☆ Review: Where the Water Tastes Like Wine "…and that wine is Versare" ☆ #GameDev #IndieGame

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Game Title: Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Developer:  Dim Bulb Games
Platform Reviewed: PC (Steam)
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (WTWTLW) is a story-driven adventure video game set throughout the USA in a shifting timeline of around one hundred years ago.
You play the part of a wandering traveller collecting and passing on people’s tales as you make your way around the fifty states of America in a quest bestowed upon you by a wolf voiced by Gordon Sumner.

The whimsical, Americana-vibe of WTWTLW sets quite a solid and interesting tone with a strongly framed narrative. You lose a game of cards to a very mysterious chap who, as part of the bet, asks you to travel the continent gathering up stories as you go, to eventually regale him with when your paths cross again. Whilst there is a lot about the game that is to be admired, (least of all its very niche genre) the game itself feels like it never capitalises on its intriguing premise.
The game is split into two parts, firstly you will wander (very slowly) around a map of the USA stopping at various homesteads, barns, caves etc. to either listen to or be part of a small tale, these stories are then logged for future use in your inventory. The second part of the game is then finding various campfires scattered around the landscape that you can approach to share a fire and some stories with a fellow traveller. The stories that you collect are split into various categories and the person you speak to will tell you that if are in the mood for a ‘thrilling tale’ or ‘a scary story’ or perhaps ‘something about a tragedy’, you then select a seemingly suitable tale to tell and, if successful they will reveal more of their personal history with you before moving on to another part of the map for you to catch up with again for the next chapter of their life story.
There is one fundamental flaw that I felt about the game and it was that the stories that you have are mostly uninteresting and brief. Even the tales that have some flavour to them are no more than possibly a short paragraph long and so there’s no bite or depth to them. Quite often, someone would ask me for ‘an adventure story’ and as I clicked through my available tales, some of them were so bland that I couldn’t remember them and even if I could, it seems vague as to what kind of story they are. For instance, one woman (Althea, a travelling elderly blues-smith) asked me for a funny tale, so I chose a story about a young girl that approached me in a forest and gave me some stones and ran away, laughing. I threw the stones in the air and they turned into butterflies and flew away. After I’d told this, Althea made a comment about me ‘trying to scare her’ with a horror story. This wasn’t an isolated incident and that feeling of ‘sketchiness’ bled through to other aspects of the game.

Whilst all 2D graphics in the game are really genuinely well-done and evocative of the period, with characters having real personality to them, the 3D overworld seems unfinished with clashing graphics clipping into each other and an early-2000s sparseness that contradicts the rich voice-acting and hand-drawn artwork in the game. Travelling the overworld can only be described as absolute drudgery as well. Quite often you’ll be walking (slowly, oh so slowly) across some fields towards a distant campfire or church to hear a tale and you find yourself holding down the ‘forwards’ button for what feels like minutes at a time. There’s no threat or any random encounters whatsoever in the overworld (or the game in general) so it feels like a chore. There is an in-game feature to ‘whistle’ to speed up your pace but it’s so poorly implemented and unenjoyable that it would just make sense to remove it altogether and have a ‘run’ button (you hold down the ‘whistle’ button and press the corresponding direction that lights up on the screen and your character walks infinitesimally faster).
What makes the overworld section feel more of a grind is the choice of music. It feels like the game only has three or four tracks that repeat ad-nauseum and what makes it worse is that the songs have lyrics so it’s not so much as a lilting soundtrack that glides along in the background, fading in and out, melding with the mood, it’s like having a country radio station stuck on a loop of a few songs. Hard Truck Apocalypse had similar plucked acoustic music but in that case, it was all instrumental and there was a lot more variation, not to mention the songs were more passive and mellow (oddly, a lot of Eastern European games have great, moody acoustic music in them, thinking about it).

WTWTLW is a great idea for a game that just feels like it’s not as well executed as it could be and it’s a genuine shame as it is a unique idea rich with possibilities. The high notes of the game such as the voice acting, general setup, 2D artwork and woozy Americana Mood are offset heavily by the feel of a leaden overworld, grating music and uninteresting pacing. Some of the characters and stories in the game have an air of intrigue about them but the game never goes into the depth required to really pull the player in and lock in the emotional involvement and it left me feeling empty and worst of all, bored.
Right, I’m off to listen to Roxanne.
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Review By Britt +Kingdom of Carts