Parents' Guide to

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

By David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Intriguing but uneven game about telling stories and lies.

Game Linux, Mac, Windows 2018
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Chances are fairly good you've never played or seen anything like this folklore storytelling adventure. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine's core is utterly distinct: Your sole task is to collect stories from other characters and utilize them as a sort of currency to progress. In practice, the result is a blend of interactive novels, relationship simulators, and narrative walking simulators deeply versed in Americana anthology -- a game about storytelling, lying, and the nature of trust that's alternately repetitive, dull, and slow-moving. Imagine an old-school text-adventure game where you could simply type "walk north" to be at your next destination. In Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, you'll have to hoof it across a flat map for long stretches of time before you get there. If the world or traversing it were half as vivid or brimming with personality as everything else, this wouldn't be that bad, but you spend almost as much time talking to people as you do walking to these encounters.

The stories themselves are certainly interesting, running the gamut from chance encounters (taking a cab in the city where the driver is eerily silent, or happening upon a mischievous girl with kittens in a basket) to cursed events (finding a dead body in a field, or taking a picture for a reunited set of twins who, after you take the photo, realize they aren't related after all). What's much more interesting is to see which stories you tell grow in the telling on different playthroughs -- which ones take on a life of their own, and get more exaggerated as they spread. It's all fodder for the main events, which are one-on-one conversations with wandering vagabonds over a campfire: They want to hear of your travels, and will request certain types of stories before they ultimately trust you and open up about themselves. (This isn't always perfect, as your perception of what makes a sad or joyful story will frequently differ from that of both the game's developer and the character you're speaking to.) You can then, in turn, exploit other people's personal tragedies for your gain in the game -- dazzling others with your embellishments on other people's lives. This all gets at some interesting themes, but it's doubtful younger players will have the patience for how long it takes before the game starts to build on all these themes and turn it all on its head. Some interesting ideas are at play here, and it's well worth a spin, but this is only for those who are comfortable with very delayed gratification.

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