Teacup and her quest for tea!
Plenty of introverts gravitate towards gaming — especially single-player games — because it’s a way to explore the world without having to leave the comfort of one’s own home or deal with real life people. In adventure games, the protagonist is often pragmatically extroverted for the sake of story progression, engaging in conversation with strangers to further the plot or gain information about a task. Like seriously, imagine walking up to people in real life and asking about the four Wudu or proclaiming loudly you’re Captain Basch from Dalmasca. Idk about you, but if that’s what I had to do to continue on my real world journey, I’d rather just go home.
When I realized I was not only playing an introverted protagonist in Teacup, but one who lived in a world that accommodated for her quieter nature, I fell in love.
Developed by Smarto Club and published by Whitethorn Digital, Teacup is about a little frog in a little pond with a big problem — she’s all out of tea! To make matters worse, she has a tea party scheduled for the next day with all her friends. This simply will not do, so she must seek out different herbs, flowers, and ingredients in the meadows, market, and other parts of town to ensure the tea party is a success. Available on console and PC for $9.99, Teacup will charm anyone who loves a wholesome storybook adventure with simplistic gameplay and brilliantly unique aesthetics.
Teacup opens up on the little frog, Teacup, discovering her tea stash has been exhausted. Luckily, she caught this grave situation the day before her tea party, so she can spend the entire day searching for tea and tea accessories. Unluckily, this means she has to venture outside, which is one of her least favorite things to do. Still, fresh air is good for the body, so maybe this sort of thing is exactly what Teacup needs. Armed only with her tea encyclopedia and a bag to hold everything, Teacup begins her noble quest to find tea for her tea party.
Teacup’s aesthetics are everything. It looks like the visuals were painstakingly created in Paint, applying color and form to the settings dot by dot. Now I’m not sure what program was used, but that dotting technique does appear to be the art style. The palette the team chose really brought out the best of this oft-overlooked technique — which, by the way, is overlooked because it is incredibly time-consuming and difficult — and I couldn’t stop taking screenshots because of it. Coupled with the really soft, lovely, peaceful piano music, Teacup looked and sounded like the way a nice warm cup of earl grey with lemon feels.
When it comes to gameplay, Teacup offers delightfully simple goals and puzzles that feel less like a challenge and more like a palette cleanser between bigger titles. Which, by the way, is okay — after all, I don’t think anyone was expecting serious mechanical depth from a game about a frog searching for tea leaves. With that being said, the puzzles that were on offer were ones that wholesome game players definitely look forward to, like hidden objects, simon says, and, delightfully, the act of actually brewing tea. Again, if you love these kinds of saccharine sweet games with a whimsical, youthful personality, you’re not going to be disappointed at all here.
Aside from the heavenly serene aesthetics, the one thing that impressed me the most about Teacup was how subtly the developers conveyed Teacup’s introversion. While in an area with no other sentient creatures, Teacup is relaxed and cheerful, a sweet smile spread across her face as she takes in the beauty of the peaceful nature around her. When she’s in an area with others, the smile disappears, her expression a bit more serious. When speaking with people, she holds her arm and casts a worried look across her face, her discomfort with social situations being expressed through her face and body language. I’m not sure I’ve seen an introverted protagonist so nuanced in the sense that she’s naturally conveying her aversion to social situations instead of bashing people over the head with it through dialog.
Additionally, what I found even more remarkable than this introverted depiction was how others reacted to Teacup. The real world belongs to extroverts, and introverts have to practically work themselves up to be able to participate in society despite the fact that it’s utterly exhausting. In Teacup’s world, the more extroverted villagefolk certainly enjoyed themselves, but they also brought their energy levels down to make space for her, allowing for her taciturn nature and recognizing that her silence didn’t mean her disinterest. It was so lovely to see people in a clearly active and exuberant setting like a festival give Teacup the opportunity to participate in her own way — even if they didn’t understand her, they accepted her introversion and didn’t push for her to be more extroverted. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this reflected in any form of media… ever?
Teacup was a lovely surprise in so many ways, its careful and quiet protagonist making a big impact in such a simple yet unexpected manner. With aesthetics that feel like a children’s storybook giving players a warm and cozy hug, Teacup is a fantastic little wholesome title that will delight anyone who feels drawn to it. If you’re looking for a bright, cheery game, Teacup is absolutely going to be your cup of chamomile.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Whitethorn Digital; Developer: Smarto Club; Players: 1; Released: September 23, 2021; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Teacup provided by the publisher.