— December 13, 2018

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a favorite game of 2018

by William Hughes

Earlier this week, our writers submitted for reader consideration (and even, occasionally, approval) their collection of some of our favorite games of the year, in no particular order, and grouped around a single idea: What did we like this year, and why? As has become one of our favorite annual traditions here in the games corner of the site, we also threw open the question to you, our readers, and you came out in droves to stump for apocalyptic city-builders, big-budget adventures, and rambling folk tales. We’ve collected some of our favorite responses here, presenting our annual survey of The Games You Liked.

needle.hacksawWhere The Water Tastes Like Wine

Screenshot: Dim Bulb Games

I liked Where The Water Tastes Like Wine because it’s an exciting scavenger hunt for people who are deeply in love with folklore, made by people deeply in love with folklore.

WTWTLW is a strange game, and not only because its acronym sounds like the sound a rake scratching on concrete might make. It is at once a small game—very much a niche thing, for people who like to read their games as much as play them—and downright lush: Its heart are small stories, spread around a sprawling map of a post-Great War, post-Great Depression U.S.A, in which neither of those things is really past yet. You walk around that map at leisure pace, as the soul/skeleton of a tramp, collecting those narrative vignettes, and watch them grow, over time, from a casual anecdote told by somebody at a bus stop into a truly TALL TALE. If you’re even a bit familiar with American folklore, this is very much a supremely entertaining form of Where’s Waldo or “Spot-That-Folktale-Whack-A-Mole”: You might want walk into the woods near New York, expecting to encounter a haunting presence, and you will find it there. You might scan the woods of the Northeast in search of a particularly skilled lumberjack, or go to Texas, where you’ll be certain to meet a death-defying cowboy who is not afraid of some ghastly weather conditions. And there is so, so much more there.

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is, in a way, an impossible oddity: The elevator pitch would make you think of a passion project, something that you could imagine finding one day on, or maybe being published by Failbetter Games or Inkle as a mobile app. Instead, it turned out to be bigger than that, and way riskier: it was, not surprisingly, a spectacular financial failure for its creator. I’m all the more grateful that it exists. And for a game all about tales, ending up as a cautionary tale itself might not even be the worst fate one could imagine.

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