Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly Review – The Perfect Second Cup

    Title: Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
    Developer: Toge Productions
    Release Date: April 20, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Toge Productions
    Genre: Adventure

In 2020, Toge Productions released Coffee Talk, a soothing game about serving coffee, providing a place for the unique cast to open up about their lives and troubles. While light on gameplay, it made up for it in its welcoming vibe, a fascinating cast of human and demi-human characters, chill lo-fi soundtrack, and gorgeous pixel art aesthetics.

I was a fan of it and its small-scale but emotionally resonant stories. And now, three years later, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is here, hoping to deliver another finely brewed cup of contemplative storytelling. So, let’s take a look and see what’s new on the menu.

In terms of gameplay, not much has changed since the original; customers ask for a drink, and it’s up to you to get their order right. Sometimes this is simple, as they’ll tell you exactly what they want, ratios and all. Other times it requires a bit of trial and error, as well as perhaps some outside knowledge (knowing how certain real-world drinks are made will help a lot in some cases).

In rare cases, they’ll throw you in the deep end and give you very little to work with. However, there are also a few instances where returning players must scrub their memory to remember a specific order from the previous episode, which is a nice bonus.

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Discovering new recipes is rewarding; each brew’s creative designs and decorations are imaginative and diverse. The simplicity of the gameplay is part of the joy here, so while it won’t appeal to everyone, it has a low-stakes but compelling charm that makes it easy to pick up and play.

But in the same breath, it challenges players enough to tease your brain just a little bit. Your reward for getting the correct order is the gratitude and trust of your clientele. Eventually, these positive experiences will drive them toward the best ends of their respective story arcs.

That said, delivering the wrong order means a dissatisfied customer and a bleaker ending further down the line. Seeing the customers satisfied, especially as your bond with them grows, is a reward in and of itself, though.

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Also affecting the story is a new gameplay mechanic; occasionally, you’ll get items you can give certain customers. Sometimes it can be pretty obvious who you’re supposed to provide said items to, while others, if you miss the window, you lose your chance. This adds another layer of challenge, and I’ll admit to being stumped by one or two items.

There are some genuinely clever things to consider with this mechanic, and doing certain things can yield interesting results. But, of course, seeing them all adds to overall completion, too, so repeated plays are encouraged.

Also new are the hibiscus and butterfly pea ingredients, which expand the in-game recipe book and create further opportunities for experimentation. Once again, some recipes are creative and look stunning in the game’s vibrant and detailed pixel art style.

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This flair extends from the drinks to the surroundings and, of course, the characters. The cafe already feels familiar to anyone who played the original, and it eventually becomes very comfortable by the end of the chapter, almost like home.

Beyond that, there’s strong character design work, and the demi-human characters are conceptualized to ensure they don’t look jarring when matched up with any of the human characters while still retaining a sense of creativity. They’re expressive and adorable, making it easy to get invested when you meet them.

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There’s depth to each character in Coffee Talk, and they come off grounded, realistic, and relatable. Most of the old cast returns, so returning players will get more out of this game than those who skipped the first installment. However, a few newcomers, such as the duo of Lucas and Riona, being chief among them, are introduced and fit in excellently with the group.

Even if you skipped the first game, I feel the narrative does a good job of subtly filling in any gaps. I certainly forgot a few details myself, so it was nice to have a bit of a refresher. It felt like I was sometimes catching up with old friends, forging new memories with a found family.

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If I had one minor issue, certain characters have fallen into the background, and I would have liked to have seen more of them. But what is here is more than enough; there are plenty of memorable story arcs to keep things interesting, and every night that passes is more enjoyable than the last.

The game’s themes feel genuine and honest while remaining optimistic about the future. It’s a game that doesn’t shy away from the truth but holds hope warm in its heart. It feels like the perfect game to play when you just need to relax and hang out with some friendly faces, perhaps while drinking some coffee and tea of your own.

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Coffee Talk Episode 2 isn’t super long, but I feel the amount of content here is worth the price. The chill pace of the game ensures that every hour spent is enjoyable, and each achievement encourages you to fool around with every possibility the game has to offer so you get your money’s worth.

And if that’s not enough, you can take a crack at the game’s challenge mode, which tasks you with making correct orders consistently. It’s a nice optional mode for those who really want to test themselves and should add a few hours to the overall experience.

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Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is truly a delight, and I only wish that it was longer. It builds on what made the first entry so memorable while delivering a unique narrative of its own. While returning fans will find a few familiar story beats, the updated items on the menu keep things fresh and engaging. This is one brew you’ll really want to savor.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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