By Sara Young
Image courtesy of Café Enchanté press kit via IGDB
Price: £44.99 on the Nintendo e-shop
Game Length: Varies (60-70 hours approx.)
This review sponsored by the National Development Trust
Picture it: a café, in the heart of Tokyo, warm, full of light and life, and the smell of coffee fresh and pleasant. This café is yours. You receive news of your beloved grandfather’s peaceful death and learn that his dying wish was for you to inherit and preserve the café. How could you refuse? You can unbind yourself from the shackles of your city office job and do what you were born to do: make coffee. So, you travel to the shop, and as you turn the key and the sweet aroma of his specialty coffee, still lingering, drifts pleasantly into your nose, you are comforted and at peace. Along with many happy memories, your grandfather has now given you stability and a future. However, there is one thing he forgot to mention: the café is a front hiding and protecting a gate to an ‘un-human’ world…
Café Enchanté is less like a game, and more like reading a choose-your-own adventure novel, with the narrative bending around each decision I made. There are five routes in the game, one for each of the central characters, and one main route at the beginning which introduces you to them and their concerns. (I would say this took me the longest to complete.) As you play through the game you make choices about what you want your character to say and do. You also make the choice as to who you want her to find romance with. Part of the charm of this game is that as well as an adventure story it is also a love story. You work with the humanoid characters to save the café from a sinister government organisation who want to shut down all connections with the un-human worlds, and in fighting this injustice and prejudice, you find love and deep connections.
Café Enchanté is divided into chapters, continuing the book-like charm of the game, and each character has their own story which consists of about five of these chapters. This is a long game, with detailed backstories and lore for all the characters, but the dialogue and gameplay never feel stagnant or stilted. You can save your progress (or put your metaphorical bookmark in) whenever you’d like, so you can easily pick up where you left off and set the pace of your own adventure. The story moves smoothly towards a final outcome. There are two endings, one ‘good’ and one ‘bad’— the choice is yours to make! I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say, if you like hunky humanoid demons you won’t be disappointed…
The writing is beautifully immersive, and with the soundtrack and character voices, it can be easy to forget you’re not actually in an enchanted café in Japan. (Please be warned: playing this game will make your dull student flat and pending dissertation seem even more depressing by comparison.) The escapism Café Enchanté offers is truly fantastic, the characters are charming and utterly convincing with their individual nuances and quirks. The romance is often light-hearted and alleviates some of the more intense moments and twists of the plot. And if you’re not into the romance aspect of the game it works equally as well playing it solely for the adventure. Both the characterisation and the plot are extremely detailed and developed, so you’re constantly thinking and connecting facts as you play through.
Overall, I really could not fault Café Enchanté. With the lively soundtrack and gorgeous art design, the game creates the illusion of walking through a Studio Ghibli movie. As someone who both loves to read and loves a choose-your-own adventure game, Café Enchanté was perfect for me. Buy this game. (Though maybe finish your dissertation first…)