KeenGamer reader, can I confide in you? I have no Nintendo nostalgia until the Game Boy. I played a lot of my dad's games on the computer, but the console in our house growing up with a Sega Genesis. When people talk about how they've followed Mario or The Legend of Zelda and how they've followed the games since they started and each one takes a new and inventive look at the franchise as a whole, I have myself a little cringe at the direction a certain 90s hedgehog has taken.
Enter Mega Cat Studios and their new game Coffee Crisis for PC. Yeah, I forgot that the Sega Genesis was actually a good console, and Coffee Crisis channels everything about this loser of the console wars while adding a little twist of the modern generation. Now, it does fall into a few of the pitfalls of retro gaming: Namely an extremely simple story and brief play time. I think it more than makes up with these pitfalls with satisfying gameplay, legitimately clever writing, difficulties ranging from pushover to the aptly named "death metal" mode. All in all, though I took some issue with a few things, this is a retro romp worth enjoying with a friend.
Coffee Crisis is available on Steam for $5.99.
The Smurglian race has landed and they want humanities three most precious treasures: our heavy metal, wifi, and coffee (more of a tea guy myself but I get it). Humanity's only hope lies in the hands of two baristas, Nick and Ashley. Wielding respectively a bag of coffee beans and…I'm told Ashley has a Percolator, these two unlikely heroes need to brawl their way through alien forces including possessed old ladies, cowgirls, and frat boys.
Now, the story itself is probably one of the weaker aspects of the game, but it has a self-aware camp that always excuses a weakish narrative. It almost reminds me of Kung Fury in sheer ridiculousness. A few of the reference jokes can be a bit overdrawn, but for the most part, my roommate and I had a good laugh.
This is a side-scrolling brawler reminiscent of something like Double Dragon. You and possibly another person go to different locales around the city, a factory, and other worlds slaughtering wave after wave of enemies. Controlling your chosen character is a breeze: light attack, heavy attack, jump, grapple and grapple buttons are in the usual places. You know the ones.
Wave after Wave of Men
There really isn't a large variety of enemies, you have your usual light enemy, heavy enemy that pushes you around, and a few flavors in between. To make up for this, they come in sizeable waves that can easily become overwhelming if you don't keep track of everything. Were it not for the AOE attack on either character, this game would probably be completely unplayable, but because of that attack and a few weapons you can pick up that swing in a decent sized arc in front of you, the game avoids the pitfall of being frustrating when you get stunlocked in a corner and the enemies juggle you until you die.
My only true complaint about any aspect of the combat is one specific level towards the end where they add environmental hazards. I'm not opposed to them as a concept, I'd be a lousy gamer if that were the case, but if you're going to give me a river of lava, either make the enemies vulnerable to it like I am or don't let them push me in. I guess the whole gist of old games is that they had to be hard to make up for the fact that you could probably write all the code needed for the game on a sheet of notebook paper or two, but that one part really kept me hung up for a while.
The game is short and difficult, Medium was what I tried on my first playthrough and I still had a real rough time, but once you beat it you're given a treat(?): Death Metal mode, the highest difficulty setting. And oh man…just oh man…does it earn that name. You can't even give yourself a little bit of a leg up with the cheat codes or by putting in a level passcode. Side note, no there are no save slots, you just get a code for each level to put in if you lose all your lives like The Lost Vikings. Anyway, with Death Metal mode you start from the beginning and stop when you die and believe me you will die.
Here's where I'll bring up one of the unique selling points of Coffee Crisis: the level modifiers. See, when you enter "Finish Them!" mode, which is when the game refuses to progress until you smash every enemy on the screen, the game applies some crazy random aspect to the level to keep each playthrough interesting. They could be detrimental, like when it spawns new enemies, or they could be helpful, like summoning a tiny drone that shoots your enemies for you. If you're streaming, there is even a system which lets your viewers vote on your mods, which is a great way for audiences to participate in the stream but man does it seem like a great way to never be able to finish the game!
All in all though, the mods coupled with the Death Metal difficulty turned this into an absolutely brutal roguelike brawler that's a ton of fun to play cooperatively.
Graphics and audio
This game definitely looks like a Genesis game and I mean that as a compliment. I look at this game and I totally believe it belongs in that era, but it does still look great. Pixel graphics, of course, has its limitations, but the enemies are designed well (though the friend I played this with did say it looked like the cowgirls were whipping you with…well…not a lasso), and the weird coffee fever dream you enter is a creative idea, and Smurgila feels more like Lovecraftian horror than an alien planet, but I mean that in a good way, it doesn't just look like earth with a purple sky or something.
This game's soundtrack is incredible. It's heavily metal-influenced and pulls out some absolute bangers even though it's basically just glorified beeps. I do hope you like metal though, otherwise, this really isn't your soundtrack. As it happens I do, so I could just leave this game on and listen to it. I even liked the elevator music in the pause menu. I understand I'm exactly the audience for this music, but as a fan of nostalgia and metal, they hit this one right on the head.
I'm glad that someone aside from the sonic fandom is finally representing for those of us with nostalgia for their Sega Genesis days, and well. This game looks good, sounds great, and plays well while still presenting a really sizeable challenge for the player. I recommend playing this with someone because even though the game can get really difficult, it's good spirited enough to keep from being too frustrating. It is a short game and the story isn't exactly engaging, but it is funny and for the price, I can give the length a pass. All in all, I think Coffee Crisis is definitely a game worthy of having been kickstarted. If you're looking for a fun couch-coop without too many frills, I can recommend this one. I could see myself curling up with a hot mug and this game on a rainy day if I need a challenge and a chuckle.
|+ Funny writing||– Short|
|+ Simple controls||– Unengaging story|
|+ Mods encourage future playthroughs||– Level design can be a bit unfair.|