Save the world from evil aliens and grandparents who are out to steal our metal music, coffee, and wifi – Coffee Crisis Review
If you grew up during the first generation of console gaming, side-scrolling beat’em up games are a staple of your gaming experience. Something about teaming up with a friend and taking on hordes of enemies with awesome combos initiated with the push of a button really spoke to a generation. The genre is greatly saturated, but games like Streets of Rage, Turtles in Time, and Double Dragon stand the test of time. Coffee Crisis is definitely in the same vein of those classics and is an awesome homage and update to the genre.
Coffee Crisis is a side-scrolling beat’em up game where your goal is to save the world from the Smurglian race of aliens from stealing the world’s most precious resources; metal music, coffee, and wifi. Players take control of Nick and/or Ashley, baristas of Black Forge Coffeehouse, and take on the hordes of mind-controlled grandparents, probably mind-controlled bros, and of course the Smurglian aliens. Players are immediately thrown into the fray as Aliens attack Pittsburg and must fight their way through, collecting coffee beans, thrashing bad guys, and play a few mini-games. It’s a pretty quirky story, that masterfully sets the tone and pace of the game. Some of the dialogue is a bit blocky, but overall it toes the line between “what happens next?” and “I can just skip this” perfectly.
Not saying you should, or would, skip the story, but like many in its genre the story is an enhancement to the gameplay. Coffee Crisis plays just like a side-scrolling beat’em up from the 16-bit era. -Sidenote, the game is also available for Sega Genesis.- Think Streets of Rage or Altered Beasts. You have your single button combos, your jump attacks that allow for fast strikes and evasions, and your special attack which drains your health when you use it. It plays just like a retro-game in all aspects; from the player side, and the enemy side. So boss enemies don’t have the same physics as most NPC’s or even the player, whoever is the victim of being attacked is stunned long enough for a combo to be unleashed upon them, and health is kind of hard to find. This means placement and location of bad guys are key when you unload your combo attacks because if the grouping isn’t right one of those baddies will knock you across the screen and disrupt your combo. What really kind of solidifies the gameplay, knocking enemies offscreen does not protect them! This is a huge deal, as a lot of times it is painfully annoying and potentially game-ending if an enemy if knocked off screen. In Coffee Crisis you can either walk over to shift the screen or if thrown, enemies seem to hit a wall and are dealt extra damage upon impact. I think the best part about Coffee Crisis are the powerups you get while fighting. The powerups are what really distinguish the game from other games like it. Some powerups build up as you fight, others are pick-ups, and they shake up the gameplay and can really shift the tide of battle. My favorite part though, is the level screens that have the level passwords. It’s the nostalgia factor and that it does so without feeling like a gimmick. Lastly, the mini-games are a great change of pace and provide little bonuses to help progress the story. It feels like The Simpsons arcade game in that sense, and it causes uncontrollable giggle fits. The game doesn’t need the mini-games, but it is definitely better because of it.
The only things I don’t like about the gameplay are that the AI feels a lot more like a coin-op beat’em versus a console beat’em up and you can’t hit downed enemies. Coin-op beat’em ups have a lot of unavoidable things that eat away at your health so you’ll drop another quarter to continue. In Coffee Crisis some enemies seem to be kind of immune to the combo stunning, just enough to knock you down. Maybe there’s an identifier or something to tell which sprites can pull off an attack while in a combo stun, but it’s a little annoying when it seems like 90% of the same sprite aren’t immune. I could also slightly be messing up my bad guy placement by just enough pixels to allow attacks to slip through my combo. But, it still kind of feels like it’s trying to get me to spend another quarter. Then the downed enemies thing. It was pretty normal to not be able to hit downed enemies, but it was always that more gratifying when you could.
One last thing I have to talk about the game is the music. Coffee Crisis features original music by Pittsburgh metal band, Greywalker. Personally, I’m not a regular listener of metal. Not that I don’t like it, I just don’t ever find the urge to listen to it. But when I do listen to metal, it’s usually to get the heart pumping and get things done. The music of Coffee Crisis perfectly captures that feeling and, I have no way of proving this, does make me play the game better. I tested this by playing the game without sound and with sound. I definitely died less when I could hear the music. There are also some cases where the gameplay and music align perfectly and seem like you’re playing a music video. I can’t explain that sentence, but that’s how it feels.
Coffee Crisis is a great interpretation of a classic formula. It’s a fun, exciting, and funny side-scrolling beat’em up that is very reminiscent of Streets of Rage, but with a much more cohesive story. The “bro” sprites really remind me of the general street thugs you would fight throughout that game. The gameplay is engaging, the story is a perfect expansion of the gameplay, and the mechanics of the game are solid. The only thing the game doesn’t do is revolutionize. This isn’t a bad thing, and I in no way mean to put down the amazing work put into the game. It definitely belongs in the same category of great console beat’em up games, it just doesn’t rise above them. My Coffee Crisis review gets an 8.5/10
For some behind the scenes information, check out our interview with Coffee Crisis’ C# Developer Nick Mann