HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewCoffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly Review

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly Review

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The first Coffee Talk was my game of the year for 2020. Such was my waxing lyrical about it that I forced it into TheXboxHub’s list of best games from that year

A sequel was announced in 2021 but has perhaps taken a bit longer to release than fans would have wished for, but there are sentimental issues surrounding that for Toge Productions. However, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is now here and much like arranging a meet-up at a coffee shop, it is a welcome chance to catch-up with old friends – and even make some new ones too.

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We once again return to Seattle, arguably the birthplace of social coffee in a public setting. The lives of humans, werewolves, vampires, orcs, elves and succubi are once again intertwined with one another. This time around they are joined by Lucas, a satyr content creator that is one of those hip social media stars and Riona, a banshee with a bit of an identity crisis as she struggles to pursue her dream of being an opera star.

But the characters from the first game also return, as this is very much a sequel rather than a point where newcomers can jump in. For those returning, as long as you got the best endings to the character arcs in the first game then what follows in Episode 2 should make sense. For those that haven’t yet played the first game, beware incoming spoilers for it.

Freya is now on a book signing tour so isn’t a focus in Episode 2. Instead, characters like Lua and Baileys are given more time as they are planning their wedding. Lucas and Riona, the new characters, are also given ample screen time along with Gala, Hyde and Officer Jorji. Characters like Rachel – who is working on a song with Aremy Jendrew now – and Myrtle, Aqua and Neil (now known as Silver) aren’t as frequent but their stories don’t need as much time to resolve.

This time around, these stories feel a lot more personal to the characters themselves, as opposed to being applicable to real-world situations. What I mean by that is that the first Coffee Talk wasn’t afraid to touch upon sensitive subjects such as racism, plastic usage, overpopulation and more. In Episode 2 however, those hard-hitting topics are almost entirely absent. The main topics include constantly arguing whilst trying to plan a wedding – something I can 100% relate to – and a new direction for a content creators’ channel, something I have no experience of. But neither of these leave me thinking about them long after the game has finished.

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The writing of each character cannot be faulted. Even in a visual novel, personalities shine through for the characters. But the topics of conversation and how they seem to meander throughout the game without major milestones in comparison to the first game is what lets the narrative down.

Once again, you can alter the direction these stories go. Not through a conversation tree, but by being a good barista. Or a bad one if you choose to go down that route. Coffee Talk retains its visual novel mixed with low-key barista simulator identity. And when a customer comes in asking for a drink, it is up to you to make them the right one. Or not.

Slight improvements have been made here with the inclusion of allowing your drinks menu open whilst you make the right drink this time. However, there is still a high degree of guesswork, as the customers aren’t the most straightforward in revealing what drink they would like. They prefer instead to give you almost cryptic clues as to what they want, then bemoan you if you don’t get it exactly right.

The Hibiscus & Butterfly from the game’s title are new bases for your drink creations. They allow you to create some colourful concoctions without completely rewriting what made the first game so enthralling.

Drinks choices are what gets you to the conclusions you desire. Coffee Talk Episode 2 has a much wider range of achievements and endings to aim for, leaving you with options as to whether to get the best ending for a character arc, or even to go as far as to get a customer to never return again. Each resolution has multiple endings as well, more than last time.

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There is also an item drawer added in for Episode 2, where sometimes you need to hand over items when serving drinks. Again, it isn’t always obvious which item is required, but it also isn’t used enough as an additional mechanic.

That’s because it is the only real new addition in Episode 2; almost everything else feels like an extension of the first game. Endless mode returns which has you purely making drinks for customers without the conversation, and there is a gallery for unlocked art. Tomodachill – Coffee Talk’s social media app – has been upgraded to now include what are essentially tweets from the patrons of the coffee shop, but these disappear after each day as well.

On one hand, a lack of major new features does work for Coffee Talk Episode 2. The simplicity and relaxed nature of the first game that so many loved returns. But on the other hand, it leaves us wanting a little bit more from a sequel.

One of the standout features from the first game was the soundtrack, composed by Andrew Jeremy, known in-game as Aremy Jendrew. Quite frankly, it was one of the best soundtracks of all-time, so any follow-up has a tough job. For Episode 2, the lo-fi sounds return, but can’t quite reach the lofty heights of the first game’s soundtrack. But I’m sure when it arrives on Spotify, gets released on vinyl and more, I will be at the front of the queue.

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Sadly, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly can’t match up to its predecessor. It lacks the emotional impact of the first game that meant it stuck with you long after completion. There are still some very touching moments towards the end, depending on how you choose to play it, and the additional endings are welcome, but this reunion of old friends and acquaintances is lacking the same spark that the first game had to spare.

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is on the Xbox Store

Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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