Coffee Crisis Review: Caffeinated Old School Brawling

by David Sanchez May 14, 2020 @ 8:00 am

Coffee Crisis gameplay on PlayStation 4.

Reviewed on PS4

The beat ‘em up genre has seen a revival of sorts the last few years. Games like Double Dragon: Neon and Streets of Rage 4 offered highly polished revivals of long-beloved series. Treachery in Beatdown City played more like an RPG with light brawler mechanics. Dungeon Punks and Dragon’s Crown infused upgrades and leveling into their adventures. Coffee Crisis doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it still offers a good ol’ classic beat ‘em up experience.

Interestingly, Coffee Crisis is the love child of retro beat ‘em ups, heavy metal music, and freshly brewed coffee. The game came about as a result of developer Mega Cat Studios’ love for old school gaming. One look at the Coffee Crisis Kickstarter campaign, and you’ll get a nice history lesson on the game’s development, which saw it released first on the Sega Genesis (Whoa!) and then on PC. The game recently started making its rounds on consoles, and there’s a lot to like about it.

Strong Coffee, Loud Music, Bad Aliens

Coffee Crisis on PlayStation 4.

Beat ‘em ups aren’t usually known for their captivating tales, and Coffee Crisis is no different. It’s an alien invasion story with a slight twist: The aliens are trying to steal coffee, heavy metal music, and Wi-Fi. Yes, it’s absurd, but there’s a cheerfulness to that absurdity.

Coffee Crisis stars Nick and Ashley, a couple of Pittsburgh coffee house baristas tasked with saving the world — and the aforementioned coffee, music, and wireless Internet. You can play as either character in single player mode, or take the duo for a spin in local co-op. Both characters play pretty similarly, with a few minor differences — like their charge attacks — but for the most part, you can go with either character and successfully battle the alien threat.

Combat is simple and focused in Coffee Crisis. You can probably get by a few areas by wildly mashing buttons — which makes this a solid game to play with a friend or family member who maybe doesn’t play a lot of video games — but taking on bigger hordes of enemies and bosses requires you to stick and move. You’ll have to know when to rush in and when to back up. Typically, a brief enemy animation will clue you in if a big attack is coming, and that’s your moment to take a few steps back.

PlayStation 4 version of Coffee Crisis.

You can pick up metal pipes, blades, and other items to give you an edge in combat. These items are disposable so you can’t just spam a blunt object to pummel an alien. There are other power-ups that can either give you brief invincibility or boost your attack power, too.

Aside from the useful pick-ups, there are modifiers that can add filters to the screen. Thankfully, these can be toggled off. They serve no major purpose, and a lot of the time, I found myself frustrated when a dumb red or green filter covered the entire screen. These types of filters make it hard to see enemies, which means you’ll be swinging like a damn fool (and missing) and taking surprise shots from enemies you can’t see (who are right in front of you).

A Modern Sega Genesis Beat ‘Em Up

The 16-bit pixel graphics in Coffee Crisis really stand out as one of the game’s best features. The game looks like a legit Sega Genesis beat ‘em up. Character animations have that colorful, cartoon-like charm that you only got from games like ToeJam & Earl or Streets of Rage. Environments are large and detailed. There’s also a quirky charm to the overall look of the game that’s right in line with its comedic tone.

Coffee Crisis on PlayStation 4 (PS4).

The game’s soundtrack is composed of fast and loud heavy metal tracks. Typically, when I think about the music in coffee shops, my mind instantly goes to mellow indie or ‘80s-inspired new wave bands. As much as I personally like that stuff, it probably wouldn’t be the best fit for beating up evil aliens. The metal music in Coffee Crisis is great for getting you pumped while playing, and it adds a fast-paced, frenetic vibe to all the action and button-mashing.

It’ll take you about two hours to play through Coffee Crisis. The game is fun alone or with a friend, but these types of beat ‘em ups are always better with a buddy to watch your back. The game is plenty fun, and there are multiple difficulties and cheat codes to play around with. It’s not the best in its class, but Coffee Crisis still manages to provide an overall entertaining and enjoyable beat ‘em up experience.

Score: 7 out of 10

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