Mornings are a bit of a grind for me. That fist swill of super strength roast is about the only thing that makes me function. So when Mega Cat Studios unleashed an alien invasion on the local caffeine scene, we had to take a look at this indie beat em up, Coffee Crisis.
Coffee Crisis is a side scrolling beat em up, developed by the bonkers Pittsburgh based Mega Cat Studios and published by Qubic Games. This particularly authentic ode to 16-bit gaming is not the first coffee flavored game we’ve seen and was originally devised as a new title for the Sega Genesis. After a physical cartridge release back in early 2017, the mash of olde gaming and caffeinated catastrophe is now available on the Nintendo Switch.
Coffee Crisis follows two unlikely heroes and an unexpected alien invasion. As the evil Smurglian race ravage earth their sights are set on our coffee, metal music, and our free wifi. What follows is a side-scrolling adventure across a multitude of locations, from your local coffee bar to the local roasters and into outer space. A range of alien interlopers and their human underlings in homage to games like Double Dragon, Turtles in Time, and Streets of Rage.
Like each of these classic beat em ups, this neo rogue brawler puts players in the shoes of one of the heroes. Both Nick and Ashley can scroll through each of the game’s levels battering alien hordes with their own particular set of moves. While Ashley has a more nimble outlook and wields a grinder, Nick can be found beating up invaders with his own bag of beans. Both of our heroic baristas have their own primary attack and secondary style move. Special moves are also available for Nick and Ashley allowing you to add some extra punch to your assault. Environmental weapons such as wooden planks, street signs, and metal poles can also be found strewn around each level. These environmental weapons can come in particularly handy as boss battles appear. This provides a decent level of challenge throughout a fairly linear progression system that relies heavily on challenging players by ratcheting up the difficulty.
Four difficulty modes are available to players looking to see off the alien hordes including a Death Metal Mode, which cranks things up to a ridiculous level. Death Metal mode even makes the first few steps into Coffee Crisis a thundering assault on the senses, a filling the screen with a mosh pit of alien menace. Difficulty in Coffee Crisis relies heavily on adding more enemies, meaning the higher difficulty tiers can require an extra pair of hands. Thankfully, single screen co-op is available for friends to team up and trash some alien invaders.
In order to keep things from becoming too repetitive, Mega Cat Studios includes a series of modifiers and bonus drops for each level. Modifiers can fundamentally change the way the game plays and turning you into a killing machine, adding weird and unworldly filters to the screen, or summoning a swarm of enemies. Between the range of enemies, boss encounters and the modifier systems, Coffee Crisis is a fun, frantic, mash-up of metal and 16-bit gaming that makes for a satisfying challenge.
Where Coffee Crisis can feel a little decaf comes down to the limitations of this side-scrolling format. Despite the genuinely fun nature and frantic action, cranking up the difficulty can become overly busy. A pit of alien cannon fodder crams the screen, causing a cacophony of color and noise that makes little sense. While bonus drops and boss fights help things along I also feel that combat could use a little more variation. After hours of play, I not only tended toward utilizing Nick’s skills but even tended to utilize a very particular play mode, bunching mobs together and swinging my bag of coffee beans through the mob of interlopers. In the end, this makes for an experience that walks a line between fun, frantic, but can’t shake off the repetitive nature of retro gaming.