Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator

 

Name:

Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator

Platforms:

PC, Mac

Developer:

Whitethorn Digital

Genre:

Casual, Indie, Simulation, Clicker, Management

Publisher:

Whitethorn Digital LLC

Modes:

Single-Player

Release Date:

30th June, 2017

Engine:

 

Reviewer:

Charede

Product Rating:

Not Product Rated

Review Score:

68/100 (68%)

Disclosure:

Copy: Press copy

Extra: Contacted the developer directly to get a code to bypass one level which broke rather than restart with an entirely new save. Saved me some time to so I could get the review out promptly.

 

If you are a connoisseur of coffee (its not my cup of tea) or perhaps watched the TV show Friends, then you may have at some point thought ‘I could probably run a coffee shop no problem; good old Gunther makes it look a breeze!’ Well, now you can with Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator by Whitethorn Digital.

 

Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator is a story driven experience that places you in the role of a coffee shop owner called Ruby. Without spoiling too much of the story Ruby finds out the owner of the Coffeebottom Estate has mysteriously died and she is their heiress. However, she must prove herself worthy with the help of a Butler who works for the estate. To do so, she must run various Coffee shops in the franchise called Beans and complete certain objectives along the way. However, a mysterious individual stalks her on her journey sets out to sabotage Ruby’s efforts.

 

The game is visually simplistic, opting for a pixelated look, which has some charm, although, personally, not my favourite art direction. Sprites have been carefully designed so that what you are looking at is clear and to the point, which is great; there is nothing worse than squinting to work out what it is you are viewing. I have to give credit for the range of sprites and, in particular, how well the appliances and recipes are done, of which there is a considerable range. The audio complements the visuals well with catchy tunes that are not intrusive or domineering on the experience. The soundtrack is diverse enough that I haven’t consciously noticed too many loops of the same song that often. All in all the visuals and audio marry together very well and add to how much I enjoyed the experience that the game offers. The combination of visuals and audio create a great relaxing game experience with the occasional frantic moment provided by the gameplay.

 

However, what was disappointing was the lack of options within the settings menu. The options menu is very limited to the point of what I would consider slightly frustrating, but not too inconvenient. The only options available are for audio and are limited to music and FX sliders. I understand that, visually, there isn’t the need, per se for advanced lighting options, etc, but my expectation is for it to have the bare minimum of select resolution, windowed and full-screen choices, screen select, gamma and brightness controls. One thing of note for streamers and YouTubers (in particular those who use XSplit), this game at presently does not get picked up by game capture auto detect or as a specified game source. Therefore, if you want to record it the best thing to do is screen capture instead. Another minor gripe I had in the game itself was the lack of an option for the key mapping/control display. There is no static image showing the controls or the ability to customise them.

 

The game does a good job in the first level to explain how to control objects and tools, but having the ability to remind you of the controls would be useful in some cases. In particular, this would be good for those who have not played the game in awhile acting as an easy reminder of controls rather than booting up the first level again. I cannot see the majority of players having an issue of this but it might help a few people out. The control scheme predominately relies on the player using the mouse cursor and keys like shift and r for specific tasks, which keeps things very simple. The controls did work well and were responsive; I had no control issues during approximately five hours of playing this game.

 

In the positive, I enjoyed the recipe system, but I found that after several attempts guessing combinations I would just purchase the recipe from the butler and then go back to the research menu to put them together in the research menu. If anything, I feel that the butler’s recipe information is rather cheap at $35 each, although this is raised in the final level, whereas you can be sat there guessing at three or four-component recipes and each guess will cost you $5 per attempt. The most basic recipes are common sense for the most part, and the more elaborate ones generally revolve around puns and coffee shop humour gave me a good chuckle. At the end of the day having the choice to use the butler to tell you the recipes is a play-style option and one that is welcomed. I did find a bug with the research menu which plagued me for the entirety of the mall level, which made doing recipe research a slog, but I was not able to recreate this issue on other levels.

