Teacup is a young frog, and she really loves tea. In fact, Teacup, a chill narrative game from developer Smarto Club, opens with the titular frog preparing to host a tea party, only to discover she is fresh out of tea (and several other supplementary ingredients)! That’s where the player comes in, taking control of Teacup as she ventures out into the world to get what she needs for her party.

Teacup

Smarto Club
Whitethorn Games
PC/Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Series X/S, iOS, Android
September 23, 2021

Sidequest was provided with a copy of Teacup for Android in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Teacup is a self-proclaimed “easy” side-scrolling narrative game. You guide Teacup through a series of beautifully illustrated locations in her local area, including the nearby lake and bustling marketplace. Some of the ingredients Teacup needs for her party can be found in the wild, but mostly you’ll need to chat with the villagers and complete a variety of minigames to gather what you need.

Teacup is a charming game that I’d been looking forward to for a while. The watercolour-esque artwork is gorgeous, reminiscent of children’s picture books. The art style actually changes for some of the minigames, which is a cute touch; for instance, a minigame where you deliver cups of tea to customers takes on a pixelated style, a la retro classic Tapper. Teacup is a simple, laidback game with a low barrier to entry, something I’m always happy to see more of.

A screenshot from Teacup (Smarto Club, Whitethorn Games, 2021) depicting a marketplace in an illustrated style. Teacup, an anthropomorphic frog, is speaking to an anthropomorphic rabbit vendor who says, "Hello! Buy some mushrooms, I'm 100% positive they're not poisonous."

Unfortunately, for me, Teacup never felt like the cosy, play-while-swaddled-in-blankets sort of game it’s designed to be. Sure, the game’s pacing felt a little too slow for my tastes, the gameplay a little too basic. But even my visual novel-averse arse could have enjoyed settling down for a few hours in bed with Teacup and a hot drink. No, the main problem I had with Teacup on Android was that it is buggy as hell.

I found jank around every corner, making it impossible to relax into the game. The very first minigame I encountered displayed a blank page instead of instructions; as a straightforward jigsaw-type puzzle, this wouldn’t normally be a problem. However, the pieces I was trying to place wouldn’t rotate into the correct positions and I feared I wouldn’t be able to move past the puzzle. After several reboots of the game, I ended up accidentally rotating a piece by tapping near one of its edges. The rotation mechanic remained clunky and hit-and-miss, but I managed to stumble my way through the minigame and progress through the rest of the game.

Alas, my frustration with the game didn’t end there: using the on-screen joystick to control Teacup didn’t help, either. To be fair to Teacup, I don’t usually play games on Android so I’m not used to on-screen joysticks, which can’t provide the sort of tactile feedback physical joysticks can. Teacup moves at a leisurely pace but I frequently found my thumb halfway across my tablet’s screen, creating a sense of disconnect (“surely Teacup should be moving faster with the joystick pushed so far over?”) and increasing my frustration (“why isn’t Teacup moving faster?”). On its own, this probably wouldn’t have particularly impacted my experience with the game, but Teacup’s slow movement combined with the constant bugs made me feel like my progress was continuously hindered.

A screenshot from Teacup (Smarto Club, Whitethorn Games, 2021) depicting three anthropomorphic raccoons in leather jackets in a forest.

Speaking of progress, another little inconvenience (that felt magnified when experienced alongside so many other little inconveniences) is that the game doesn’t feature quest markers or an objective list to remind you of your current goal. Teacup is pretty linear: you generally unlock your next goal along with a new location, so for many players, this wouldn’t be much of a concern. But I’m someone with memory and attention issues, so I did struggle to remember where I was meant to go next, especially as I unlocked more locations on the map or if I needed to take a break from playing (often out of frustration). Towards the end of the game, I spent a lot of time wandering around the same areas trying to figure out where I needed to go next. It’s not a huge deal, but it contributed to the tension I felt while playing Teacup, especially after encountering a bug where speaking with particular characters crashed the game entirely.

I’m sure that most of these bugs will be ironed out of the Android version and, according to a cursory search for other reviews online, it seems like the game doesn’t come with the same problems on consoles. It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to get the soothing and “wholesome” experience the developers intended, but I think Teacup is still worth playing if you want a chill game for a rainy afternoon—although I cannot recommend the game on Android. Teacup would be a delightful game to play with kids, particularly considering its colourful but gentle art style and quirky supporting characters. I also really appreciated Teacup’s recipe book, which features actual tips on brewing and choosing ingredients for the perfect cup of tea. The book provides a nice way to learn more about different types of tea and what sweeteners and flavours go well with which leaves.

Despite Teacup‘s many issues on Android, which made playing the game a disappointing experience for me, I am glad to see another genuinely “easy” game aimed at several age ranges. While not necessarily my, uh, cup of tea, Teacup‘s simple gameplay and cute story provide a fun way to bring young and new gamers into the fold. I would like to see an objective list added as an accessibility feature for disabled and neurodivergent players like myself (I’ve written before about publisher Whitethorn Games’s conflation of “easy” with “accessible”). But nonetheless, if you enjoy tea and, like many of us here at Sidequest, if you like frogs, you could do worse than give Teacup a play. Just stick to the console version.