Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
What is life but an endless collection of stories? We are, after all, all storytellers at heart. We funnel the wealth of experience, interactions, memories and second-hand anecdotes we accumulate on a daily basis and translate them all into relatable tales. As a species, it’s our way of communicating to those that exist in orbit of us, a succinct way of passing on knowledge and information with our peers and perfect strangers alike. that is to say that telling stories is an inseparable part of the human condition, perhaps the sole element of our lives that has remained consistent throughout history. it’s here where dim Bulb Games is looking to play, and where its debut adventure game Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is looking to exploit our affection towards stories of both the factual and fictional persuasion.
this is what Where The Water Tastes Like Wine has to offer. it’s a game about everything and nothing at all; it thrives as it lets you explore the elements that helped establish famous folklore, letting you wander the great American planes collecting tales from its disparate peoples to help a devil in disguise spread twisted tales around the Western world. We don’t mean that obtusely, either. the game literally opens as you’re forced to make a deal with devil, sacrificing your life to aid the creature by imparting tall tales to a populous that is struggling with the realities of a crumbling American dream – few games have captured the downtrodden feeling of depression-era America quite as well as this one.
And so you walk. You spend your time walking from state to state, visiting cities, meeting its people and sharing your experiences. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine sets a slow tempo to its play and embraces it wholeheartedly – it’s difficult to escape the overwhelming sense of loneliness as you ramble from place to place, a state of pensive apprehension washing over you as you happen across another character with a story to tell.
it’s in these interactions where you’ll find the substance of the experience, short stories presented as beautifully illustrated, vignette text adventures. each of the stories in the game takes just a few minutes to complete, many are mundane or fairly normal – though that’s entirely by design. the longer you spend in the company of Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, the more you’ll begin to find the relatively normal stories taking on an air of the unknown. You’ll see it in real-time, as the subject and emphasis of tales once told twist and contort – their meaning and metaphors merging and melting away with each subsequent retelling.
From its beginning to its end, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is about the folklore emanating out across the land. As you encounter other wanderers, despots and travellers in the dead of night, you’ll be able to
Where The Water TASTES Like Wine SETS a SLOW Tempo To ITS play and embraces IT Wholeheartedly
sit by the fireside and exchange your stories. here, much like in real life, we suppose, stories transform into a currency of sorts. each has something they would like to hear, fitting a particular tone or narrative beat, and it’s your job to assemble the required pieces to tell it.
each of the stories you collect fits a particular thematic style, presented gorgeously as tarot cards within the beautiful, painterly game world. You can have three active stories in your hand at any one time, split between suits, and once one is used in a conversation it is locked away for the remainder of that particular session. these are equipped ahead of time, used to delight and engage your listener. Should you fail, they will continue on with their journey, giving you an opportunity to explore new lands and add more stories to your arsenal before you encounter them again in some later chapter. Should you succeed in earning their trust – achieved by blurring the lines between reality and fantasy with your tales to fit a succinct narrative – they will exchange a story of their own, a tool you can later add to your arsenal to impress a stranger you’ll encounter later down the beaten track.
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a wonderful narrative-driven experience. it’s unique and rather beautiful, softening the
divide between a visual novel and what would traditionally be considered a ‘game’. that isn’t to say that it isn’t without its problems though. With over 200 stories to be collected it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that a handful don’t resonate as strongly as others – though the diverse and wide-ranging bank of writers the studio brought on to the project is certainly impressive and well worth celebrating, if only for the audacity of it all. Some will likely push back against the light survival mechanics that dip into overworld walking sections, where exhaustion and overexertion can temporarily stop you in your tracks; some stories may even physically injure you, leading to further complications later down the road.
over the 20 hours of game time and storytelling presented here though, the vast majority of it is heartfelt and engaging. dim Bulb Games has done an exceptional job of bringing it all together, delivering an adventure game quite unlike any other. it’s often captivating and incredibly empowering, a fantastic opportunity to explore the magic of storytelling in a world whose inhabitants hang on your every word.
above: You can expect to find plenty of familiar voices in the game, though the best is undoubtedly that of Sting, who takes on the lead narration. It’s super awesome. Right: While the game has a beautiful and ethereal visual style, its audio is also incredible. It’s easy to lose hours to this game without realising it.
above: Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a unique experience. It teeters on the edge of being a visual novel, offering just enough by the way of agency and interaction to help breathe life into its strange set-up.