For everyone who doesn’t scour the very depths of Steam, in search of the hidden gems that may lay there, Beans is a coffee shop simulator was made by a three-man hobby developer in their spare time over two years. It’s their first game, and it’s the very definition of indie. That is both what made me love Beans, and what made me stop playing it.
First up, I want to make a prediction. Whitethorn Digital, if they choose to make another game, will very quickly become a powerhouse in the gaming industry. Beans, for all of its flaws, was one of the most fun games that I’ve ever played, period. So before I start ripping it apart, let’s talk a little bit about what makes it so awesome.
When the main character’s rich uncle that she never knew she had dies, she inherits the Coffeebottom fortune, and along with it the chain of restaurants, fame, and other ambiguous boons that came along with it. In order to claim her fortune, though, she must prove herself by successfully building and running a series of coffee shops, with progressively more difficult twists, while fending off the evil attempts of a mysterious villain, searching for the murderer of her uncle, and some other weird stuff that pops up along the line. I’m sure there’s more to Beans, as the story kept getting better and better, but I didn’t get there.
Most games that fall under the “Tycoon” genre that Beans does become very boring very quickly, and eventually become a meaningless quest to keep numbers going up. Beans deals with this beautifully by making each level a fresh start, and adding some sort of challenge. Whether it’s destroying lawyer drones, keeping up with online reviews, or fending off a strange Robert Irvine/Gordon Ramsay combination of a show host, each level offers some new and fun twist that keeps you playing and enjoying. The possible recipes and usable decor also change with each level to reflect the mood, which keeps every level feeling very different and fun.
The gameplay itself functions quite well. Each individual shop is a level, which you leave behind when the level is beaten. To beat a level, you need to raise a certain amount of money, place certain things, host certain events, or other goals. While playing a level, recipes are created by combining appliances until something pops out, and this is where the magic of Beans starts to shine through. Some of the recipes that came up over the course of the levels I played through were so hilarious and whimsical that I fell off of my chair, until I realized that they sounded like real recipes. Whether it was a syrupy bagel microwaved so long that it became a hunk of carbs and sugar, a pile of alcoholic whipped cream, or the infamous Bagelcino, the recipe research comprised most of the fun gameplay. From there, it was mostly about decorating and furnishing your restaurant, which affects the amount of customers going in and out. My one complaint about the gameplay itself would be that the goals to beat a level are a little bit too lofty, to the point where I had the time and spare money to wallpaper my restaurant with TVs while waiting for the correct amount of total sales to be reached.
The last big positive note of Beans was the charm. Indie games are usually charming, silly, and reflective of the people who made it. The story and dialogue were witty and silly, the descriptions of things were hysterical, the graphics were admittedly kind of bad but still adorable, and there were a latte of great puns. I love that they’re “espressing” themselves by brewing up some great puns! I can even tell that someone involved in the game worked at a coffee shop. As a part-time employee at a local coffee shop myself, this game rings true in so many different ways it’s hard to count. There was so much obvious love put into this game that I just couldn’t stop smiling. The indie charm, however, came hand-in-hand with the band of indie games – bugs. Game-breaking bugs.
I knew something was wrong when random things on the menu screen beeped when you clicked on them. However, I was able to overlook that for the charm. Then, the appliances in the recipe screen started to hide under other appliances. No big deal, right? I can always just find them. Sadly, that was the beginning of the end. The bugs got so bad that the developers themselves released cheat codes to bypass some of the bugs that make Beans unplayable. Let me list some of them off.
- On a level where evil lawyers send drones to spy on you (I told you this game was awesome), the drones eventually become invisible, and the progress bar for the lawyers starts to grow exponentially.
- This wasn’t that much of a problem for me, though, as nothing really seemed to happen when the bar filled up, even though it was supposed to mean that I had lost and I was being sued into poverty.
- At least, I didn’t THINK it did anything, until I found out that I could not finish the level. This is where the cheat codes come in – the developers provided a code to select any levels or cutscenes that you want. (If anyone out there gets the game, the code is IDDQD.)
- Once I got to the next level, customers started to randomly freeze and stop in their tracks. Eventually, I ran out of customers, and that was where I chose to end my journey.
All in all, Beans is one of my favorite games. I think it will win some awards (or at least some hearts) and I look forward to seeing more games come out of the developers. Until the bugs are fixed, though, I can’t recommend that anyone plays the game. When the game is fixed, as I hope it will be soon, I would give it an eight or a nine out of ten, and would recommend it to everyone I know. (I’ve actually already gotten a copy for a friend, despite the bugs.) Until then, though, I can’t give it as good of a score as I so desperately want to, and give it a solid five.
Developer: Whitethorn Digital
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital LLC
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Released: Jun 30, 2017
Copy provided by publisher