The noise of flies fills your ears as you step down from the highway in search of shade. The body of a great white bull lies sprawled in the dirt among bits of rope and broken board, his hide blazing in the sunlight. You approach, covering your mouth, and recoil. The bull’s chest – it’s not maggoty flesh but beaten metal, held together by rivets the width of your thumb. Through tears in the beast’s flank you see swarms of tiny brass pistons, shooting back and forth in a blur. The bull raises his head abruptly to regard you. Then he clambers to his feet, creaking like a furnace, and ambles back onto the road. The buzzing rises to a peak. When the air clears, the animal is gone.
That isn’t quite my story, but nor is it entirely a story from this game. It’s an embellishing of something I witnessed while trudging around Dim Bulb’s haunted, patchwork vision of the United States during the Great Depression, a tribute to a game made up of stories that are always changing, picking up material like snowballs as they travel from mouth to mouth. Created by Gone Home programmer Johnnemann Nordhagen in partnership with a scattered throng of writers, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine sees you wandering a rich yet desolate continent, collecting tall tales and sharing them so that they can prosper and mutate.
The game’s key thrill is of hearing a yarn you know well come back to you in a new, outlandish guise. The tragic spectacle of a cowboy lost in a tornado might eventually become the legend of a rider who could tame the wind, recounted by some Texan boozehound who swears that he saw it all firsthand. An anecdote about sharing a cigarette with a bootlegger might beget a sensational newspaper report of a gunfight. The tale of a mysterious dead bull might take on a supernatural aspect in the testimony of a child you run into a few states over.
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