Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is the first game from Gone Home co-creator Johnnemann Nordhagenn’s new indie studio Dim Bulb. In it you play as a tasked vagrant; sent to wander the American landscape in search of stories to collect and retell.
It’s a game about story telling. With each encounter a tale is told. Beautifully narrated and wonderfully written the stories can often be interacted with adjusting their outcome and potentially what type of story it ends up being to add to your repertoire. Funny, sad, thrilling and more, with each tale you hear it slots into a category for you to later retell to the games’ NPCs.
“Tell me a story that’ll make me laugh” says Quinn, one of the game’s main NPCs upon my first encounter with them. I have none to tell though and instead regale an action packed story I was told when I first wandered the game’s large, 3D map (a vast contrast to its 2D, animated illustration interface).
Quinn’s expression is sullen and unhappy with my tale and asks for another more appropriate, which I do have and as a reward begins to open and tell me more about themselves.
This is the game’s main loop, learning more about it’s 16 NPCs that also travel and shift their location across America’s wide landscape. By retelling the stories you’ve heard you advance your relationship with them as they let you in further in a beautiful mechanic buried deep in the ageless practice of folklore.
There are over 200 stories to collect. Each has been hand written for the game by a series of extremely talented writers. They’re beautifully brought to life as they’re retold by the game’s narrator Keythe Farley with their own hand-drawn illustration to accompany them.
The game features a “who’s who” of voice talent to further engross you in its fairytale like series of stories and interactions. Telltale’s The Walking Dead’s Lee (David Fennoy) and Clem (Melissa Hutchinson) both feature in the game as well as Mass Effect’s Ashely (Kimberly Brooks) and Firewatch’s Delilah (Cissy Jones). It’s tentpole however is none other than musician, actor and songwriter Sting who embodies the game’s antagonist.
Playing through the hour as beautiful and well done as the game’s story are I could feel myself slipping and becoming less and less interested in them and more concerned with the game’s mechanics to advance my own retelling abilities further. It’s very much an adventure for those who love to imbibe the art of story telling. I constantly felt the game reminding me of one of my favourite author’s Neil Gaiman and his love for tales and folklore but perhaps ruining it with it’s 3D map and its awkward traversal at times.
For those of you not particularly interested in watching me play through an hour’s worth, the video follows the same format as other “Raj plays…” with an intro, gameplay and my final thoughts. You can of course skip directly to those should you wish, coming in at the 70 minute mark.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is available today on Steam for US$20 on Mac, PC & Linux.