Necrobarista Wakes the Dead With Dark Magic and Espresso – PAX West 2018
Coffee to die for... and then to come back to life for.
Necrobarista is a 3D visual novel game, set inside of a supernatural Melbourne café, which centers itself around a character named Maddy, a part-time barista who spends her days practicing necromancy. My demo at PAX West was meant to mostly be a tonal piece, however it started as Maddy and a few other characters performed a secret ritual in what appeared to be an underground location. While I don’t have many details to share about Necrobarista’s story, which is mostly being kept under wraps, I will say that what I saw very much intrigued me. During my time with the game, it became apparent that as players eventually make their way through the Australian underworld of Necrobarista, they’ll uncover all sorts of dark, ghostly secrets.
During my conversation with Route 59, the studio that’s creating Necrobarista, I learned that the game’s art style is heavily inspired by anime such as Cowboy Bebop, Soul Eater, and Gurren Lagann – the latter of which is a favorite of mine. Most characters that I encountered were well designed, as each of them possessed some sort of visual detail or accessory that helped them to stand out amongst the crowd of other characters. Also, Necrobarista’s cinematic framing, lighting, and composition are incredible and provide a refreshing update to the visual novel genre – a look that was inspired by filmmaker Wes Anderson.
Instead of utilizing traditional text boxes that appear at the bottom of the screen, the team decided to render them within the 3D space, allowing the text blurbs to occupy the same space as the characters. This stylistic decision results in a distinct aesthetic which is further enhanced by a parallax effect in use, and serves to make the dialogue fit in with the game’s supernatural feel. Necrobarista pulls out every stop to make its world appear moody and suspenseful, and it does so successfully.
Route 59 has implemented a new keyword banking system, which proved to be very intuitive and in my opinion is a welcome addition to the typical visual novel formula. Throughout my time with Necrobarista, my progression was seemingly affected by a group of keywords that I highlighted during moments of dialogue, as they allowed me to unlock new dialogue paths. Only five of these keywords can be held on the UI hot bar, so it’s crucial to highlight words only if you deem them important. Since these words and phrases can be clicked on to read more information, it is easy to learn about the world and the characters that occupy it.
Necrobarista is oozing with style, and the game’s dialogue, mechanics, and visuals all work together to create something that I think is truly unique within the visual novel genre. If you’re looking for a mysterious narrative that merges the worlds of dark magic and espresso, keep an eye out for Necrobarista, which launches in early 2019 on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac.
Follow all of OK Beast’s PAX West 2018 coverage here.