Coffee Crisis, developed by Indie devs Mega Cat Studios, is more than just a homage to ‘90s beat-em-ups. It was originally made for and released on SegaMegadrivee/Genesis cartridges in 2017!
Since then, it has been released for PC via Steam and just now to Nintendo Switch, care of publisher QubicGames.
Lovingly crafted with 16-bit pixel art, Coffee Crisis certainly looks the part. More than that, it only uses three buttons for control; one to attack, one to jump, and the last to perform a special attack. This form of simplified beat-em-up controls makes the game feel very much like old MegaDrive sidescrollers such as Streets of Rage, which was clearly the intention.
Coffee Crisis Review Switch
Where Streets of Rage took a somewhat realistic approach to “cleaning the streets”, the story here is well and truly tongue-in-cheek. The Earth has been overrun by the alien Smurglians, who have been watching us for some time.
They’ve come to realise that the ‘80s had the best metal music and the best retro games and they’ve come to take them all from us. Along with our coffee. It’s all rather silly, but this kind of game doesn’t really need any kind of set up.
Intended as a two-player co-op game, players can choose to play as one of the two alien-fighting baristas, Nick or Ashley. Though, both essentially feel the same. Coffee Crisis takes a page from classic side scrollers — as far back as Double Dragon — with gameplay scrolling to the right. Your screen will stop to spawn in groups of enemies before allowing the player to move on.
Structurally, it’s level-based, with each level assigned a password, which can be used to skip to later levels once passed.
It’s all rather simple, really. The enemy types are fairly diverse, but they all represent one of three types; close brawler, mid-range weapon-user, and long-range projectile firer. Bosses are represented with a life gauge over their head.
Enemies range from old grannies/grandpas and punks under alien mind control to aliens in wheelchairs and big blobby dudes. There’s enough light-hearted variety to keep things fresh and fun.
However, with only three buttons and (occasionally) so many long-range enemies firing at you, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. In fact, I found I needed to rely on the age-old “jump attack” technique to get through most of the time, which mostly makes for some dull gameplay.
Fight the Power
But a lot of this comes down to the poor implementation of on-screen GUI. In the top right of your screen, you see a fist with a yellow circle around it, with a green bar beside it. Going by most video game conventions, it’s safe to expect that this green bar is your life bar – but it’s not.
It’s a weirdly implemented (and never explained) combo bar mechanic. In fact, the yellow circle around the fist is your health, and enemy attacks take such large chunks out of it that it’s very difficult to monitor. Further, it’s not so easy to understand how many lives you have left.
At first, when I mistook the combo bar for my life, I also mistook the combo multiplier for my lives. Big mistake. The number of lives is represented by bags of coffee beans at the top of the screen.
Once all of this becomes apparent, the game begins to play better. It’s easier to manage health and lives, and by utilising passwords, it’s easy enough to progress through the game, provided you can scrape through the occasional spikes in difficulty to finish the level.
There’s another strangely implemented mechanic in the game as well and I just can’t decide how I feel about it; powerups.
Not only are there many powerups that function much like regular powerups (health pickups, invincibility, damage increase, etc.), but there are several others that do other things. Mostly things that affect the screen in some way.
The problem with this is it’s hard to know what does what and whether or not there’s any benefit to the player to actually pick these things up.
It’s all a bit confusing.
All told, though, it works. The 16-bit charm, ‘80s style metal music, tongue-in-cheek references and simplistic gameplay makes it a fun time killer, if not a must play. If you like beat-em-ups, and especially if you like retro games, you would do yourself a disservice by grabbing Coffee Crisis.
Coffee Crisis was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Coffee Crisis
Great retro vibes - 8.3/10
Odd UI and confusing mechanics - 5/10
Great fun - 8/10