Necrobarista: Final Pour (Switch) Review
It’s impossible to count the sheer number of games that see you doling out death in every direction. It’s much more challenging to find a game that deals with what is on the other side of that equation. Our time on this planet is fleeting but rarely do we stop to consider the emotions that will face us when our time is nearly up. What would you do for just a little bit more time? How about more time for someone you care deeply about? Necrobarista: Final Pour ponders these musings and does so in a satisfying style all its own, even if there’s not a lot of “game” involved.
Taking place in Melbourne, the story centres around a coffee shop called the Terminal. Along with serving coffee and seemingly just about any other beverage you could ask for, it acts as a resting point for recently deceased souls before they pass on through to the other side. The rule is that you can only stay for 24 hours, then you need to move on. Well, that’s what’s meant to happen anyway.
The Terminal is run by Maddie, who has a habit of letting people overstay their allotted visiting time, much to the chagrin of those who seek to maintain balance around these parts. A sizeable time debt has started to accrue, and Maddie must decide what she’s willing to do to balance the ledger. There’s a loveable cast of characters that you’ll encounter throughout your time in the café, and they each must come to terms with their place in this in-between world and the impact it will have on those around them.
Although the story is somewhat of a slow burn, it soon settles into a compelling rhythm as more layers to this world are peeled back. It handles some rather heavy subject matter with a wry grin and a witty sense of humour, though never loses sight of its core themes of dealing with what we must go through when our time is up. You can also very much tell that it is made and set in Australia, with plenty of cheeky banter and an unmistakable larrikin tone. Sadly, the ending falls just short of delivering the emotional gut-punch that I felt it was capable of, but it’s still an enjoyable exploration of some challenging subject matter.
As far as visual novels go, this is about as true to the name as they come. There’s not a great deal of gameplay on offer, with the story unfolding through still shots and text with just a light dash of animation. Admittedly it’s quite stunning to look at, with an appealing art style and subtle short animations adding a touch of life and character that is simple but effective. Sadly, there’s no voice acting, but the bopping soundtrack is excellent and complements the action nicely.
Outside of pushing the text along though, don’t expect much else requiring your involvement. There are no dialogue options, branching story paths or anything else of that nature. You can wander around the café between chapters to uncover some additional story vignettes, but that’s about it. That’s ok in and of itself, but just don’t go in expecting much beyond an interactive cutscene.
Some additional patrons dotted around the café offer a couple of additional side stories that are entirely unrelated to the main game, but I found these to be as compelling as the core narrative. Samatha’s story in particular tells an incredibly intriguing short tale that left me wanting to explore more of her story and world.
Along with one of the additional side stories, this Final Pour edition adds a few extra goodies not seen in the original release. Gone are the tedious keyword searches that gated off additional memories in the last version, with these now much more easily accessible. There’s also a doodle mode where you can draw on the robots that inhabit the coffee shop, and an insanely in-depth studio mode that allows you to create your own stories and scenes. Granted, it may be too complex for its own good, with a convoluted and unintuitive control scheme and interface, but the tools are here if someone wanted to put in the time to create something special.
Necrobarista: Final Pour is a compelling story of death, grief, and the inevitable passing of our time on this Earth. With an endearing cast, snappy writing, and a careful balancing of humour along with the grim nature of its world, it makes for an enjoyable tale. It may not be the most involved of visual novel games, and the story falls just shy of hitting an emotional home run, but this is still worth a look if you’re after something a little more contemplative.
+ Snappy writing and humour
+ Deftly handles some sombre subject matter
+ Great soundtrack
- Pulls its punches when it comes to the ending
- Not a great deal to do outside of pushing A
- Studio Mode interface is woeful