By Josh Speer / January 14th, 2019
For some reason, I’ve had a desire lately to get back to basics with an old school beat ’em up. Call it stupid reflexive nostalgia if you will, but the fact is, it’s phenomenally hard to resist. Unfortunately, the previous game I used to scratch my itch with didn’t quite satisfy. So I was eager to try again with another title, which brings us to the subject of this piece, Coffee Crisis. Featuring a silly alien invasion, battling baristas and rogue-like mechanics, was it able to help me get past my rut? Or should it have stayed in outer space?
One area that Coffee Crisis immediately improved upon my last experience was with the controls. After the incredibly brief first stage, they fully explain all the various controls for all your attacks. While I don’t feel they needed to map alternate control schemes to the shoulder buttons, the fact remains I never had any questions about how to play the game, which is great. It’s basic but effective. You have a single punch attack with Y, a grab button with X that lets you pummel and toss foes, B is a jump button to do aerial kicks and a super attack conducted with A. I can appreciate the simplicity, and it helps you get invested in the gameplay. My primary complaints with regard to the controls were that sometimes it was hard to grab foes and that the super attack drained your health. Lastly, you can charge your basic attacks to do more damage, but I rarely found it useful, since enemies would frequently attack and interrupt me before I could let loose.
While the controls in Coffee Crisis are great, the way it plays is less so. Yes, there’s a good variety of foes to pummel, but the problem is that they are programmed in such a way to be super aggressive. Worse, many foes have ranged attacks they will use to stop your attacks from a good distance. By contrast, neither of the playable characters has a ranged attack nor a block or dodge. So get used to having energy balls hit you in the face right as you’re about to get going. Another problem is that there are often far too many foes on screen at the same time, and they will mob you. If they had distinct attack patterns I could exploit, that would be one thing, but for the most part they all attack the same way. The exceptions are harder foes that act like minibosses, but they complicate things even further with devastating super moves and invincibility frames.
There’s some rogue elements in Coffee Crisis, and while I normally enjoy rogue-likes, here it’s poorly implemented. At the start of each run, you’ll be shown 4 modifiers that will affect play. The issue is that the game never explains them, so you get to guess what’s happening as the screen changes color or gets funky. It also seemed as though, more often than not, the rogue modifiers helped the foes more than me. The worst example was when rows of flying enemies would race across the screen, catching me off guard. The other way the game shows its rogue nature is that the enemy mobs will vary by type of foe and by size. I could deal with smaller mobs of weak foes, but when they started throwing hordes at me, things became problematic. Especially the bloated belly aliens that could shoot balls of fat at you from a distance. Those were utter nightmares.
Unlike in 99Vidas – Definitive Edition, in Coffee Crisis I couldn’t even get to the first boss. I got through several levels, but every time I got to the rain soaked 4th or 5th stage, I would get overwhelmed by too many hordes of foes that drained all my continues. While I do appreciate that you can earn more continues by getting enough points or winning more in minigames, I feel the difficulty was too unbalanced. And unlike the last title, there were no difficulty settings here to give me a fighting chance. The only thing at your disposal is the password mechanic, but since that didn’t seem to do much other than start me at the beginning of a stage with only the lives I had at the start, it wasn’t that helpful.
It’s not all bad though. The art style in Coffee Crisis is fantastic. I appreciated the diversity of enemies, from mind controlled grandpas with canes to grannies with walkers, all the way to stranger foes like stalk eyed aliens and burly goons. I liked that there was more than one body type for foes, even though they mostly fought the same way. Visually, it’s a fine nod to beat ’em ups of the past, and it was never ugly to look at. The music is pure metal, and though it’s invigorating, it also gets a bit repetitive. Put together though, the aesthetic design was probably the strongest element of the game.
I do wish I could say Coffee Crisis was an amazing beat ’em up, but it was sadly more of the same. I can respect the design and controls, but the difficulty was a bit too steep for this nostalgic gamer. If you’re eager for a retro game with a lot of style, you might still enjoy it, but it’s hard to recommend to any other fans.
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