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About the Story
One dream. Fourteen days. Serve drinks and gather enough tips to make it happen in time. Or choose chaos and mix whatever you feel like, damned the consequences.
- Story Mode with 6 endings, 3 difficulty levels for the drink mixing and randomly generated paths.
- Arcade Mode with 3 game type (Endless, Perfection and Timed) where you can just mix drinks.
You can play with either a mouse or a keyboard (links are keybinded).
Content warning: mention and use of alcohol, mention of violence, lewd language and swearing, animated text and background (can be toggled off)
Bartending simulation, fantasy •
Two hours •
37th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 9
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As someone who's never tried alcohol, mixed drinks always seem intriguing; I always imagine they'd be like milkshakes or punch or other sweet things. From what people say, it's not really like that. But I like the way the bottles look and the idea of trying to combine ingredients in a neat way.
This game heavily features a minigame where you have a stock of drinks (represented visually with nice graphics) and have to mix specific cocktails from it. All real-world drinks have been re-named, and some are pretty funny (especially ones that are just nicknames for a single drink).
The main storyline is about you, a young individual, trying to save up enough money to buy out the tavern owner. Simultaneously, you are contacted by a 'watcher', an extradimensional being, who discusses the nature of agency with you.
The dialogue in the game is written with an accent, which is always a risky choice, as it can come off pretty goofy or hard to read. This one was fairly simple, though, so that's good.
There is some strong profanity in the game (I have a filter that turns it off, because why not?), and some mild references to sexual situations.
-Polish: I had a couple of times where a major event repeated itself (making a buffet, passing out, etc.) and there was some fiddliness with things like the tip box, where you made a choice whether to put it out or not, then when doing the 'getting ready for the day' menu, you had the choice again, repeated word-for-word. Just things like that I feel could be fixed up a bit.
+Descriptiveness: The game is very descriptive, especially with the imaginative cocktail names.
-Interactivity: Like several other reviewers have pointed out, the main minigame can get monotonous. I got to flinching when I'd get another round of 9 orders. But I think the core idea is good, maybe it just needs a few tweaks. I wish there was a sense of progression in skill, or something to learn, but after the first few it's mainly repeating identical actions.
+Emotional impact: I found it heartwarming the way the group could hassle each other but also bond in positive ways.
+Would I play again? With a few changes, like those mentioned above, I think it would be fun.
This game has really gorgeous UI, a story mode, and several arcade modes. You play as a bartender in a fantasy universe (think typical fantasy TTRPGs) and serve clients drinks.
The story mode needed a little more attention when I played. There were still a few bugs, but these will likely all be fixed soon, if they haven't been addressed already. The author has been extremely responsive to all reports of errors.
The arcade mode, though, and the core drink-mixing mechanics, are an absolute triumph. The UI really shines here, with colorful bottles, a variety of recipes, and gameplay that is just difficult enough to be challenging (the timed modes are especially fun).
There are also a few clever UI implementations in the story mode gameplay itself, which add variety to the randomized patron encounters (one involving Tarot Cards was really delightful).
All-in-all, definitely a game I would recommend. Whether you play around in arcade mode for a few minutes, or take some time and delve into story mode and meet the Tavern's customers, you're in for an entertaining experience.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp)
Rarely have I encountered as felicitous a coincidence between a game’s theme and my ultimate feelings on it as I have with The Thick Table Tavern, a high-production-value fantasy bartending sim. It comes on strong and heady, with a cool spinning logo upon startup and an enticing bear-foam animation behind the main menu, and the complex-seeming but ultimately straightforward bartending interface put me in mind of the sense of mastery that comes once you’re a few drinks in. The welcome I got from the companionable cast of characters, meanwhile, mirrored the warm, friendly flush you feel once you’re proper tipsy.
From there, though, things started to go awry. Bugs led to story events repeating themselves, making me feel like I was blacking out and losing my memory. Bartending started to become tedious, like when you’re drinking because that’s what you do, not because it’s much fun anymore. And ultimately, while I thought I’d saved enough money to realize my dream, somehow I must have pissed it all away without realizing it, ending the night broke and embarrassed.