 

For the most part, I found myself sat there accruing money and doing little else. If you want a more challenging finance-orientated game, this is not going to be your game. If you want something more relaxed, this really could be the game for you! It would be nice if the game could add a finance panel so you could see your daily progress and expenses. The game would also lend itself towards a more tycoon-orientated mode where you could set up multiple coffee shops on a map and go in and out of them to manage them directly and expand your empire. I know this wasn’t the original intent of the game, but it would certainly add replay ability to the game, and if I am honest, was what I was originally expecting the game to be in the first place. I did read the game’s description, which mentioned a story, but I did not expect it to be the focal point that it is. The story is great with well thought-out characters and situation, and I do love it; it is very well done. However, it leaves you rather limited once you have completed as there is little content outside of the scripted levels. The entire story is roughly 5 hours of gameplay. You could replay the levels, which is, from what I understand, what the developer expects players to do. I feel the game would lend itself well to a growing the inherited business empire situation that is perhaps as a follow up to the story. Players could start by owning multiple shops to start that have issues you need to resolve to make them profitable as a bit of challenge. Alternatively players could start a new empire from fresh with some money in pocket and battle it out against rival brands. If not included in this game, maybe it would be an option for a sequel or spinoff.

 

The levels are well thought-out and lend themselves strongly to the story through the use of antagonists, a variety of settings, and the several mechanics/situations the player must compete against to win the level. However, overall, I felt the game lacked challenge and I was often left with the feeling on most levels that after researching a few recipes and putting up some basic decoration and seating. I could essentially AFK and let the game run. There are two examples that stick in my mind where this definitely would not work; the level with all the rubbish being dumped by customers and the mall with the surveillance robots. These were mechanics that I enjoyed and would love to see more of to get the player to work a bit more rather than faffing around in the recipe menu between picking up the cash off the tables.

 

I was expecting that each level would add a new mechanic that increased the challenge slightly each time and build up to the finale, but this is not the case. That specific challenge element is restricted to that level. For example, you have the level with all the trash; my expectation was that I would have to deal with the trash issue in the next level as well as the introduction of the next scenario’s specific challenge. This simply was not the case; the trash problem was not brought forward into the next level or even brought up in the final level. It felt like a certain challenge element was introduced and then thrown away immediately. This keeps the game varied but did not help me feel like I am developing as a coffee shop owner. As a result, mechanically, the game had little to no difficulty curve for me, and the ramp up came exclusively in the form of the story telling. The lack of mechanical difficulty in the final level made the ending not feel like the struggle the story’s protagonist portrayed and I was hoping for. I know the game is labelled as casual, but just the tiniest of difficulty increase towards the end would have been nice to help me feel like I had achieved something rather than witnessed an end that plays out in a very scripted format, regardless of your performance, with no risk of losing.

 

In summary, Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator is a good casual simulation game that particularly excels in the charm that it delivers through story telling and characters. The game features solid core systems and mechanics but is let down by some unpredictable bugs, which are game-breaking in some cases. I strongly feel this game would benefit from the addition of an extra game mode that is more tycoon-orientated to extend the experience and replayability, but I understand this wasn’t the original intent of the game developer. Adding this would, however, also potentially expand the audience it could appeal to without being too heavy-handed with challenge that might drive away more casual players. Right now, the biggest detractors from the game are the lack of additional save slots and bugs currently present in the game (invisible drones, object layering, some AI pathing). The most frustrating of these being one that prevents progress to the next level even when the victory conditions have been met and one that messes with the research menu. I did speak to the developer briefly, and he has assured me that these are currently being worked on, but it still does not excuse releasing the game with such critically game-breaking bugs. However, it would appear I got rather unlucky in my gameplay to get hit by so many bugs in a single play through, as it appears others have had a better experience in this regard, but my situation was not an isolated example. As it stands, I have to judge the game based on what I saw and its current state at the time of writing this. For this reason, I am giving Beans: The Coffee Shop Simulator 68% (68/100). If the core bugs (drone bug & recipe menu bug) are fixed and possibly a more tycoon-esque mode was added to extend the game, this would easily score much, much higher. This is definitely one of the better casual games I have played recently. All in all a good game worth it for the story telling alone; I highly recommend buying it if you love story telling or want a more casual business sim experience.

 

I hope you have found the article and video above informative and interesting. Make sure to sign up for a free account if you haven’t already to support the team and me and also get access to the comment section. I would love to hear your thoughts on the game and my review. Do you already have the game? What was your experience? If so let us know.

 

 

 

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