Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly review – that voodoo you brew

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Key Art

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly on PC

Somewhere, in the oft rainy, dreary twilight of the Seattle streets, there exists a humble café. All are welcome, and you can receive libations to the best of the barista’s abilities. More importantly, however, there is a strong possibility that you will cross paths with some truly fascinating personalities.

It’s a melting pot of different lives and different stories, as people from all walks of life seek this fleeting little thing called happiness in a world of prejudice and uncertainty. This is the premise of Coffee Talk, and with its newly released sequel, Coffee Talk Episode 2, you will get your opportunity to shape lives even further.

As the follow up to the 2020 original, Hibiscus & Butterfly is a visual novel set solely in the eponymous late night café. You play the role of its owner and sole employee, interacting with and guiding a cast of colourful characters — figuratively and literally speaking, including several mythical beasts like werewolves and vampires — as they confide in you, seeking your wisdom just as much as your warm beverages. Some are holdovers from the prior entry, while a few are new additions, and if you are anything like me, you will grow absolutely engrossed with their trials and tribulations in short time.

I must confess, I did not play the first game beforehand (a subject we will circle back to later on), so I will present elements of this review with the assumption that you might be in the same situation. Coffee Talk’s premise is actually quite straightforward. For the most part, you are listening to the discussions of the visitors who attend on any given night, with the proceedings broken up when someone makes a drink order. Sometimes, they are explicit in their desires, while other times, you will have to glean their intentions from the description they provide.

You have a selection of core ingredients, such as coffee, chocolate, and the newly added butterfly pea and hibiscus teas, as well as additives such as mint or honey. By combining these elements and adjusting the quantities of each, you are expected to provide them with the drink of their dreams. Should you fall short of this, you might take notice that that patron’s particular story arc will take a more dour turn with each passing night, as if your talents as a barista hold some sort of sway over their destiny.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Amanda
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My tale, starring the hastily named MacDougle, begins on one blustery Tuesday night in September. The first customer, Officer Jorji, enters the room, a lit cigarette already clutched between his fingers. We engage in small talk, before he notes that his shift is over and he isn’t in the mood for a coffee.

He instead seeks a taste of our new butterfly pea tea, asking me to keep it simple. I brew the blue concoction, throwing in a dash of cinnamon because I don’t understand the word simple, and he accepts it without protest.

Jorji casually mentions the recent vandalism of his car, having apparently become the latest victim of a crime spree. It seems like a bit of a big deal, but before MacDougle can press for more answers, a new face enters the café. This is Lucas, the trendy satyr influencer, escaping the rain with the only venue he found open.

Lucas would like a matcha to warm his spirit. I am aware that this involves green tea, but beyond that, I’m pretty much clueless. He had mentioned that milk “takes the edge off”, so I throw in a dollop of dairy, ending up with something that doesn’t proclaim to be matcha. But hey, it’s got green tea, so it can’t be that far off, right?

I even go so far as to style the froth with my attempt at latte art, inadvertently creating the most sinister looking smiley face you’ve ever seen. Hopefully, he’ll find its obtuse presentation stylish enough to post on his socials, or whatever it is these kids do nowadays.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Latte Art
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Lucas takes a swig of his drink, before questioning what it is I’ve given him instead of the matcha he wanted. MacDougle helplessly claims that he “changed his mind halfway through”, and I set a precedent that would haunt me throughout my initial run of Coffee Talk Episode 2; I am a really awful barista. Art imitating life, I suppose.

This is one of the elements of the game I found to be the most challenging and yet forgiving: I was frequently botching orders, resulting in a range of reactions from polite, awkward confusion to outright disgust. But other than the events that would take place, I would be able to continue unimpeded. You can’t “fail” at Coffee Talk, per se. You’ll just end up with a lot of disappointed customers who turn out to be unfulfilled in more ways than one.

As I’ve alluded to in the past, I am quite obsessive in my pursuit of a “perfect run” in gaming, and yet, I wanted to press on with MacDougle’s service, warts and all. Organically, his constant screw-ups felt like they were part of his story, to the point where he even admitted that he had been making a lot of mistakes lately.

By its conclusion, I had fixed some problems, but not others. Hibiscus & Butterfly takes place over the course of 15 in-game evenings, and most of the playthrough will be spent reading the dialogue, with the occasional barista responsibility thrown in. My first run took a little over five hours, which might sound brief on the surface, however its tight runtime absolutely invited me to start over again.

Though MacDougle 1 had already been defined as being a bit of a crummy barista, his successor, the wicked MacDougle 2, would actively go against the whims of his loyal customers, dishing out espressos to those after “something sweet, floral, refreshing and blue, and not too strong”, and repeatedly forcing cups of pure milk upon the lactose intolerant recipient.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Gala Ordering
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Something I really appreciate, is that subsequent runs give you access to the ability to fast forward the discussion, temporarily removing this feature whenever you access a new part of the dialogue tree. Sometimes, these can be throwaway lines, while at other points, it’s entirely new conversations. It means that you don’t have to thumb through every single talking point with a fine-toothed comb to pare out the fresh minutiae, and as a result, my second run took barely over an hour.

