Coffee Crisis, developed and published by Mega Cat Studios, is a side scrolling beat-em-up following in the footsteps of giants like Streets of Rage. It stars protagonists Nick and Ashley, the owners of the Black Forge Coffee House. After a seemingly normal day at the coffee house, aliens invade to rob us humans of our internet, coffee and perhaps worst of all, epic heavy metal. It is up to Nick and Ashley to defend their home city of Pittsburgh from the attack.
This game wears its weirdness on its sleeve. After choosing to play as either Nick or Ashley, the screen changes to an image of a strange looking wizard named Yinzer. Yinzer is never named in game but his dialogue text box always has his name on it. In fact, he never interacts with other characters; he does, however, show up at the end of levels to let you know how you did.
There is not much difference in play style between Nick and Ashley. They both have a three hit combo, they both have a throw, they both have a charge attack, they both have a special move and that’s about it. The only real difference is that Ashley’s special move is an uppercut that does a large amount of damage to one or two enemies. Meanwhile, Nick’s special move is a spin attack that does a smaller amount of damage to a large group of enemies.
Between the two characters, I strongly prefer Nick. Ashley’s power is great against bosses but it is really only useful in the final fight of the game. Nick’s ability is useful all the time which brings me to one of my biggest problems with this game: the overwhelming number of enemies.
Coffee Crisis is a co-op game but I played through it on my own. I mention this because feels like it was designed to have two people playing it. You will frequently have six or more enemies on screen at once and with little more than a three hit combo at your disposal it can become very frustrating.
After Nick and Ashley begin their crusade through the streets of Pittsburgh, they discover that the aliens have abducted Skinny Chestknee, famous country singer and not-so-clever play on Kenny Chesney. The duo decide to go to the local Skinny Chestknee show and save him because if the aliens are taking country musicians, what if they start taking good musicians next?
The game is full of jokes like that. I hesitate to even call them jokes but I do not know what else to call them. I don’t like country music either but just stating that country music is not good is not a joke. Changing Kenny Chesney’s name to Skinny Chestknee is not funny either. It’s just nothing.
There are a lot of small issues with the game that pile up into one big mess. With a side scrolling game, the screen should scroll when the player is about half-way across the screen. That way, they can see any enemies or obstacles coming and it will feel more fair. Coffee Crisis scrolls when the player is at about seventy-five percent of the screen. This leads to several occasions of being attacked by enemies before given the chance to react. It makes the game feel unfair.
There are modifiers that you can turn on or off in the settings menu. The modifiers will affect certain battles throughout the game. Some of them add enemy spawners or drop certain items. Most of them just make the game-play hard to see and in a game that’s not all that fun to play in the first place, this was an unwelcome addition.
What is really interesting about the modifiers is that, if you are playing Coffee Crisis on Twitch or Mixer, the chat can vote on what modifiers they would like to see. I always think it’s a bad sign when a game builds a feature around streaming. It’s like when a game brands itself as an “e-sports game.” It’s probably not going be an e-sports game. I went on Twitch before writing this article. Nobody was streaming Coffee Crisis.
The music throughout the game is very good, though if you don’t like heavy metal you probably will not enjoy it nearly as much as I did. The only problem is that the songs are not long enough to play throughout the entire stage so they inevitably start looping over and over again. Also, in the opening scene with Yinzer, eventually the music just stops playing.
The Hard Truth
Writing this review has put me in a very strange position. I feel like I’m not only reviewing a game, but people’s lives. Nick and Ashley are actually real people. They are the actual owners of the Black Forge Coffee House which you can go to and get a cup of coffee in Pittsburgh.
According to Wikipedia, this all started when the owner of Mega Cat Studios met Nick and Ashley at a charity fundraiser for a local children’s hospital. They bonded over their love of retro video games and decided to make a game together. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the game got a physical release on the Sega Genesis, Mega Drive and a digital release on Steam (which is the version I’m reviewing).
These are all good people. I want to go and meet them and drink coffee and listen to Mastodon. Unfortunately, they made a really bad game. If you live in Pittsburgh and you want to support a local business, the game is only $5.99 on Steam. Or if you are a Sega completionist then think about picking Coffee Crisis up. Otherwise, I cannot recommend this game. I beat it in about an hour and ten minutes and that was still too long to spend with it.
- THE GOOD
- Good music
- Nice people made it
- THE BAD
- Repetitive gameplay
- Modifiers aren’t fun
- Bad dialogue
Coffee Crisis feels like a genuine and heartfelt love letter to retro gaming. Which is what makes it all the more heart breaking when it fails at nearly everything it attempts to do.