You know what I appreciate as a critic, more than anything? Enthusiasm. It’s the primary thing that I look for; artists will always have differing skill levels or styles, and while one artist’s work may appeal to me more instinctively, another’s, though less refined, might become more of a favorite on the basis of the enthusiasm they possess for the thing they’ve made.

Coffee Crisis

Mega Cat Studios
Sega Genesis/PC
February 24, 2017

This brings me to Coffee Crisis. Now, in case you’re thinking “wow, backhanded insult much?” Allow me to clarify—the folks at Megacat are making extremely refined work here. It’s just that they also happen to be very enthusiastic about it. One has to, in order to be making 16-bit Genesis games in the year 2018.

 

Behold the 90s glory.

Understand that I’m not just talking Genesis-quality games; I mean that for the purposes of this review they literally sent me a cartridge designed to work with a Sega Genesis, complete with appropriate packaging and an included instruction booklet. They didn’t have to go this far—Coffee Crisis is available on Steam—but they did, and I respect the hell out of that. Is it a marketing gimmick? Sure. But it also speaks to attention to detail. There’s a clear desire here to create as authentic a Genesis-era gaming experience as possible, and that’s the kind of thing that comes from a love of the craft.

Coffee Crisis, Mega Cat Studios, 2017.

Ashley and Nick in what I assume is a regular occurrence for baristas.

Granted, none of that matters if the game itself doesn’t hold up to play, right? Well, I’m pleased to say that it does. The barista beat-em-up operates on a minimum of story; you play either Nick or Ashley, and there are aliens. They want to fight you. There are also old people. They want to fight you too. I worried for a moment whether I was supposed to save them, but apparently not—they attacked me with canes and walkers, so I attacked them back with a coffee pot. And a cricket bat. And a severed tentacle.

Coffee Crisis, Mega Cat Studios, 2017.

Did I mention I’m bad at games? Also, note the simulated screen distortion like you might get with an older TV.

The game itself is a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the style of the Streets of Rage series or the second-through-fourth TMNT games. I was playing on Easy difficulty, but the challenge was still considerable enough that I died about four times in the first level (whether that speaks to the game’s coded difficulty or the sheer rustiness of my skills as a player of side-scrolling games, I will leave to you, dear reader). Controls are simple: you can move in the four cardinal directions, jump, attack, or use a special attack. You can also pick up items as you come across them! Power-ups will simply require you to walk over them, but additional weapons will require a button-push to grab. Those additional weapons are temporary; they last for a set amount of hits before they break. They also give your character knockback, which I found to be a mixed blessing—it can get foes off of you in a hurry, but it can also lengthen encounters as you chase them across the screen.

Truth told, I don’t think I’m likely to play much more of Coffee Crisis. It’s not a question of the game’s quality at all; as I’ve said, it knows exactly what it wants to be and pursues that goal with abandon. It’s more that I’ve moved on from who I was when I played Genesis games on the regular. It makes for a fun, brief nostalgia trip, and I might even break it out for some couch co-op with a friend sometime, but beyond that, as well-made as it is, it’s just not for me. Still, if you’re looking for some of that nostalgia yourself, Coffee Crisis might be exactly your jam.

Nola is a bad influence.

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