Review Poki Game: Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

In every country there is a great variety of folk tales. Many of them are passed by word of mouth from time immemorial. Some - on the contrary, exclusively a product of their time, an echo of the era. A product created under the influence of specific environmental conditions. But the hour is not far off when they will become part of folklore. The locomotive of folk art does not stand still, it rushes along the prairies of consciousness, looking into its most secret corners, where unimaginable myriads of stories are hidden. Stories of love, deprivation, seeking and duty. The Poki game Where the Water Tastes Like Wine only lifts the veil of this mystery, giving us a moment to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of America during the Great Depression - the place where legends from all over the world have found a new home.

It's no secret that the United States of America has gathered people from all over the world in its vastness. The most desperate and reckless daredevils, who sometimes lost everything they could and could not, went to the "New World" for a life on loan. The unexplored land promised untold riches and unprecedented freedom. People of all stripes rushed to where "water tastes like wine." Leaving the Old World, they left all the bitterness and sorrows behind, but besides the meager belongings and crusts of bread, they took with them something more valuable - memories of their native land, past life and the legends of their ancestors. The US "patchwork quilt", in the manner of the cultivated fields of Kentucky, took in these seeds flown over the ocean. And the shoots were not long in coming: the stories were full of details and changed, adapting to the new cultural environment.

Like their bearers, these legends went against fate, fought for life and a chance to be told again: at night by the fire during a long walk or exhausting field work.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a very original game. It balances at the intersection of genres: here you have a text quest (interactive fiction), and an audiobook, and a simulator of a seasonal worker. The game tries to reveal and uncover the era of the Great Depression, one of the most painful economic phenomena of the mid-20th century, and to show us the situation of ordinary people on the ground through their very essence - folklore.

The plot is simple: you are a nameless traveler who played cards to a gentleman in gray with a wolf's head. Everyone calls him the Boss, and Sting himself voices him, for a minute. Now you are in his debt, and in order to work off the debt, you must go through all 48 states and collect folk tales of all stripes for the Boss.

It's nice how the developers handle the material: they don't dryly dump tons of text on the player, but play the theater of one actor in front of us, simultaneously spicing up the action with rather stylish illustrations and a multidimensional sound series. After all, in fact, except for stories in this game there is nothing. The rest is just multiple media designed to keep us at the screen longer than usual.

Walking briskly with a knapsack over our shoulder, we go and collect legends, legends, myths and tales - everything that comes to hand. And nothing that the main character is a skeleton in a hat. He was simply stripped of his flesh so that he could travel light. In this game, animals talk, and people are silent, the secret becomes apparent, and a simple concert in a local cabaret can turn into a dispute with a gang of ghosts. Yes, in Where the Water Tastes Like Wine real "magic realism" reigns.

A total of 219 stories are scattered across the map, each of which is voiced and illustrated. Everything is very simple: we approach the history icon, press the space bar, listen, sometimes make some decisions. The stories themselves are small, sometimes they do not exceed a few paragraphs, but how competently they are presented. All collected stories are recorded according to the main topics in the inventory, and the topics themselves are presented in the form of tarot cards.

“Because the Boss loves cards,” a raven flying past tells us. But that is not all. The fact is that, traveling around the country, we carry the stories we hear farther and farther from the area of ​​their existence, listen to new versions, agree with the interpretations - in accordance with the actions we have taken, their description in the register can radically change.

In addition, along the way, we will meet sixteen poor souls, pilgrims, roaming the vastness of the country in search of a better life. You need to search for them near the bonfires marked on the map. There is a runaway miner, a lonely woman, a former poet, a black conductor, a WWI veteran and many others. And it is when meeting them that the game is revealed from the other side. The metaphysical audiobook is being replaced by a text quest. Each of the characters has their own story, written by a professional writer, and he will tell you if you please his curiosity with stories from your bottomless bag.

Each of them loves to listen to something of their own: give one horror story, another - romance, the third will alternately demand either adventure tales or funny fables. Five stories are allowed to be told in one night, and each story can only be told to a character once. At the same time, each category can contain a maximum of three of the collected stories, which can be changed before a halt.

So before a new meeting with a character, you will have to remember what he has already heard and what has not. As a matter of fact, more stories collected - more options. Tell everything as it should, the character will be imbued with trust in you and will tell about his difficult fate. And then you will part in the morning. And so on until you know all the vicissitudes and hardships of the wanderers.

But before you listen to a new story or sit around the fire with a traveler, you have to get there before this story or fire: on foot, on a hitchhike, or by train. All major cities, highways and railways are marked on the map, so finding a convenient route is easy. The only negative is that the main character is very leisurely . Even the whistling of a saving melody, designed to speed up the process of walking, does not help. And most of the time here you have to walk on foot.

Very often during a hitchhiking trip, you see the icons of stories briskly flying past and you realize that you still have to go back and pick up the missed good. While traveling, you can also get tired, get into trouble and be robbed, which directly affects three characteristics: money, health and sleep.

All this is replenished in big cities, but sometimes you can find a small part-time job or an overnight stay on the map. Money is spent here on food and trains. This "seasonal worker simulator" is not annoying, but it also does not bring anything new to the game.

For some, all this burden can even tire at all - for example, it took me five hours of real time to go from Maine to Washington state, and I was only walking along the border with Canada!

The game is very stylish graphically. The landscape of the map varies from state to state, clouds fly overhead, and day changes to night. You don't know what visual revelations, but everything was done with special expectation. There are even dynamic shadows here.

Each story has its own illustration, and they are not repeated very often. The characters that we meet along the way are carefully drawn, and in some places even animated. Coupled with amazing sound design and musical accompaniment from musician Ryan Icke, it all works extremely organically. By the way, the album with the soundtrack of the game is already available to listen to on SoundCloud and to buy in most digital stores.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a very leisurely and meditative game with a huge amount of text translated into Russian as well. To some, it may seem like just a discordant collection of folk tales, but to someone it will strike to the very heart. You can blame her for the brakes when leaving the cities, monotonous walks, addictive gameplay, and not always clear reactions of the characters around the fire, but you don't want to do this. Just because there have been very few such mental Poki games lately.