Releasing a brand new title on Xbox One is indeed a feat, however, launching a game that just recently included a physical cartridge compatible with the Sega Genesis is nothing short of outstanding. Already available on PC as well, Coffee Crisis blends arcade-style brawling action, death metal and an absolute love of arabica beans. An alien invasion has been centered around the city of Pittsburgh, and the only two people that can save the planet are latte making baristas. The Smurglians have decided to steal the most precise items that Earth has to offer: WiFi, heavy metal music, coffee, and cat videos. If it were up to me, I would gladly hold over every single meme inspired cat video on the internet, but I would certainly not stand for the abduction of our WiFi.
The unwanted aliens have taken over the bodies of your fellow earthlings, meaning you’ll need to punch and kick aliens and your fellow Pittsburgh natives. Greys, the typical image of aliens that crashed in Roswell, is only the tip of the iceberg, as you’ll combat the frisky elderly, country western singers, men in suits, dudebros, and more. The entire presentation is done in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion, and I appreciated the little touches that added to the lighter/humor filled tone of the game. Traditionally, Coffee Crisis doesn’t save your progress but does provide a password to continue on the current stage if you see the game over screen. Considering the game has been out for a little while, you can find the codes to start on any of the game’s stages, which doesn’t disable achievements. There are cheats as well, which do disable achievements, but it was nice to see a retro-inspired title using cheat codes, which have become nonexistent nowadays.
Coffee Crisis is limited to two-player local co-op, although I would have liked to see an online option added to the Xbox One version. It does, however, support Mixer Integration, allowing your viewers to assist your journey or make it that much more difficult. As previously mentioned, the game is based around Pittsburgh, and if you are familiar with the area, you’ll recognize some of the landmarks, such as Grandview Boulevard and PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates). Even the game’s shredding soundtrack is produced by a local metal band; Greywalker (very fitting name). As a Sega Genesis game, still can’t believe I am saying that Coffee Crisis feels slightly dated regarding the gameplay, although it has coffee inspired power-ups, equipable weapons, and hand-drawn animations. Presentation aside, the gameplay certainly fits the early to mid-90s arcade-style brawlers. There are primary and charged attacks, jumping attacks, throws, and a special move that drains your health when used (which should feel familiar to Double Dragon fans). When you are getting swarmed on-screen, and you will, it is often difficult to ascertain what is going on, leading to you mashing buttons to hopefully not die. The game is severely lacking defensive abilities (dodging or blocking), and while those don’t fit the traditional mold for the genre, it would benefit the longevity of the game.
Another concern is not really understanding what is going on at any given moment. The opening scene, inside the coffee shop, is over in less than 30 seconds before you are teleported away. Without realizing it, the game initially began with modifiers turned on, which are a handful of various effects during "finish them" parts of levels where you are tasked with facing a swarm of enemies. Which ones are activated and how many seems to be completely random, and this can work to your advantage or make your experience miserable. At one point, the game's audio would cut out, my character was slowed down, and enemies were had increased damage, resulting in some swift deaths. You just never know if the modifier is going to make the experience much more difficult or if you are going to clear stages or bosses in a matter of seconds, which works in your favor. There are also items that change the visual styling of the game, which my favorite being the traditional arcade cabinet complete with scan lines. When the game turns completely red, it felt painful to watch and caused a major distraction.
Coffee Crisis is a throwback title that stays true to the intention of releasing a 16-bit brawler title with a hint of modern flavor. I would have liked to see a bit more modern conveniences added to the gameplay, either through additional moves, either offensive or defensive. In my experience, the game’s difficulty can spike quite high during some of the later stages on the higher difficulties, but the game is quite easy on the lower difficulty settings. If you are looking for a retro-inspired cooperative title to keep you busy for a couple of hours, Coffee Crisis is a good choice.
Note: Coffee Crisis was reviewed based on a digital Xbox One copy of the game, provided by the publisher.