Let’s circle back to the good stuff, though, because there’s a lot of it. This Twine game is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, with well-chosen colors and icons and an attractive but functional bartending system that makes it easy to pick out the host of alcohols, mixers, and garnishes you’ll use to construct cocktails for the inhabitants of the generic fantasy town you inhabit. Your co-workers are stereotypes – the gruff boss with a not-at-all-hidden heart of gold, the gossipy barmaid, the sensitive artiste of a chef – but they’re appealing stereotypes who are fun to hang out with, and they seem to care about the protagonist with a low-key affection that creates a pleasant, chill-out game vibe (it helps that the author has a good ear for dialogue). In general the prose feels like it’s translated from another language – there are some homophone errors, like “faint” for “feint” – and pretty much every passage could be edited down by 20 or 30 percent, but the writing is enthusiastic without going over the top. Here’s an early description of a hangover, by way of example:
"Still, you do not yet despair from your condition. Instead, you rouse yourself into acting on your behalf, even if blinded and quite alone. Waving your free hand around, you hope to find some sort of light switch to flick or some candle to extinguish, as a way to relieve your fragile glossy organs from this hellish torture."
The structure is a plus too. Each day, you come to work, and get ready for the shift to come – cleaning the bar, restocking it, and bantering with your coworkers. Then you need to fill three or four rounds of orders, with a special event of some kind usually coming around each day’s lunch rush. At closing time, you tot up your tips and measure your progress towards the goal you picked at the beginning – earning enough to pay for membership fees at the adventurers’ guild, buy the bar, or purchase a robot bartender (I think? I’m just judging by the dialogue option for that one so it might play out differently). You’ve typically got a few choices in how you interact with your colleagues and deepen your relationships with them – oddly for a bartending sim, the customers are nameless, faceless abstractions outside of the unique events where you’ll meet a fortune teller, or old married couple doing one last trip, or fourth-wall-breaking spirit dispensing endearingly self-deprecating commentary on the author’s shortcomings.
Most of what you do, though, is mix drinks. The barmaid will give you a set of orders, which you work through one by one using the aforementioned graphical interface. Everything has a whimsical fantasy name, but you can always toggle on a recipe card to learn that Wyrm’s Piss is just a fancy name for beer, or that the ingredients for Sailor’s Demise live up to their billing – gin, absinthe, grenadine, and orange juice, ugh, that’s a headache in a glass. There are three difficulty settings, and playing on Normal, it was always clear what I needed to do, modulo having to decode the icons to figure out that cherries came under the “berries” category (they’re actually stone fruit) and relying on some out-of-game knowledge to realize that I could get grenadine by clicking the syrup icon. On hard, apparently there are timers, but overall bartending feels like a pacing mechanism to help immerse yourself in your character’s job.
Unfortunately, I do think the pacing is a bit off. The game runs over 14 days, and it took me about 40 minutes to play through the first of them, which included mixing about 16 drinks, which felt like a lot. Subsequent days went quicker as I realized which bits of text were repetitive, and got more used to the interface, but still, I often wound up having to make 15 or 20 drinks to advance through each day, which feels like too much given the essentially repetitive and unchallenging nature of the bartending minigame. Despite this slight grindiness, though, I was enjoying myself as I wrapped up day seven, which involved the bar owner running a special promotion that saw seemingly the whole village come in for a drink (I mixed 31 of them) – especially since at the close of that day I’d managed to accumulate 321 coins, just over the 300 I needed to achieve my goal (I’d run into a strange bug that meant I only earned 3 coins apiece for the first few days, despite the end-of-day-wrapup screens indicating I should have been getting more like 60-70 each night, but fortunately it wound up correcting itself).
Relieved of the burden of focusing on filthy lucre, I was excited to see what the next day’s special event – so imagine my surprise when on the afternoon of day eight, the bar owner decided to run that same promotion, leading to the same ridiculous rush of patrons. And then imagine my frustration when the same thing happened on days 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. On the plus side, that meant I finished the game with over 1,200 coins burning a hole in my pocket – but returning once more to the negative, perhaps that meant a counter looped over or something, since on day 15 I got a depressing ending indicating that I hadn’t earned enough for my guild dues after all, and would have to try again.
From my understanding, the author has since fixed these bugs, so hopefully future players will have a smoother time of it. And the game well deserves the effort – I’m bummed that bugs cut short my enjoyment this time out, but now that it's gotten a few more renovations, I suspect the Thick Table Tavern will be a rewarding place to be a regular.
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