Sometimes it's nice to play a video game where I don't need to really do much other than just relax and escape. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, and when I saw Monster Coffeeshop featured during this years USC Games Expo, it seemed like the right order. Monster Coffeeshop is a relaxed-causal mobile game where you play as a barista working in a coffee shop frequented by otherworldly patrons. They'll give you information about their tastes, what they've been up to, and how much they like or dislike the drink combinations you come up with while selecting ingredients that float on screen. There's a definite VA-11 HALL-A vibe here, but unlike the bleak and at times way-too-real cyberpunk bartending adventure, in Monster Coffeeshop you're dealing with a more relaxed experience that's surprisingly addictive.
A Tall Order
Monster Coffeeshop plays with a calming and relaxing chill vibe throughout. There's no way to fail, and you don't need to worry about budgeting and time mechanics. Just serve coffee and other drinks to the patrons while learning more about them and what they like. You can serve them the wrong drink and they'll react accordingly, but overall, student developers Ah-Young Joo and Kai Xin Carys Gooi successfully reached their goal of making something that's relaxing and engaging.
I had a chance to talk to Joo and Carys Gooi during the USC Games Expo to talk to them about Monster Coffeeshop and what motivated them to making the game.
"We choose a coffee shop because its a relatable and calming place," they said. When asked about what ultimately led to the creation of Monster Coffeeshop, I was told that the duo wanted to not only make a mobile game that has low stakes, but also something digestible that can be played for a few moments.
The art direction in Monster Coffeeshop is meant to be "soothing and relaxing" while also following a calming color theory that's designed to be inviting. When I asked about why they choose monsters over human or animal characters, I was told by the developers that they figured monsters were more interesting and they could do more with them plot wise.
Working on a game in the current age of COVID-19 is definitely more difficult than it was earlier this year, but for Joo and Carys Gooi, getting Monster Coffeeshop out the door in time for the USC Games Expo wasn't too difficult.
"We're friends and we already know how the other person works, so it wasn't too hard to communicate..." Joo in a zoom call. "We were also able to take breaks when needed."
Monster Coffeeshop took Joo and Carys Gooi a few months on and off to develop, and they still plan to add more monsters, ingredients, and drinks in future updates. "It's been a great experience so far," Joo said when I inquired about showing the game off at the 2020 USC Games Expo.
Monster Coffeeshop is playable on Mac, PC, and Android. You can find it on the Google Play Store, Itch.io, and the USC Games Expo website along with 49 other games all developed by students of the University of Southern California.