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Chill out as a fantasy barista in 'Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly'

<em>Coffee Talk </em>takes place in a fantasy-inflected version of Seattle.
Toge Productions
Coffee Talk takes place in a fantasy-inflected version of Seattle.

I'm on record as a huge fan of Indonesia's Toge Productions, and previously noted that Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly was my most anticipated game of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed 2020's Coffee Talk, a slice-of-life game where you play a barista serving a diverse cast of fantasy-inspired characters in an alternate version of Seattle. This year, I was looking forward to refilling my cup.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 picks up a few years after the events in the original game, putting you back in the shoes of the faceless barista on a stormy Seattle night. In typical Toge Production style, you're introduced to colorful characters and their storylines, all with a chill original soundtrack that I'll be playing on repeat for the foreseeable future.

We meet several fan-favorite characters from the first Coffee Talk game, and a few new friends, including Lucas, an infectiously energetic influencer, and Riona, an aspiring singer. Gameplay is largely unchanged, and involves talking to people and preparing drinks, (though the new "drawer" feature feels clunky, and thankfully only comes up a few times).

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The game's main customers in various states of shock.
/ Toge Productions
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Toge Productions
The game's main customers in various states of shock.

Coffee grounds

I will admit, though, that there's something slightly "off" about Hibiscus and Butterfly. I racked my brain for days trying to figure out, and, for me, it's that the game lacks a common thread to bind its stories together. In the original Coffee Talk, that thread was Freya, a regular customer whose presence provided consistency and comfort, especially in the aftermath of the most emotionally-charged moments.

The addition of two new ingredients, Butterfly Pea and Hibiscus, make for some interesting and delicious-looking drinks!
/ Toge Productions
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Toge Productions
The addition of two new ingredients, Butterfly Pea and Hibiscus, make for some interesting and delicious-looking drinks!

Spoiler alert: Freya only makes a small cameo in Episode 2, which reminded me just how much I missed her. There are sections of Coffee Talk 2 that drowned me in exposition, where I was desperate for someone to interrupt with a random observation or question to snap my focus back. From behind the coffee bar, you witness such a vast array of events — from arguments about wedding plans, to frustrations over discriminatory practices — but when the dialogue ends, everything just fades to black. There's no one to process what you just saw, to ground you. There's no Freya.

Freya, a constant presence in the original game, makes a brief appearance in <em>Coffee Talk Episode 2.</em>
/ Toge Productions
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Toge Productions
Freya, a constant presence in the original game, makes a brief appearance in Coffee Talk Episode 2.

But while Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly didn't live up to my hopes, I still enjoyed it. The bloated plot left me with questions, but it seemed like the developers were planting seeds for future sequels that I hope to play soon. If you want a chill game about coffee and fascinating strangers, check out the original Coffee Talk. And if you want more after that, Episode 2 has its charms.

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James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story

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Rakiesha Chase-Jackson
Rakiesha Chase-Jackson is a mother, wife and project manager on NPR's Member Partnership team. In all aspects of her life, she's focused on helping people meet their goals and collaborate well with others.