Where the Water Tastes like Wine, an adventure game with visual novel elements, isn’t entirely new. First announced back in 2015, it follows a skeletal person as they travel around the United States collecting and spreading stories after losing the strangest possible “card” game to a man with a wolf’s head voiced by Sting. (You know, from The Police.) It showed up on PCs back in 2018, but it is one of those rare games that feels perfect for another platform once it appears on it. Namely, the Where the Water Tastes like Wine Switch port is practically perfect.
The format of Where the Water Tastes like Wine lends itself to the Nintendo Switch. Your goal is to go across the country, trying to find specific people at camps who want to hear certain sorts of stories. To get those stories, you have to walk and travel across a map of the US, looking for icons representing spots where things are happening. Being present adds it to your inventory and places it into a theme. Busting that tale out around the campfire when the moment is right could cause the relationship with a person to improve, letting you know more of their story, spreading that tale so it gets larger and more fantastic, and further accomplishing that mission.
It is a difficult game to play in long sessions. While Where the Water Tastes like Wine is enjoyable, it has a very deliberate pace. Walking is slow and can lead you to find off-the-beaten path stories. Faster options, like hitchhiking in a car or traveling by train, gets you to major hubs quicker, but means you could pass things along the way. There’s a lot of wandering around, hoping you find a good thing, and then searching for the right camp spot to use that thing. Since there’s an autosave, it’s the sort of game where it feels great to pop in, perhaps scour one state looking for stories and someone to share them with, then put it away for the day. As the only handheld option for it, the Nintendo Switch is great about letting you do that. You can take a minute, cut down that to-do-list, then move on to other things before you get bored.
The Where the Water Tastes like Wine Switch version also lets you better appreciate the artwork. Every major character and story you collect has a scene to go with it. When I briefly watched a friend play the game last year, I ended up seeing the scene with a winged goat near a burning, destroyed home in a forest around the New Jersey and Pennsylvania portions of the map. When playing it in handheld mode and having a better look at the art, I immediately could tell that this wasn’t any ordinary winged goat. This was the jersey devil. When you’re playing on the go on the Switch, you can better take in these images and get hints at their inspirations and references. It’s helpful for the less obvious ones, such as the one based on Johnny Appleseed.
Now, as good as it is, there is an issue that comes with going portable. Where the Water Tastes like Wine has incredibly tiny text and a color palette that might make it difficult to always pick up on hitchhiking opportunities. If you have the sound on or can plug in a pair of headphones, things will be fine. There’s a narrator reading all of the important bits and there is voice acting. That will also be a big help if you attempt to whistle while you walk, which helps you get from point A to point B slightly faster. But the font can be quite small, even though you have light text set against a black background.
It is really a convenience thing. Where the Water Tastes like Wine is an adventure/visual novel game where picking away at it is ideal. Having it on the Nintendo Switch, where you can play it anywhere, really helps with playing in small bursts anywhere. It also makes it easier to appreciate the art, which might help you catch when folktales you recognize could appear. Granted, the font can be a bit of an issue, as it is with many games on the go on the system, but it still feels like the sort of title where having it on the Switch and having the option to play it anywhere really helps with savoring it.
Where the Water Tastes like Wine is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.