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About the Story
Catch up with an old friend over coffee, discovering layers to your relationship that would otherwise be forgotten.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
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Number of Reviews: 4
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A short visual novel filtered through a Game Boy aesthetic, You, Me and Coffee (God, it’s hard to omit the Oxford comma) wears its gameplay on its sleeve: as a post-college twentysomething who’s just moved back home and bumped into an old acquaintance at a coffee shop, interactivity consists of choosing in which order to introduce these seemingly banal but deceptively deep topics of conversation.
This one is all about the dialogue, then, so let’s start out by talking about everything else. The retro graphics are definitely one of YM+C’s selling points, and at least to this child of the 80s, they impress; in particular the pinkish monochrome image of the friend is expressive enough to convey relatively subtle shifts in facial expression without getting overly-detailed and distracting. The game’s structure is also clever: a full playthrough is expected to exhaust each of the six possible orders for the topics, at which point a new final dialogue unlocks. It’s not clear how diegetic this is supposed to be – there’s no indication the characters know they’re experiencing a time loop – but it does succeed in making the player keep track of what they’ve already asked and when, making the game more involved than the choice-lawnmowing visual novels can sometimes promote. On the flip side, though, I found the interface a little annoying – as with most visual novels, by default you only get a line or two of slowly-displaying text at a time, so I kept banging keys to hurry things up and then inadvertently skipping bits of dialogue. Using more of the screen’s real estate would have obscured the graphics, I suppose, but could have increased the readability.
As for the conversations themselves, while each of the six variations hits on distinct subject areas, with one or two exceptions they all share a common tone of warm nostalgia hitting a wall of barely-concealed hostility (this awkwardness is mostly avoided in the timeline where the conversation winds up turning to books – yes, this seems right to me). As it eventuates, you remember this acquaintance as a fun person to hang out with, and with whom you shared some low-stakes stabs at romance; on the other hand, she (I think those are the right pronouns) recalls things differently, and as a result most of the time she’s kind of a jerk.
There’s an explanation for this unpleasantness in the bonus dialogue that’s unlocked after exhausting the others, and it rings true so far as it goes – without going into spoilery details, it turns out that main character was a self-centered jerk who didn’t really notice what was going on with the people around them when they were 17. But to me, what this revelation gains in plausibility it loses in pathos. Perhaps I’m telling on myself here, but my memory of those long-ago teenaged years was that pretty much everyone was completely wrapped up in self-absorption, with only a minimal set of tools for perceiving, much less responding appropriately to, the subjective emotional experience of others. The fact that the friend has apparently held a grudge for what after all are quite venial sins for years, into their mid-twenties, came off as absurdly small-minded, and made the ending feel unduly prosecutorial: instead of an embarrassed but deserved flush of catharsis, I was left blinking in confusion.
If the ending didn’t sit quite right with me, though, I did enjoy the well-observed brittleness of the main dialogues – so much so that I replayed a second time, based on what I thought were hints towards how to get an alternate ending (turns out there isn’t one, or at least I wasn’t smart enough to find it). As befits its early-video-game aesthetic, You, Me and Coffee’s characters are perhaps more callow than they think they are, but there’s pleasure in following along with them all the same.
This is a Bitsy game with 6 different main paths. Bitsy is a visual equivalent to Twine, using simple graphics and arrow keys, although this particular game has some more elaborate images.
Instead of moving a character like most Bitsy games, you navigate a conversation menu. It's a rainy day, and you walk in to see an old friend you haven't seen through years. Different conversations seem to give completely different friends; or do they? There's another thread at the end which is interesting.
Overall, I found this game polished, descriptive, and the interactivity matched its length. I don't think I'd play it again, but it was emotionally interesting to me.
A conversation in a cafe with an old flame. Made with Bitsy, so it has a neat Gameboy-ish aesthetic, pretty similar to Sakura Wars GB. There are only two meaningful decisions to make to steer the conversation, a choice from three options and a subsequent choice from two, so a single playthrough is very short, but it's well worth playing through to see all (3*2) combinations which together give a rounded picture of the two personalities and their relationship.
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