Again, the consequences are mostly melancholy endings that are grounded in reality, reflecting the disappointments of real life without coming across as overly melodramatic. More broadly, it did mean that certain characters gave up entirely on the café around the halfway point and never returned — which is fair enough, really, if the coffee shop you frequented couldn’t even get your order right.

As this game is very much intended to be played again and again to see what else there is to discover, the recipe list and social media profiles you had unlocked previously roll over, which is appreciated when you want to actually do your job properly. Additionally, there are some unexpected lines of dialogue that I really appreciated, but will not spoil. I’d rather readers discover these themselves.

What you will discover is that frequently pulling out your phone in the middle of a discussion, as socially unacceptable as that seems on paper, will yield the greatest rewards, allowing you not only to refer back to those aforementioned recipes, but even peruse through the various social media feeds. While one character was pouring their heart out to me, I decided to like the post of a cat-girl instead of paying attention, before returning to their plight. I’m shallow like that. Cats always get top priority.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Tomodachill
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If it sounds like I’ve gone a bit too in-depth with the mechanics, that’s because I found the core gameplay loop to be quite intoxicating. This game is more “Talk” than “Coffee”, but as a visual novel, you could consider the barista mechanic to be more of a welcome distraction than anything else, and it has its own unexpected layers of depth.

As an example, if a character asks for a “café latte with a lot of honey”, you’ll want to ensure you pay attention to the language used here. The three core ingredients are clear, but how much honey should there bee? Adding it before the milk makes it the primary ingredient, resulting in a completely different drink than you would have had otherwise.

…I hope you liked that bee joke, by the way. That was originally a spelling mistake that I decided to repurpose into a pun.

By and large, Hibiscus & Butterfly looks and feels much the same as the first title, with absolutely gorgeous sprite work that brings each individual to life. Their animations are minimal yet lively, though the newly added banshee Riona has a wonderfully unique sequence that makes her really stand out.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Rachel, Riona and Lucas
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The soundtrack, provided by Andrew Jeremy, can only be described as perfect. Its chill, lofi vibes are exactly the kind of thing I would choose to listen to while working (and yes, I’m listening to it as I write this review), and it is completely unobtrusive to the on-screen proceedings. It all blends together so seamlessly, it bleeds into the experience to the point where you might not even notice it anymore — and I mean that as the highest of praise.

To round out the package, there is an Endless mode that allows you to either brew with impunity, or fulfil a string of orders before the timer runs out. These are best attempted after the story mode, allowing you to either flesh out the missing items in your recipe book or refer to it to keep a streak of successful orders going, and are great additions for those more interested in the puzzle aspect.

As for whether this game does enough to make strides beyond the original, I would very much say it has. After my first run, I circled back to the original Coffee Talk for reference, and though Episode 2’s pensive narrative allows it to be played as a standalone entry, in my opinion, it is strengthened by being presented as a continuation. Not only does it provide the eponymous new ingredients as well as a few unfamiliar customers, but lost items will also play into the proceedings, allowing you to determine when and where you should return these to the appropriate recipient.

Beyond that, the price of entry is low enough that you would have to be particularly miserly to turn your nose up at purchasing a title that is fundamentally similar to its predecessor in all the best ways. I wholeheartedly recommend trying both games in succession.

Coffee Talk Episode 2 Lua and Tofu
Chorus Worldwide via EZIYODA

Ultimately, it dawned on me that by the time I had started my third run, I had stopped experimenting from a reviewer’s perspective. By then, I was playing strictly for my own edification, completely compelled by these whimsical Seattleites and eventually understanding their preferences like the back of my own hand.

If you’ll humour my self-indulgent reflections for a moment, this is the kind of experience that evokes a desire within me to pursue game development myself. To be able to create something that resonates so deeply is truly special, and I am grateful that there are talented teams out there who are still doing the things that made me love this industry in the first place.

Final Verdict

Score: 4.5 paw prints out of 5



Release Date: 20 April, 2023
Platform: PC (also available on Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)
Developer: Toge Productions
Publisher: Chorus Worldwide

Whether you are returning to the world of Coffee Talk or coming in as a fresh-faced barista with no prior knowledge, it is clear that you are in for a real treat with its follow-up entry.

Hibiscus & Butterfly is “more of the same” in many ways, but enhances the experience overall with clever mechanics and additional patrons you will grow to love. It shows the true potential of what the visual novel medium has to offer, blending the passive storytelling elements with its occasional coffee duties as smoothly as a well prepared Teh Jahe Rosella.

As long as you’re comfortable with a lot of reading and willing to pay attention to detail, this is a can’t miss prospect at a low price point. Do yourself a favour, and shield yourself from the rain in this very special twilight café.

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