Necrobarista (PC) Review

By Athanasios 04.11.2020

Review for Necrobarista on PC

The genre of visual novels isn't exactly full of options. If anything, each and every title tends to repeat the same few tropes again and again, with the vast majority of titles being formulaic date sim/harem eroge-style games. Despite its anime look, and kind of stereotypical cast of characters, Necrobarista isn't one more of those thrown into the pile. Instead, it's a rare instance of a VN that's original. How original? Well, what was the last time you've enjoyed one where it took place in a mystical plane sitting between life and death? Even if you did, was that plane something that resembled a hipster café?

The place known as The Terminal is basically Limbo - a dimension that's right between the realm of life and death, were the dead can rest for 24 hours, before continuing their trip to the "other side." Before that, however, they can also grab a nice cup of Frappuccino, as this happens to be a cafeteria. Maddy, the girl who runs it, can prepare whatever her clientele requires, and exchange a few words with them while at it.

Well, no. Scrap "a few words." Maddy, and to be honest, all characters available, will talk, talk, talk, and then do some more talking. Is that a problem, however? This is a visual novel after all. Unfortunately, not only does Necrobarista takes its sweet time to go anywhere, but it also has a penchant for adding tons of boring, unimportant, and more often than not, filler dialogue.

At its core, it's about a bunch of people dealing with the afterlife (what it means, and how to accept it), and the ethics of playing with the rules that govern this plane of existence. In practice, though, this is way too slice-of-life-esque, so its central themes sort of get pushed aside for latrer, with the bulk of the experience being just the main quarter of characters available interacting with each other.

Screenshot for Necrobarista on PC

That's not to say that this can't be a fun experience. The characters are interesting and likable, and there are equal doses of them goofing around, as well as dealing with their own personal issues, but the pacing is excruciatingly slow, and the writing isn't exactly stellar, which is no small offense for something that depends so heavily on that. Not to mention that it can all start to get boring after a while.

The characters are definitely the highlight of Necrobarista, but they kind of run out of steam too soon, as each of the many short chapters on offer have them doing the same thing over and over again. Maddy gets sassy with the café's patrons; genius kid Ashley does her crazy antics while high on caffeine; Kishon (a new customer) is trying to understand this cappuccino-flavoured purgatory, and so on…

Maybe the problem is that there is no plot. Well, no, there is one, it just that it feels like there isn't, since most of the time these folk just talk with each other, with the whole thing leading…. nowhere, honestly - and by the time the story starts going somewhere, it's already late, as you've probably lost all interest after the 10th meaningless or pseudo-philosophical conversation… just like in a real café!

Screenshot for Necrobarista on PC

It's important to remember that this is a visual novel, and a kinetic one at that, therefore there's nothing else here besides reading, so the fact that one needs to go through lots of boring lines of dialogue before getting to the good stuff is not a minor flaw. It's a shame really, because the good stuff are really good here. Necrobarista can be quite the emotional rollercoaster when it finally decides to do so.

There are moments, especially near the end of this three-to-four hour ride, where this finally remembers that its main theme is death. Yes, it will take a while, but when that happens, it will hit really hard. Without spoiling much, the easy-going façade of the characters will start breaking, and their fear of the inevitable end, or the pain that comes from loss, will start pouring through the cracks.

Unfortunately, intriguing as all this may sound, the execution leaves much to be desired. Besides the filler dialogue mentioned earlier, there are also scenes that this could easily do without, like the intermissions between chapters, where three droids add even more filler dialogue, which supposedly add to the world and character building. It does… but it also gets boring after their third or so appearance.

Screenshot for Necrobarista on PC

Speaking of world building, the player can also unlock small pieces of lore that read like short tales, which sadly also feel like filler, and with the process that these get unlocked being equally tedious with the aforementioned droid sequences, since it doesn't feel like playing a video game, but as if watching an annoying and useless cut-scene that can't even be skipped - rinse and repeat for about 15 times!

This is simply disappointing. It's not bad, but it feels that there's a much better version of it still inside the minds of the people that made it. The team's love for its creation is more than obvious. This wasn't just a quick cash grab. Actual effort, as well as talent went into it… but maybe most of it was spend on the very impressive visual aspect of Necrobarista - budgetary constraints taken into account.

Unlike most visual novels, this plays more like a slideshow/movie hybrid, where camera positioning changes very often, yet there's minimum use of animation. It's a style that's hard to describe on text, but it simply works, and the outcome looks beautiful. The character design might be a tad… Spartan, yet the clever use of colour, lighting, and the excellent shot framing, makes almost every scene wallpaper-worthy.

Screenshot for Necrobarista on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Compared to most visual novels Necrobarista is, without a doubt, a breath of fresh air… but sadly only concept wise, because the execution doesn't follow suit. Filled with dialogue whose only purpose seems to be to stretch the overall duration, and with the whole experience leaning heavily towards repetitive character encounters, it becomes increasingly hard to remain interested in this, otherwise, very original and exciting look on the subject of death. Long story short, this cup of coffee looks great, and has an inviting aroma, but the taste is decent at best.

Developer

Route 59

Publisher

Coconut Island Games

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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