Where the Water Tastes Like Wine It is a video game out of the ordinary, one that, despite having the factor of being an independent project, feels strange, an experiment that can be more or less pleasing depending on who you ask, depending on its history and, above all, who have lived with this work. Without further delay, let's start with the analysis, although I warn you that this will also be a little different.
America, a great story built on many others
In most video games, regardless of your budget, gender, or other factors; two general currents are followed: the first being to have a main story to follow, and the other not to have and simply be an arcade video game, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine create your own category.
The game begins with a narrator explaining how someone enters a building where a game of poker is being played. Next, he analyzes the situation and describes it in a high level of detail. Your character, of whom you know nothing, loses a round in which the opponent had bet more money than you have, so before revealing your cards he asks you to promise him that if you lose, you will do what he asks. You agree. You lose. You are forced to travel all over the United States in search of stories and people to tell these stories as a reward for having lost. And just with a hat and a small bag tied to a stick over your shoulder, you get going.
Now that we've gotten the most "normal" part of the story out of the way, let's talk about what really matters, not the main plot, but the little stories people tell you. From the beginning, and very subtly, you are hinted that you are looking for the place where water has the same taste as wine (Where the Water Tastes Like Wine), but throughout the hours you realize that there is no such place, that the only "real" thing is the people, their experiences, and the stories that have come out of it, not the ones they have heard from the cousin of a Friend of his father, the really valuable ones are the true ones, although people prefer those that tend to be fantastic, false, or with an authentic base but with so many changes on top of the original that it is almost unrecognizable.
What is really interesting is what you do with these stories. You don't keep them, you don't sell them for nothing more than other stories. The stories of people like you, people who no longer belong anywhere, people who roam here and there, and taking into account the skeletal design of the character you play, people who have had a hard time. These people are scattered around the map, sitting by the heat of a bonfire for long nights, nights where the only thing to do in this decadent world is to exchange stories, give them, for once what they ask for, be it a fear story that scares them, or a love story that makes them regain hope that there is something beautiful in this world.
I once read in a book that: "The true America can only be found, not in the desires of men, but in the purity of its landscapes", but now I have discovered that we can also find it in the small stories that its inhabitants tell.
The gameplay is surely the least interesting section to analyze of this title. This is so because it does not especially revolutionize or stand out in anything. There are a couple or three of pretty well thought out mechanics that I liked and surprised in equal measure, but as I said, the important thing is not here. But since this is an analysis and you have to touch all the sticks, let's do it.
The first idea that I found interesting has to do with displacement. In this game you spend most of your time walking, from town to town until you come across an abandoned city or farm, but no matter where you go, you will most likely have arrived on foot. To make these trips more enjoyable and shorter, the game offers you the option of holding down the L button to start whistling, and if you want to continue doing so you will have to press the A / B / X / Y buttons in the order that you request. the game. In this way the character will advance at a faster pace, but the longer you are whistling (and I want to emphasize that you really whistle, there are even different melodies) the speed at which you have to press the buttons increases, making it more difficult to maintain speed accelerated. But in case that happens, just start again, maybe until you discover a new topic.
Continuing with the subject of transportation, you can also get around by taking a train at the different stations distributed on the map, although in this way it is very possible that you miss quite a few stories that you would have achieved along the way if you had been walking. The same thing happens if you hitchhike, an action that can be performed by pressing and holding the ZR button next to the road, even if you do not expect the first car to cross your path to stop, you would not trust a tr aveler with your pints either. Finally, in relation to transport, every time you arrive in an important city you get a different, strangest object that allows you to tele-transport back whenever you want.
Leaving mobility aside, let's talk about the gameplay when it comes to telling stories by the bonfire. It works as follows: you will have to open the eye of a character three times (each one is progressively more difficult than the last), and to carry out this feat you have to explain the specific type of stories that the character in question ask you. This may seem too easy at first, and although it is true that stories are automatically classified depending on what type they are, what they ask you are not stories of a specific category, but of a type with a name different from your classification, so you will have to try to guess (through what you know the individual) that it may seem funny.
