The protagonist of Horror Tales: The Wine is truly desperate for a bottle of red. So much so that he’s willing to travel to a Mediterranean island that’s been ravaged by a pandemic.
But no, he’s not an alcoholic – his journey is fuelled by the desire to save his loved ones. You see, the red wine created by the Banydebosc family is believed to have the power to cure the Devil’s Fevers that his family has been stricken with. And so, in Horror Tales: The Wine, it’s your job to take control of brave Marti, guide him through an abandoned city, and find what is perhaps the last bottle of the wine that’s still intact. But it won’t be easy, what with a mysterious man dressed in black frequently getting in your way.
Horror Tales: The Wine is your typical post-P.T. horror game. It’s played from a first-person viewpoint, there’s no combat whatsoever, and mind tricks are often employed to freak you out and question yourself. To top it all off, you’ll also frequently come up against some kind of apparition that chases you, causing your fight-or-flight mechanic to kick in. Except, as mentioned previously, you can’t fight. Thanks to an original story, a unique setting, and gameplay that puts few barriers in your way to enjoying the whole affair, however, it’s one of the better indie horror games of recent years.
It’s just a shame that the story isn’t told in a more engaging way. Sketches with text preface each chapter of the game, putting your current location or situation in context, and the rest of the story you have to pretty much unravel yourself by reading notices littered around the environments you explore. There’s also some nice environmental storytelling, however, some of which might chill you to your core.
Gameplay is rather basic – you’ll mostly just find yourself traversing environments, solving rudimentary puzzles to open up doors or access new areas. Thankfully, the Mediterranean settings allow for plenty of picturesque locations. Even better, the visuals are of a high standard, packing in plenty of detail. When outdoors you’ll be bathing in the sunlight and admiring the views in the distance, but when indoors, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat due to the foreboding atmosphere that’s created. And perhaps all the skeletons of those who died prior to your arrival.
While Horror Tales: The Wine throws some nice environmental puzzles your way – having to place concrete blocks on the end of a plank of wood to stop it from seesawing as you walk on it, for example, it ultimately relies too much on one mechanic. At many points in the game you’ll come up against a locked door, with numerous symbols placed off to one side and another row of switchable symbols below them. Your task is to seek out the symbols in the environment and set the correct symbols below them. Sometimes you’ll be able to seek out the symbols at your leisure; other times you’ll be put under pressure by a violent assailant.
Horror Tales: The Wine strikes a nice balance between letting you explore and simply be creeped out by off-putting sound effects and grim visuals, and you being pursued or otherwise hindered by a mysterious figure all clad in black. Sometimes he’ll appear in front of you, arms flailing while making grotesque noises, forcing you to flee in fear. Other times you might just get a glimpse of him in the distance, with you holding back until you think the coast is clear. Eventually you might find the bits where he chases you a bit goofy, but it’s still heart-pounding stuff nonetheless.
It’s safe to say that the story of Horror Tales: The Wine may not go the way you expect it to, and as the credits roll you still might have questions. It’s not the longest game in the world – I managed to complete it in around two and a half hours, though an unlockable photomode which allows secrets to be discovered may provide some with enough reason to go back. There are collectables, too.
The first game to be released as part of the Horror Tales Saga, Horror Tales: The Wine isn’t likely to wow anyone. It is a solid effort though, and one that horror fans should definitely consider checking out if they want a short and sweet experience to occupy an evening. While its presentation leaves a little to be desired and its puzzles eventually become a tad samey, it tells a chilling story and backs it up with some genuinely hair-raising scenarios.
Horror Tales: The Wine Review: GameSpew’s Score