Horror Tales: The Wine Review

As we discussed on a recent podcast, I’m quite a fan of horror titles, especially those along the line of Outlast or Amnesia. Horror Tales: The Wine is an indie title cut from the same cloth, with some good world building and atmosphere paired with effective scares and puzzles. It isn’t going to rival those titles directly, but considering solo dev Carlos Coronado did this, well, solo, it’s a great effort that is worth checking out.

The premise sees us playing as Marti Vermelló, heading to an island famous for its Banydebosc Red Wine. This wine is said to be able to cure a terrible illness that has plagued the land, known as the Devil’s Fever. With his loved ones infected, he steals a boat and heads directly to the Banydobosc’s distillery on the island in search of just one bottle in the hope of curing them.

Naturally, as we begin it’s clear that things aren’t what he expected to find. Broken bottle lie strewn about the place, in between rotting corpses and feasting rats. It’s reminiscent of a far more gruesome Dishonered in its setting, with trash lining the grubby estate as well as the aforementioned bodies and wine. Throughout the next 5 or so hours, we get to unravel the mystery of what happened at the distillery, where everyone went, and the secret to the red wines supposed powers. There are plenty of notes to find about the place as well as incidental story telling through the environment, and by the time I wrapped up the game I found myself very much enjoying the tale that had been spun.

In terms of gameplay, as I said at the top this is very much in the vein of something like Outlast in that the only form of offense we have is to run away. Unlike that title though, the set piece moments where we’re being chased are very much scripted in that there’s no choice but to keep moving – hiding is not an option here. They don’t last too long, but the tension still manages to ramp up quickly as often our pursuer will appear completely out of nowhere, leaving us to scramble as we try to find the exit or solve a puzzle while also keeping on the move. They are able to kill us easily too if we let them get to close, and it’s here that is my only real point of contention with the game – though to be fair it’s much the same in any other horror – in that after one or two deaths the scares disappear and it becomes more annoying than anything to get past.

One section had five symbols that needed matching up, the answers scrawled on a wall around the environment. But these five were spread out across the rooms, with no hint that there were more than the three initially visible. I ended up dying to the enemy at least half a dozen times before I found the extra two (behind another locked door) and by the time I passed it any and all tension had been sapped out of the experience. Add to that that to solve the puzzle could take a good five minutes meant that I spent far longer on that one puzzle than almost any area of the game, but probably had the least fun doing so. Thankfully, outside of a couple of other similar moments most of the sudden chase sequences work well, and do genuinely catch us off guard. One particular one I enjoyed for the spectacle, though there’ll be no spoilers here.

When we’re not being hunted by a relentless being, there are several simple physics puzzles to solve, and plenty of platforming to do. These parts of the game are very enjoyable, with some inventive paths that might catch a few people off guard, but they make the world feel that bit more open and (previously) lived in. It looks pretty damn good too, which helps things greatly. Our old pal Unreal Engine is at work here, with Carlos using it to deliver fine, gruesome detail as well as some lovely looking vistas. Audio work is excellent (the chase music is especially spine tingling) and even without dialogue we can almost hear the strain in the voices of those leaving notes thanks to solid ambient effects and sounds. The sense of place and atmosphere is well crafted, and even when there’s no immediate threat there’s still a strong sense of foreboding.

Conclusion

Despite a couple of sticking points, we greatly enjoyed our time with Horror Tales: The Wine. The tale is interesting enough to keep us going, the visual and audio work is great, and the mix of puzzles and out-and-out chases sequences was paced really well.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Great atmosphere building
  • Nice, grim visuals
  • Some fun puzzle and traversal mechanics
Bad
  • A couple of sticking points lose the scare factor
8.5
Great
Gameplay - 8
Graphics - 8.8
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 8.5
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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