I enjoy a good side-scrolling brawler as much as anyone else would. And yet I find myself struggling to enjoy the beat downs that Coffee Crisis brings to the genre. There’s a goofy sense of humor, filled with many nods and references that gaming and pop culture nerds will pick up on. However, the story that strings everything together isn’t much to latch onto and is bundled with a difficulty that feels a little too wild at times. In addition to some annoying design choices that often get in the way, Coffee Crisis can end up being overly repetitive and loses its charm very quickly.
The story of Coffee Crisis is as silly and shallow as you can guess. Aliens come to invade Earth and it’s up to a pair of baristas to fight everything in their path to save the world. It’s a ridiculous setup filled with silly one-liners and random references, but will probably be forgotten shortly after you stop playing. The bit-art styled visuals of Coffee Crisis look good and have a lot of fun designs for characters and enemies that appear throughout the game.
Some of the backgrounds can end up looking a bit too dark and flat at times, but the majority of what you see still looks good. Unfortunately, the special effects that pop up at various times can make everything look significantly worse, especially when they prevent you from focusing on what enemies are nearby and what is attacking you. In some cases, the special effects from modifiers and power-ups can render everything unplayable when you can’t tell what’s in front of you, or see why your health is depleting so fast.
Looks aside, the gameplay is where Coffee Crisis really goes off the rails. There are two playable characters, Nick and Ashley, but they’re nearly identical in how they play. The controls are what you would expect for a side-scrolling brawler, attacking and jumping with the face buttons and moving with the directional, but your actions can be somewhat delayed or feel heavy for no reason. It takes a split second (or a number of frames) for your character to jump into the air, which can lead to getting hit by attacks that you would otherwise hope to evade.
Attacking can also drag a bit, especially trying to use a charge attack that requires you to hold down the attack button. However you can’t charge an attack by simply holding the button down, instead, you must attack first before you can begin charging while holding the button. This makes jumping while charging impossible and leaves you vulnerable to enemy attacks. It also doesn’t help out much when the enemies you fight don’t have a health meter anywhere to indicate how close you are to defeating them, with the exception of bosses.
The levels are broken up into very inconsistent portions, with some areas being very short compared to others throughout. In areas where you need to defeat all enemies before moving forward, there are random modifiers that automatically trigger. These are on by default (not explained to you beforehand) and significantly spike the difficulty of the game unless you turn them off from the main menu.
The modifiers are random and there’s no way to look over what each one does without seeing their effects mid-game, which often leads to very tough and frustrating moments when many triggers at the same time. Some modifiers randomly switch the camera perspective or take away the color of everything on the screen, while others increase the number of enemies that appear and their attack strength. What ends up happening becomes a real mess and brings all the fun to a screeching halt.
The entire game can be played with a friend in co-op, but the majority of problems that get in the way still linger regardless if you play alone or with another person. Co-op does alleviate some of the difficulty when you’re faced with many enemies on screen, but it does little when the screen is a hodgepodge of effects.
There’s also no online co-op, so you have to settle with local multiplayer if you want to complete the game with another player. In addition, Coffee Crisis relies on a password system if you wish to continue after getting a game over, which may or may not become a bother to some who prefer a load data or continue option.
It’s hard to recommend Coffee Crisis with so many things that become an issue, even for those who love side-scrolling brawlers. The annoying special effects from modifiers and the randomly harsh difficulty spikes overshadow the interesting art-style that would otherwise make the game stand out. Even though playing Coffee Crisis with a friend could still be a little enjoyable, having another person along for the ride doesn’t do much in making the game better. Unless you enjoy retro-inspired games with some wrinkles that you can overlook, the caffeine blend that’s offered here just isn’t that refreshing or satisfying.
This review is based on a digital review code of Coffee Crisis for the Xbox One, provided by Mega Cat Studios.