completely fall flat. The tutorial doesn’t do well in explaining the battle mechanics, but you eventually grasp the concept over time. That being said, I could not find this aspect of the gameplay to be satisfying.
To deploy your familiars, you need Penta, a point currency that you build up to utilize your cards. As they move in a line, you can guide the team in certain directions based on where they are on the map, allowing you to strategize your approach.
However, this level of strategizing feels stale and awkward. You’re trying to keep a watch over the map’s arrows to understand the directions you need to move in, but there’s not a lot of variation you can have. I felt no engagement observing my units go through the map, collecting Penta, and killing enemies till they reach the end.
At some point, this loop becomes immensely tedious and feels more like a chore. There are attempts to include some slight differences in future levels, such as a boss fight or a mechanic to switch between levels of a map. Despite this, the fights just started to feel more frustrating and cumbersome. Thankfully, there’s a 2x speed button to help move things along. Your hope is to gather more information and save these inflicted souls, but the path to advance the story drags on and on.
Outside of the reverse tower defense sections, you’re running a coffee shop and interacting with various people, learning more about the primary characters and the surrounding city of Arorua. As you meet many characters in the coffee shop, you’re asked to make drinks for them, somewhat reminiscent of the coffee-making style in Coffee Talk.
This mechanic is simple enough as the instructions for making certain drinks are apparent and easy to follow, but that can also make it feel dull. However, you can customize the drink with certain toppings, which is quite a nice touch. Nevertheless, these portions felt mediocre and didn’t add any substance to enhance the experience.
Though the characters appear quite charming, most of their stories and development don’t pack much of a punch to keep you invested in them. The problem lies not within the character archetype but the writing of their dialogue and the pacing of the various gameplay elements. Within character interactions, the dialogue felt simple and didn’t pull off anything nuanced. I was getting an outline of each character rather than any major insights into their personalities. Given the minimal perspective, I couldn’t connect to the characters, making any interaction feel dry.
There is one highlight amongst this exposition, and that’s the lore given to you about the current society. In this world, the city of Arorua has undergone an inexplicable change over the years, which is that daytime has been completely eradicated. No matter the time of day, the citizens only experience nighttime.
As you go about your day-to-day, you’ll have a media feed on your phone containing news and posts about the city’s situation and the happenings taking place. I had a good time reading through these as it builds the world and adds some character to it. It’s unfortunate that the best storytelling the game has to offer is limited to such a minor medium.
To add to the limitation, Affogato runs on a time management system akin to Persona, where you can only perform a certain number of actions throughout the day. In fact, to make sure you’re not spending too much time dilly-dallying around, your primary objectives are given deadlines.
In your moments of free time, you can work at the coffee shop, increase your stats, or strengthen your bonds with side characters. You can choose whichever actions you take in an “explorable” overworld, but the world’s scale is minuscule and does not feel rewarding to explore.
The true superstar of Affogato comes within the style and aesthetic. The artwork of each character is stunning and is full of detail, from the texture of the clothes to the color variance in their design. Whenever you’re interacting with the characters in the story portions of the game, they maintain your visual attention to an aplomb. In addition, the music choice for some of the high-intensity moments or for some of the battles is quite entertaining. The presentation pops out at you both vividly and sonically, but that can only carry so much weight.
When playing through Affogato, your brain becomes curious as there is a strong idea and concept to behold. However, the execution of each of these elements is unexceptional and doesn’t pull off anything memorable. The inspirations behind them are clear, but they don’t mesh well together in this format. I found myself loving the aesthetic, but the beauty fades before your very eyes as you trudge through the game, diminishing the experience over time.
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