Coffee Crisis is thoroughly retro. So much so that developer Mega Cat Studios has even released the game on Sega Genesis and Mega Drive. While these old school tendencies yield much of the game’s appeal, they are equally the cause of many of its faults and frustrations resulting in a brief but brutal nostalgia trip filled with heavy metal and coffee beans.
Written by and featuring Pittsburgh’s Black Forge Coffee House, Coffee Crisis tells an absurd tale of alien invasions and vengeful baristas. It’s narrative nonsense but this pulpy, Saturday-morning cartoon-inspired tale provides just enough context for your journey to feel at least semi-cohesive from level to level. And that’s fortunate because from the streets of Pittsburgh to alien planets and caffeine-induced hallucinations, each level presents you with an increasingly heady mix of frantic combat, far-out visual design, and face-melting riffs.
Taking inspiration from arcade classic beat ’em ups like Alien Storm and the recently rejuvenated Streets of Rage, Coffee Crisis’ keeps combat simple with a select set of moves. Combining punches, kicks, and special attacks with a variety of power-ups and weapon pickups, you plough through an eclectic mix of enemies from aliens, government agents and elderly people to jocks, punks and cowboys. There’s certainly a strategy to combat but Coffee Crisis all too often fills the screen with an overwhelming number of foes reducing your calculated approach to a frenzy of button mashing and finger-crossing as you strive to survive.
While this lack of composure may say more about my ability as a player more than the game itself, Coffee Crisis, true to its retro tendencies, offers a brutal challenge, one I was only able to overcome on the easiest difficulty, while at times still struggling. The addition of a buddy in co-op certainly lessens the challenge, but whether teaming up or going it alone, Coffee Crisis’ difficulty remains punishing. However, this difficulty, although not my fondest feature, is undoubtedly a big part of the game’s appeal, and I’m certain those more hardcore than myself will be speedrunning the game on its absurdly punishing “death metal” difficulty with a sadistic grin on their face.
Equally unrelenting is the game’s soundtrack, provided by melodic death metal band Greywalker. If Doom Eternal has proven one thing, apart from that demons are very gooey and satisfying to kill, its that combat is all the more intense when backed by crunchy riffs and pummeling breakdowns. This holds true with Greywalker’s guitar-laden score which stomps and gallops in perfect pace with the on-screen action, adding a sense of spectacle and a satisfying sonic punch to the ebb and flow of combat.
In keeping with its penchant for the old-school, Coffee Crisis’ 16-bit visual and oddball art design draws as much on 80s heavy metal aesthetics as it does the retro games it so ardently honours. From its quirky sprite design to its pixel-perfect animation, the game looks authentically retro while still managing to feel contemporary thanks to its own charming sense of style. Several cameos from real-world bands, including Egyptology-obsessed death metallers Nile, help add to this charm. These bands populate some of the game’s bonus stages, which provide both some of the game’s most inspired visual design and some of its oddest, most endearing moments.
Coffee Crisis is a brief but brutal experience that seems engineered towards a specific and fairly niche audience. While its punishing difficulty may be too much for some, for fans of big riffs, smooth roasts, and relentlessly challenging retro beat ’em ups, Coffee Crisis offers the perfect blend.
Coffee Crisis PS4 Review
- Overall - Very Good - 7/107/10
Coffee Crisis offers a brief but brutal experience filled with alien invasions, heavy metal and a relentless retro challenge, although both its punishing difficulty and niche appeal may not be to everybody’s taste.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.