From the start, this seems like an incredible system, knowing and deducing which stories seem to him of one type or the other, but after completing the story arc of three characters, the criteria that the game has at the time of consider an exciting story (to take one example). The easy recourse, when you don't know what to do, is to use the stories of the other "main" characters, as these serve as wild cards, but they are quite limited (especially at the beginning) and unless it goes through its third phase, either is that they open their eyes too much.
As the last system that I have found worth mentioning is the fact that, as you acquire stories, you hear other people talk about them but with certain changes that move them away from their origin but at the same time, by the fire, they are more Useful to gain the confidence of a character.
The artistic section, two sides of the same coin
In Where the Water Tastes Like Wine We can observe two very different types of art depending on the situation in which we find ourselves, and in my opinion there is a great difference in quality between them. With this I do not mean that one is very bad and the other very good, but I insist that perhaps it would have been good to unify everything a little.
To get the worst (but not bad, but rather mediocre) off of us first, let's start with what it looks like while you are rambling through the prairies or mountains of the United States, the open world part. This one has a very minimalist aspect in which everything seems to be a mix between a box with little detail and a model, due to the three-dimensional aspect. I understand that, having such a large extension and a number of people working in the game a little reduced, they cannot make everything perfectly detailed, but it gives me the feeling that, after putting all the effort into developing the stories and the artistic design that I will talk about later, ran out of time or budget when putting it all together. But you know what they say, the one that covers a lot, little press. But hey, I don't want to be negative either. It does not destroy the experience. It is acceptable. And we could even say that their usefulness is to make you want to get to the next story or camp as soon as possible to see how good they can be illustrating.
Because this is the second face that I was talking about before. When you are talking to an important character or living a story (more in the first than in the second), the illustrations that accompany the narrative are beautiful. They have that air of having been made by hand, drawn and colored to perfectly convey the type of character or story that this is going to be, in short, this is the section that really shines artistically speaking.
Postscript: Characters do not open their mouths when speaking.
A soundtrack and performances to remember
The soundtrack of a game is one of the most important sections for me, and I am very happy to say that that of The Water Tastes Like Wine is incredible.
As I mentioned in the gameplay section, trips can be somewhat monotonous, and, although, as I have already said, there are options for accelerated and thus make them more enjoyable, the soundtrack is what you enjoy. On many occasions I was involved in an internal debate in which I could not decide whether to walk slowly listening to the music in the background, or if, on the contrary, it was more important to go faster, sacrificing part of the musical delight on the way, Whistled melodies are superimposed on the background songs, and although they are quite good, they do not reach their level.
Leaving aside the more strictly musical section, it is important to highlight the excellent work that has been done in folding all the stories that happen to you. The narrator is always the same in these, but it has never weighed me down, quite the contrary, since the production values in this section are quite high, and the man has a perfect voice for the role he plays. On the other side we have the main characters that you talk to at the bonfires and move the story forward. These are also dubbed, although this time each one has a different voice, which, fortunately, adapts perfectly to the type of person he is, and we see it reflected so well through his designs and stories.
Before closing this brief section, two notes:
- The situations in which you hear stories that have happened to you but changed are not narrated, so there is only text.
- The game is only translated and dubbed into English, so it is necessary to have a medium level to understand it.
Finishing the game would take us a few 17 hours on average but magic, in my opinion it's in the first 2 hours, since after this it is just doing the same thing again, going from one side to the other collecting stories and meeting characters, something that, again, sounds good on paper, but something else is still missing.
The time has come to put an end to this analysis, the time to give you a general summary of what I have found. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine I think it's a very good game, an almost excellent one. It is this type of game that helps us appreciate beauty in something that surprises us.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is now available in digital format, through the Nintendo Switch eShop, at a price of € 19.99. You must have a free space on your console or microSD card of 1510.00 MB to download it.