If you ever found yourself daydreaming about opening a cafe staffed with cute, cheery Pokémon, your time has finally come. A new video game, Pokémon Café Mix (developed by Genius Sonority for Nintendo), offers yet another digital bit of video game escapism for folks dreaming of pre-pandemic coffee times.
This shiny new addition to the franchise’s extensive roster launched June 23 on Switch, iOS, and Android. (Switch players take note: this game can only be played in handheld mode.) The free-to-start puzzle game is aesthetically endearing, like pretty much all things Pokémon. While free to download, there are in-game purchases available, even on the Switch, ranging from $1.99 to $54.99 depending on which pack you’re after.
In this game you get to fulfill orders and oversee an eager team of Pokémon pals, serving up crafted drinks and dishes to a clientele exclusively made up of Pokémon. The cafe items range from an “Eevee latte” and “Hot Litwick Cocoa” to more Japanese-style plates, such as a “Pikachu Curry,” which is reminiscent of the Pokémon-themed cafe in Tokyo. Playing this game is like being served a shot of dopamine every five seconds: there is nothing quite like watching a Togepi get excited over a stack of fluffy pancakes shaped like Eevee.
The fact that this game involves Pokémon wearing cafe gear and making coffee was enough for me to download it. When comparing this game to a real-life cafe, however, I have to laugh a little, because the Pokémon customers are so incredibly nice and patient compared to real life. There’s no stress of rushing around to fill orders and no angry, huffy patrons. Walking away to make myself a pour-over mid-game has never been easier, and everyone is happy upon my return to the virtual world. The stakes are also very low because even if you fail to produce an order, you can retry as long as you have enough hearts, and you'll never have to have “a talk” with the manager over your errors.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward, reminscent of a thousand other puzzle games. Pass a level and you'll receive a series of prizes, including golden acorns, stars, and probably the best prize of all, Pokémon smiles. You are the owner of this business venture, who is kept up-to-date on daily happenings by the manager, who the game has named “Leah”. Your first staff member is the Pokémon known as Eevee, a small fox-like creature who works hard to keep the lattes coming. Once you start solving puzzles, more menu items, expansion projects, and staff members become available to you. Nintendo is pushing event-based unlockables with the Switch and this is evident with Pokémon Café Mix, which has so far featured a grand opening celebration event and a Scorbunny special appearance.
Each puzzle has at least one specific goal, and sometimes more, for players to complete, but there are other quirks to this game that make for more interesting gameplay than just swirling your finger across the screen. To solve a puzzle you need to strategically link together Pokémon icons to reach the set score and clear “gimmicks”—various ingredient icons such as sugar cubes—all while doing so in the number of moves you are allotted or less. After successfully serving an order you will receive stars from your guests. Once you gain the required amount of stars from each Pokémon you will be able to befriend them and have them join your team.
Each team member has a special skill that can be helpful in certain puzzle levels. So make sure you ask them to take on orders they are best suited for. Trust me, this comes in handy, especially when you’re stuck with a labyrinth of sugar cubes, dollops of whipped cream, and tomatoes.
You’ll also be met with cafe challenges that require players to meet goals not specific to your orders, such as completing five orders or clearing 100 gimmicks. For every challenge card you complete, you will receive rewards, which is helpful if you want to steer clear of microtransactions.
Truth be told, I prefer RPG games akin to the more traditional Pokémon titles than mobile puzzle games. But if getting caught up in storylines or training for a boss fight isn’t your thing, Pokémon Café Mix may be the laid back game you’ve been looking for. It’s still too early to know what future in-game features or unlockables will become available, but for now, this game has become a part of my daily routine. If I’m still interested after unlocking Squirtle, that’s another story. The game's illustrated art style, cheerful music, and Pokémon characters we know and love all make for an engaging and ongoing gaming experience. Who doesn't want to team up with Pikachu behind the bar?