Coffee Noir is part business management game and part detective novel. Developed and published by NAOS Software and DOJI, the game is available now for the PC on Steam. Set in an alternate reality 2021 in Neo-London, Coffee Noir harkens back to the film noir detective movies of the 1940s. Now, I love a good detective story, so I was really keen to review this game. Put on a fresh pot of coffee, sit in your comfy armchair, and enjoy our Coffee Noir review.
Wake Up And Smell The Mystery With Our Coffee Noir Review
Coffee tycoon Richard Kersey is missing, and it is up to private detective Arthur Oliver to find him. For Arthur, this isn’t just any case. He lost his beloved Katherine, also Richard’s wife, ten years ago. Artur tried to help when a shady deal went wrong, but Katherine was shot and killed despite his efforts. As a cover, Arthur assumes the role of a coffee salesman in Richard’s company. He must balance his investigations with the demands of running a business.
Coffee Noir divides its tale over several chapters. In each, you question suspects to find clues while at the same time trying to sell them coffee. Your job doesn’t end with a signed contract. You’ll oversee coffee production and factory upgrades. Also, you must motivate and train your staff.
Are you a fan of narrative fiction or a sucker for business simulations? Comment below and tell us your favourites. If you like management games, then check out our review of Two Point Hospital.
You manage your coffee empire through a series of static screens. Each of these controls a different business function. The investigations board keeps track of the clues, characters, and connections you discover. Need to change how much coffee to produce this week? Then visit the production console to tweak the three coffee types to your heart’s content. Warehouse and production facility upgrades are available here too. Visit HR to hire and fire staff and assign them tasks on the management board. You can hire up to five employees, and each specialises in one of four business areas. Worker placement is flexible, and they can be assigned any task. However, their performance and job satisfaction will suffer if they work outside their specialisation. Lastly, the sales section is where you view current customers and arrange meetings with prospective clients.
Meetings take the form of a one-on-one negotiation between Arthur and a potential customer. Before an appointment can occur, you must meet specific criteria. Usually, this means producing a certain amount of coffee. Often you will be able to research the customer and find background information to use to charm them. Keep track of a customer’s attitude during the meeting and tailor your responses to their personality. With luck, you’ll walk away with a large contract and some clues to pin to your investigations board.
To progress to the next chapter, you must sign contracts with all the available customers. Also, there are several connections to find between the clues you have unearthed. Some of these links can be pretty obtuse. Fortunately, you can purchase connections with some hard-earned profits if you become stuck.
Graphics & Audio
The classic comic book style artwork suits Coffee Noir well. Although subtle, the meeting sections feature some welcome animation. You can change the screen resolution and choose between full screen and windowed mode as far as settings are concerned. The modest system requirements make the game playable on a wide range of systems.
Coffee Noir features several Jazz tunes that fit the style well, and high-quality voice acting is present throughout.
It took around 8 hours to complete the game, and the final chapter brings a definitive end to the story. However, there is little replay value beyond trying to unlock the 60 Steam achievements or complete each chapter’s optional tasks. One of these, “Master of negotiation”, requires every business meeting to end with a 95% or more customer attitude score. The amount of repeated dialogue you would have to hear to achieve this is immense. Adding an expanded simulation-only mode would add more longevity to the game.
I found the business simulation more enjoyable than the story. Balancing the demand for coffee with the cost of production is entertaining. Plus, staff management and keeping customers satisfied is a challenge. Unfortunately, the story places artificial limits on the simulation.
At the start of a chapter, all existing contracts vanish, and all workers remain employed. Losing all customers breaks the illusion of building an ongoing business. In addition, it creates an instant cash flow problem.
The management board contains four usable slots in each section. Five appear in the interface, with one reserved for other uses. Negotiating higher profit margin deals will consume two post-sale slots. You aren’t aware of how many sales you’ll need to make to complete a chapter. So, agreeing to even a single high-level deal can leave the player no room to add new a contract. I found myself in this situation and had to break an existing agreement.
But these are all nit-picks in what is a fun game. Coffee Noir is well written and presented. Plus, the mix of genres is unusual. It kept me fully engaged at all times, to the point where several hours had passed before I noticed. If you’re a fan of either detective fiction or business games, then Coffee Noir is worthy of your attention.
I award Coffee Noir the Thumb Culture Silver Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.