A talking wolf, a barrow full of kittens, a traipse-fest and Sting.
What to say? How about, a flawed gem.
The stories are the thing, pretty much the only thing, telling and
retelling, sharing and reinterpreting. All across the depression hit
North American landscape, one side to other, back and forth, forever
telling, forever looking to gather and tell more.
You will walk a lot. You can whistle to speed things up, but I never
liked the way it worked. The walking may get you down, or it may just be
the interlude in which to reflect on the stories so far and the ones to
come. Up to you. Hitching a ride or catching a train (legitimately or
otherwise) is also possible.
There were times when the construct made the stories feel less like
experiences and too much like commodities, which detracted a bit from
the stories themselves. So I went away and came back later and felt
better about it. Dipping in and out was preferable.
Stories are currency. Donít have an appropriate one to tell, one
that meets the needs of the individual (sad, funny etc) and people will
clam up. Move on, hear more, come back maybe and offer again.
You might hear a familiar one from a different perspective. Retelling
can change the narrative, or at least its emphasis. What is bleak to one
person may be hopeful to another. Stories may be morphed in a Chinese
whispers kind of way, or reimagined, or just appropriated. Cultural
histories and legends get passed down, changed as they go, embellished
or toned down. So it is here.
They are as varied as they are many. From the mundane to the
fanciful, the realistic to the supernatural, the diversity was one
thing. More than that, almost all had an elegant panache that made them
worthy of your efforts.
Interestingly, tales donít remain within the depression timeframe.
They do though (and I say this as a non-American) all spring from a
place that is part of the American cultural fabric. Feel free to debate
me on that point.
The experience starts with a poker game and a kind of a devil's deal
with a dire wolf. Stripped of more than you can imagine, off you go.
It was aesthetically pleasing, from all perspectives. The music (a
pastiche of styles) and the voice acting included.
You do have to manage a number of parameters in your wanderings
(including health), which ebb and flow depending on some choices. Fail
to manage these things and you can in fact die, although itís an
unlikely consequence given the generous capacity to overcome bad
outcomes. While this introduced an element of game-ness, I actually
found it detracted from the main experience, and seemed too artificial
in the broader context.
The sheer number of stories, and the fact that they are open to
interpretation, means that it can be a little hit and miss when it comes
to responding to a particular request (which were the sad stories, how
would you describe that one). Yet the volume is also a plus, especially
given the quality of the writing.
But the camera perspective can suck at times. And there is an
inventory you need to sort out.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine clearly has its flaws. However its
essence is a wonderful tapestry of urban storytelling that deserves your
attention. Donít think of it as a game, but donít not play it as a
result, and (somewhat paradoxically) as an adventure game player you
should be well pleased.