Playing the first Coffee Talk, I was instantly enamored with its charming, heartfelt collection of stories. Set in a rainy Seattle late-night cafe where all manner of fantastical patrons (from orcs to werewolves) talk about their day-to-day lives and have a drink to soothe their souls, the game’s premise is refreshing. Plus, the characters are memorable, helping to make Coffee Talk‘s overall pace calm and welcoming. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly takes us back to this Seattle not so far from our own despite the supernatural interwoven with the everyday. Coffee Talk, the aptly named coffee shop serving as the narrative’s backdrop, is back in business with new and returning customers searching for warm beverages to clear their minds. Does this refill hold the same appeal as its predecessor? Coffee Talk Episode 2 is a pleasant return experience, though there’s a definite emphasis on “return.”
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly begins with you, the barista, greeting your human customer Officer Jorji as the power fluctuates thanks to the weather. You mention new beverage options thanks to adding hibiscus and blue pea to your stock, prompting the kind, rather harried police officer to try one of your new selections. Not long into this customer interaction, two new customers enter the shop: the enthusiastic satyr influencer Lucas and a somewhat downtrodden banshee named Riona. Unfortunately, this aspiring opera singer hasn’t landed a role due to negative societal views on banshees compared to sirens. When Riona mentions the cruel and disparaging remarks her online audition reel received, Lucas puts his proverbial foot in his mouth by offering advice that doesn’t go over very well. Still, this causes a connection between the two and with Coffee Talk despite their rocky first encounter, and it isn’t long before Lucas and Riona are Coffee Talk regulars.
The story for Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a slice-of-life tale despite its fantastical leanings. The elf Baileys and succubus Lua from the first game have overcome the hurdles to their romantic partnership, yet they often disagree on details of their upcoming nuptials. After several decades, the vampire model Hyde is growing bored of his profession and contemplating a permanent move to Seattle to be closer to werewolf Gala, who still works as a hospital administrator and worries over how to make his larger physique less intimidating for younger patients. Shy Oceanic Aqua is still working on her indie game project with half-orc Myrtle’s help. However, a recent contract offer from her favorite publisher with less favorable conditions has put the two at odds.
Officer Jorji struggles with a vandalism case that may be supernatural but also talks about how his youngest daughter hasn’t been speaking with him following arguments over her grades in school. Lucas has big dreams about the internet content he wants to create but has taken a break due to burnout over the pitfalls of internet fame. Finally, Riona wants to give a voice to those so often “othered” by a society not yet ready to accept them. Every day in the game, certain characters show up at the coffee shop to tell you about what is going on in their lives while you and potentially other patrons offer their input.
Seeing how each character’s tale plays out is a phenomenal and moving experience. You can’t help but feel for everyone who enters Coffee Talk in one way or another. Special mention should be made of Silver’s plotline here, as I can see the character’s quest for his true identity being one that many could relate to. Silver changing his name from Neil and disconnecting from his alien species’ hive mind to truly live as an Earthling is inspiring in many ways. I like the cast addition of his still hive-connected sister Amanda to showcase how vital the love and support of those we consider family, biological or chosen, can be as we search for ourselves. Silver’s plotline is exceptionally heartfelt. Likewise, the adversarial government agent from FIRE trying to root out “illegal aliens” was a clever, on-the-nose concept.
A handful of new characters, such as Riona, Lucas, and Amanda, are in the cast. The previously mentioned three and a mysterious white cat with dual eye colors who occasionally sneaks into the shop searching for someone are the most important ones. Jorji’s co-workers on the police force who show up once are amusing, though, making me wish for more screen time! Even writer Freya and Rachel’s overprotective father Hendry show up for a scene each and get referenced throughout Episode 2. In that vein, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is best enjoyed after completing the first Coffee Talk, especially since certain story scenes reference the True Ending. You can still play Coffee Talk Episode 2 on its own, but much of the enjoyment stems from its likable characters and, in many cases, their continuing storylines.
Gameplay-wise, there isn’t much difference from the first Coffee Talk. Interactions between characters play out in a visual novel format. Most beverage-making requests aim to create the correct drink for a specific character based on hints given when ordering, though sometimes mixing things up can give you some exciting responses or additional story scenes. The drink-making process is pretty straightforward, with you choosing three ingredients to combine to make a “combo” that results in a drink creation. You can add latte art to lattes if requested or if you feel artistic (though mine are always laughable!). There are five drink attempts per day in-game, should you want to redo a beverage. Even if you mess up, the game continues, resulting in a relaxing gameplay vibe.
There are ending variations based on what you’ve done in a given game day, but you can replay any day once you finish it. This story map concept offers a layer of replayability, especially if you’re trying to see every story permeation and ending possible. Adding hibiscus and blue pea to your inventory also opens up new drink recipes, but the only fundamental new gameplay feature is an item-giving mechanic. Sometimes you’ll pick up an object of interest, choosing to present said object to a character along with their order. You can get a reaction and a potential plot deviation depending on who it is and what the item might be. For example, Lucas gives you his contact information twice in different formats to give to a specific character. Depending on which form you choose to give them, the outcome changes. It’s an exciting mechanic that adds more interactivity to the game.
Like in the first Coffee Talk, in Episode 2, you can still access your phone with its handy apps, such as the recipe book for found specialty drink creations. In addition, an online friending app allows you to see how close you’ve gotten with your regulars based on the drinks you’ve created for them, and you can now even view short “story” posts from your customers that offer a bit of insight into what’s going on in their lives at the moment. Then, of course, there’s also the bonus of being able to “like” said comments! Plus, there are still short stories to read at your leisure too.
I’d be remiss not to talk about the music app on the phone interface, as the lofi and chill soundtrack of Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is truly a delight for the ears. You can peruse the game’s soundtrack and play any track you’d like anytime. The soundtrack is composed by Andrew Jeremy, known as Aremy Jendrew in the Coffee Talk universe, who also created the first game’s excellent soundscape. The nekomimi idol Rachel is working on a collaboration with Aremy Jendrew at the start of Coffee Talk Episode 2, and your choice of drink to create for her at one point can very well influence which bonus song you might uncover later on when the collab is on more solid footing. I appreciate that added touch, and unlocking all three additional songs is fun from a replay stance. The music and sound effects, such as the squelching of Aqua’s footsteps, a seat scraping along the floor, the beeps and whirs of the various drink-making machines at work, and the pouring of liquid into cups, are a true audio highlight.
Graphically, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly shares many similarities with its predecessor, though the impressive sprite work for the characters is even more detailed! I love the redesigns for returning characters and how the new characters fit perfectly with the game’s aesthetic. Little details, such as the flower on Amanda’s space suit that distinguishes her attire from Silver’s earlier “Neil” design, are lovely touches. The world of Seattle can be cold, wet, and dreary outside, but the steam wafting from hot beverages and the colorful character designs create a richly warm environment. The power fluctuations when Seattle’s weather gets bad get realistically handled, and I love the comic-book-style “intense” story scenes. Coffee Talk Episode 2 is a visually-charming game to behold.
There isn’t anything negative about Coffee Talk Episode 2, as it builds beautifully upon the first game. Familiarity with the first Coffee Talk is a boon for players, given the continuing storylines. However, that makes Episode 2’s release a valid argument for going ahead and playing both games! After all, they’re excellent slice-of-life narratives with fun interactive moments and a surprising amount of replayability. I love that the sequel is more of the same in all the ways that truly matter. There’s much heart on this relaxing journey for the weary soul, proving that Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is a refill worth savoring.