The Tea Making user interface in A Tavern For Tea, showing the ingredients and fresh brew.

A Tavern For Tea is an interactive fiction game by npckc. As the owner of a tavern, you serve tea and chat with patrons in a comfortable and unassuming environment. Oh, this game has a side-dish of timeline manipulation, too.

Inside these walls, you're just my customer.

In this tea tavern, you tend bar and make just the right tea for whatever customer enters. Just like the cyberpunk bartending game VA-11 HALL-A, you drive the story by actually choosing and making the kind of tea your patrons want.

Your tavern is located "at the edge of the domain," a boundary between the world of humans and demons. Your location brings in two familiar wandering travelers, Horns and the Adventurer, from npckc's previous game, A Hero and a Garden. You explore the back story of these two patrons that have a bit of an awkward past. Perhaps, you can resolve their tension and become their matchmaker?

Shared Dialogue with The Adventurer and Horns in A Tavern for Tea

And, that's where the creativity of this game comes in—the looping narrative, with timeline manipulation. As you chat with these two, you'll eventually hit a dead-end in the story that forces you to restart. In each loop, you gain a new tidbit of information that you can use to manipulate the timeline to seek the best ending.

Gameplay Tip:

Because this game loops down and evolves over a single path, make good use of the skip all button. This button jumps you past dialogue you've already seen to either the next time you can make tea or to bits of the story you haven't seen yet.

Even if you haven't played npckc's A Hero and a Garden, A Tavern for Tea has a short playtime and unique looping narrative that is worth checking out. A Tavern for Tea is available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

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The hero of A hero and a Garden speaking to sooty, your gardening helper.

A Hero and a Garden is a visual novel/clicker hybrid game by npckc. You play as a hero, locked in a garden by a witch, in the aftermath of destroying a town while trying (and failing) failing to rescue your princess. You’re tasked by the town doctor to start planting berries to sell to the townspeople.

A lesson in empathy and forgiveness.

As with anyone, you’re not exactly happy to be locked up in this unfamiliar town. This new gardening you’re forced to do, to pay back in reparations for your damage to the town, is difficult. It’s not fun. You’re grumpy.

So you’re irritable, unlikeable, and you just trampled the town—you’re not exactly well-liked. To top it off, you’re human, which makes you the different one in this town of monsters.

And it’s just that. Everyone is different. Your attempts to get to know the townspeople don’t precisely align with the social norms. You’re earnestly trying to get to know people. But sometimes, despite good intentions, you unintentionally ask rude questions. This only makes things worse for yourself.

The garden you tend in A Hero and a Garden, a visual novel by npckc.

The Gardening Savant

Alas, you figure out how to do this berry thing. You get to know people. You learn their names and their backstories, and what their needs for the berries are. And you make things better. Providing berries to townspeople and paying for things you broke gives you new opportunities, like meeting new people. You’re reintroduced to your princess, and understand what brought her here in the first place, and why she wants to stay.

And the townspeople grow to love your berries.

Gameplay Tip

If the clicking mechanic grows to be too much for you, be sure to reassign your helper, Sooty, to another plant using the notebook menu on the bottom right. Also, you don’t need to keep harvesting berries if you don’t have any orders for them.

My playtime of A Hero and a Garden clocked in at just under two hours. The story was delightful and worth it, but I’ll admit, the clicking mechanic became monotonous by the end—particularly with the scorchberries. If you find yourself waiting some time to collect some berries, this might be a good time to pop on a podcast and let Sooty do its thing. (While the clicker mechanic mostly works, I’d hope for the dev to add an additional method to harvest berries, perhaps by keyboard shortcuts.)

If you’re a fan of visual novels, A Hero and a Garden’s story is cute, and the characters feel kind and friendly. It may not have complex branching storylines familiar with the genre, but by the end, it feels like you’ve made a positive impact in helping this small community heal.

A Hero and a Garden is available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s also available for Android on the Google Play store.

We've also covered npckc's next game, A Tavern for Tea, featuring characters from this game.

The main character of Coming Out Simulator.

Coming Out Simulator is an interactive story by Nicky Case. Semi-autobiographically set in the high-school years of Nicky, you must wrestle with decisions on how best to come out to your homophobic parents in the most careful way possible. As Nicky says, this is a game with no right answers.

This is the game that inspired this website. I have recommended this game to so many people over so many years. This is the game that’s inspired me to daydream, write up a bunch of design documents, and spend weekends building malformed game prototypes. Coming out is a challenging experience, and nobody has it easy. This game, while different from my own story, hits back at these same sensitive feelings, but likewise reminds me of my feelings of success after coming out. Because of how much I relate to this game, it fits to post it here to start this website, even though it’s by no means a small or undercover game these days.

Similar to the mechanics from the seminal games The Walking Dead: Season One and Life is Strange, your choices matter in this game. Your choices manifest as a selection of responses to say to people in your world, such as by text to Nicky’s boyfriend or conversing at the dinner table with Nicky’s mom.

In the end, Nicky’s parents find out, and things change. Despite all this, Nicky still considers that he’s won. 5 years later, I almost think that’s truer than ever. Nicky is an accomplished indie developer, with several games out that tell stories about systems.

Coming Out Simulator 2014 is a web game which takes about twenty minutes to play, and can be played online on itch.io. You will enjoy this game if you enjoy narrative games where choices matter, such as Life is Strange.