Channel a little of the retro console nostalgia on the Nintendo Switch with the side scroller Coffee Crisis

One of the things that I miss most about growing up in the 1980s and 1990s was the arcade scene.  I loved going to our local Nickel City, to the Family Fun Center, and many other local arcades.  No matter your interest, you could find something that was fun to play.  From PAC-Man to Centipede to Gallaga, to Donkey Kong, to FPS, to pinball, to basketball and skee ball, kids mingled, interacted and competed.  Some of my favorite games included the co-op side scrollers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, and the Simpsons.  I loved the combinations, the super moves, the needed cooperation, and the recognizable characters.  As home consoles took over, it appeared that kids moved from the arcade into the basement.  Games have steadily advanced, and many have become overly complicated.  Missing the hack and slash, beat-em-up style games from yesteryear, my inner child did a back handspring when Nintendo announced the NES Classic and the SNES Classic.  I was even more excited when the Nintendo Switch added many of the games I loved.  Many of us love to play retro-style games, and Coffee Crisis attempted to capitalize on nostalgia.

Akin to Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, Battletoads, Fists of Fury and the side-scrollers above, Coffee Crisis is listed as a side-scrolling brawler style game.  The Press-Kit noted that this was a Neo-Rogue Brawler, but this did not seem to match the definition of a Rogue-style game.  According to “Video Game Addiction” by David A. Ollie/Jean Riescher Westcott, Coffee Crisis more accurately fits into the Action Game genre and more specifically into the Beat ’em up subgenre.  Coffee Crisis did not meet the criteria for a rogue style game, which is typically considered a subgenre of role-playing games with dungeon crawling, procedurally generated levels, turn-based game-style, and permanent death.  QUBIC Games.  Coffee Crisis opens to an energetic beat heavy background jam with the two playable characters present along the sides of the screen.  Coffee Crisis, in an attractive retro-style slime green font, was proudly displayed along the top of the screen and gyrated up and down.  Along the top of the screen, you will see cartoon people with red eyes, a crab alien resembling a purple Polywhirl Pokemon and a few other alien image shapes.  The single eye alien reminded me of the Castlevania Eye Monster, but the generic alien head and giant ant creatures did not spark any specific memories.  The Nick character bore a strong resemblance to Silent Bob, but the Ashley character felt a little more generic.  From the main screen, you can choose among 1P Nick, 1P Ashley, 2P CO-OP, Options, and Password.  If you choose password, you can enter a password from one of the levels that you previously completed.  If you select options, you can turn the music on/off, adjust the music volume, the SFX volume, adjust the difficulty, you can toggle on/off special FX, modifiers, cam modifiers, skip multi-cuts, alien cries and vibrations.  You can also select controls to see an image of a diagramed controller.  

The basic premise of the game felt quite cliché.  Smurglian Aliens invaded Earth, and we must rally our efforts to send-them-packing.  This game suggests that the aliens were sent to our planet to steal our metal music, coffee, and our WiFi.  We must assume the role of one of two millennial-baristas Nick and Ashley and use their abilities to decimate the Smurglian hordes.  When I selected 1 player,  a crazy old man named Yinzer appeared.  White-haired and wearing a hat that resembled a folded paper origami boat, he appeared to assume the role of a sage/wizard.  Text appeared across the bottom of the screen and advanced with the press of the A-button.  As a throwback to Star Wars, Yinzer started the saga with: “Not so long ago in a galaxy kinda close to us…”. From that screen onward, we learn of the evil Smurgling race, and the use and theft of our internet/knowledge.  Their ultimate goal, per Yinzer, was to hijack our bandwidth and to create their own dark-web internet, the Smurnet.   With the brief text scenes over, I was whisked away to the front desk of a coffee house, where Nick and Ashley were armed and ready to defend their Joe.  Utilizing a coffee bag and coffee pot respectively, the characters fought the three generic aliens that appeared at the right side of the screen asking “where is the “METAL!?” Once the limited background story and character creation were complete, I was thrown into the mix of side-scrolling beat ‘em up.  I found the best way to play was with the Joy Cons attached to the screen or when docked, the joy cons attached together into a controller.  You can play two-player co-op with a joy con held sideways but this required some learning curve to make sure you pressed the correct buttons. 

Coffee Crisis
Once the action starts, you can tap the Y-button to perform a generic attack and the B-button to jump.  Similar to other side-scrolling games, when you combine these, you will complete a jumping side kick. You can move the avatar easily with the left thumbstick, attack aliens and some environmental features.  The left trigger allowed the character to complete a special attack and the right trigger duplicated the Y-button generic attack.  The A-button also allowed the character to perform a special attack but oddly utilized health as the fuel.  I would caution using this attack, as it will ultimately lead to a quick restart.  As you pass through the levels, there will be some generic powerups, which can alter perception and add a much-needed boost.  Once you complete the level, you will be given a password code, which will allow you to continue from that point.  As we started each level anew, we gained no experience, we did not store any weapons, and there was no customization.  As noted above, there were no elements of the role-playing game genre within this game.  There were some mini-games in between levels, which included a coffee slamming rhythm competition.  I would recommend that you make a concerted effort to write down your code, else you will have to go through the same screens and the same story each time.

I was a little concerned with the language of the game.  One of the early cutscenes demonstrated the Polywhirl-esque alien crab hand pushing Nick/Ashley backward.  The text along the bottom suggested that Ashley said: “What the F was that!?”   Nick responded “Aliens.”  If the goal was to find a family friendly side scroller action game, this game would not be a great choice for you.  I was disappointed that they chose to use this kind of language, which was not appropriate for my 10-year-old, 7-year-old or 3-year old children.  After reading this section and my eldest asking what that meant, my CO-OP experience ended abruptly.   The second level shifted to an outdoor storefront scene with four Aliens, two green one-eyed aliens, and two generic white aliens.  The game then shifted to another cut sequence demonstrating Demon Blend VI coffee.  At this point, we learned that you can pick up and throw smaller enemies with the X-button and that you can charge up attacks by pressing the Y-button, R-Button, ZR-Button or SR-Button. We learn about the special attacks, charge attacks, throws, environmental damage and the reduction in health from this sequence as well.   Yinzer then tells the player to get them you “Jagoffs.”  Again, the language was not appropriate for my children.

As you play the game, you will find a few items that you can pick up with the X-button.  One of the first items was a bat that increased the damage output for a limited time.  In addition to a few environmental that you can pick up power-ups that provided temporary enhancements.  As noted above, you will be tempted to use the special attack and charged attacks, but do so sparingly.  My wife did not like the game and asked: “is this game just about beating up old people?”  The reason that she asked the question was that some of the aliens have walkers and some look like geriatric people.  The game was fun yet repetitive.  It had good music, and the reminded me of many of the games I played as a youth.  Unlike many of the games mentioned above, Coffee Crisis had no character combinations like the Simpsons, no super moves like the X-Men games and no major difference in game style between Nick or Ashley.  You will die many times and have to restart.  There was no option to continue; you will have to add your password.  The game provided a fun outlet for my beat ’em up needs.  I liked that you could pick up a 2×4 lumber, alien limbs, a guitar, and a  katana.  I liked that you had to fight Professor X’s alien clone, rockstar aliens, cowgirl aliens, thug aliens, shiny aliens, etc.  The difficulty escalated quickly, and I found myself writing down passwords for later.   I ultimately did not find myself drawn to the characters or to the need to defend the area from the Smurglings.

Replayability: Moderate
Enjoyability: Moderate
Rating: T

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