Review copy provided by Carlos Coronado.
Horror Tales: The Wine is a first-person survival horror game created by Carlos Coronado, an indie developer responsible for previous games like Infernium or Koral. While his latest work, Koral, was a calm and educative experience this new game will try (and very probably succeed) to scare you. The story takes us to a beautiful Mediterranean island in search of a unique wine that can cure a mysterious disease, called the Devil’s Fever. In theory the island is deserted, but soon we will find out that is not totally accurate, and the quest will be not just a test of our puzzle resolving skills but also to our nerves.
Now the question that really matters, is it accessible? Only you have the answer, but I will offer a detailed rundown of the options, gameplay and my personal experience. I played on PC using keyboard and mouse, and a controller. Please note that even if I mention features not related just to mobility, this review is only for that aspect.
The Settings menu is divided in two zones. On the left of the screen we have five categories placed vertically. The five categories are from top to the bottom Audio, Accessibility, Controls, Keyboard Controls, Video & Graphics. Once one is selected the proper menu opens on the right side of the screen.
All the menus can be navigated via mouse, keys or gamepad and there is always a visible button to click/select for going back, which is nice and helps avoid getting stuck. The keys to navigate the menus are W S and the Up Down Arrow keys to move between options, Space or Enter to select them and A D and the Left Right Arrow keys to change their values. Even if you remap your gameplay controls later, these are the only ones that work in the menus as they are probably hardcoded. Using the mouse was very comfortable for me, but it might depend on your device sensitivity as there is no way to adjust that in the game.
In Audio we have volume sliders for Master, Music and Sound Effects. These go from 0 to 1 in 0.1 steps. The lack of a Voice or Dialogue slider is just because there is no voiced dialogue in the game.
The Accessibility menu contains all sorts of options. You can turn Subtitles On/Off but this doesn’t affect any in-game texts like message readings or control prompts, and since there is no voiced dialogues, it has no effect. Maybe for the next game? If so it would be good to removed it until it has a clear function.
Moving on we find the Text Size slider going from 0 to 2, with a default value of 1. This reduces or increases all texts in game like signposts reads or control prompts, but it doesn’t affect menus. Next comes Text Style, where we can choose between 8 different presets. Here is a brief description of each style.
- Style 1: White text on semitransparent background.
- Style 2: Black text on solid white background.
- Style 3: White text on solid black background.
- Style 4: Yellow text on semitransparent background.
- Style 5: White text without background.
- Style 6: Black text with white outlines and no background.
- Style 7: White text with black outlines and no background.
- Style 8: Semitransparent text without background.
Right under this option we have a preview of how the text will look based on our current choices. This is a practice that should be a standard as it makes it faster and more comfortable. It is always better to have fully customizable text, but the presets are good.
The next option, Gamma, is a slider from 0 to 2, with a default value of 1. It helps increase/reduce the overall brightness. The game has a wide variety of lightings, and dark areas and shadows. While on exteriors it was okay, I really appreciated tunning it up in darker spaces. Sometimes I put it up to 1.3, as the shadows and highlights still look great, but I no longer miss stuff and it helped me navigate the darkest places. Not just to see better but also to reduce the anxiety.
We have also separate controls to invert the X and Y axis, which affect both mouse and controller directions. With Crosshair Style we can select the size and style for the reticle that appears in the center of the screen or just make it invisible. This reticle serves two purposes: it allows us to precisely target the object we want to interact with and offers a visual reference to help with motion sickness. There are 4 sizes: Small, Medium, Big and Giant. There are two different variants for each size, the default one which is semitransparent and the Contrasted version, with a solid white center encircled by a black ring. I found both Medium Contrasted and Big Contrasted very comfortable and they really helped with motion sickness. Here you can see screenshots with examples for Medium, Big and Giant in both regular and Contrasted versions.
The next setting, Outline Style lets you adjust the width of the colored outlines used to highlight interactive elements around you. Here again we have 4 sizes, Small, Medium, Big and Huge, and an invisible value to disable them. The highlight color is not customizable, and it is mostly cyan with some uses of light green. These are screenshots showing Medium, Big and Huge.
Rotate Sensitivity lets you adjust the speed your camera moves. It is not the same as a mouse or controller sensitivity setting, as it only affects the camera. Again, it is a slider from 0 to 2, with a default value of 1. I personally left it at 1, but slightly lower values might help in some situations with motion sickness. After this we can disable Vibration for the controller, which acts when jumping, crouching, taking damage, etc. Camera Shake can also be disabled here. Then you can unlock the Photomode, which is used not just to take cool pictures but also to access some Easter Eggs. More on this on the Gameplay section. Immersive Mode disables the control prompts for interactive elements as well as the text version of readable items but doesn’t disable the Outlines. And finally, the option Disable Flashing Lights disables the flashing lighting in some areas to help with photosensitivity. I really feel a Text-To-Speech feature would be extremely important to have, not just for setting up the game, but for all the text in this game which is where all the story and some clues are presented.
The Controls section is next. This is just for controllers. By default, the left stick is used to move your character and the right one for controlling the camera, but you can swap these functionalities here just with a simple option. You can also remap your buttons for moving in the four directions, Interact, turning your flashlight on and off, Jump, Run, Crouch and activate Photomode. You can remap any of these actions to the triggers, bumpers, face buttons, d-pad and stick presses, also known as RS/R3 LS/L3. The only thing missing would be sensitivity/dead zones adjustments to customize how much you need to press the sticks. Also remapping the stick directions inputs, but I would say this is a good amount of customization.
Aside from remapping you can individually set Run and Crouch as holds or toggles.
This is an example of the mapping my assistant tester, my 70-year-old father with no gaming experience, used and managed to do quite well. I tried giving him as much control as possible for the right hand as focusing on two sticks was confusing for him.
Now we move to Keyboard Controls, where we can remap our keys and mouse buttons to actions. There are only 10 inputs which is great. For movement we can assign primary and secondary keys, with the defaults being W A S D and the Arrow keys. For actions we have the same as for controller but only one primary input. Extra mouse buttons work perfectly. The only thing I miss here is the ability to use mouse wheel up and down inputs as well as remapping the Pause keys, which are Escape and Enter. Being able to use the Enter key on the numeric keypad really helps but full customization would be ideal as hardcoded keys are always a way to create barriers.
Last, we can select if we want to use Run and Crouch as holds or toggles which always helps. What features do I miss? An auto walk function, mouse sensitivity adjustments and the possibility to unlock the mouse cursor from the game window to allow better use of on-screen keyboards.
The last menu, Video & Graphics, is used to adjust the window mode between Fullscreen, Borderless Window and Windowed. You can also set your desired Resolution, set Vsync On/Off and limit your framerate. Resolution Scale is used to increase performance at the cost of visual quality. The rest of options are to configure the visual quality. The game looks and runs well but I miss a Field of View option. While I didn’t experience it as much as in other games, in some narrow areas or when having to jump/crouch and turn suddenly I had symptoms of motion sickness.
That’s all for Settings, now on to the scary part, gameplay.
From the main menu we click Play and that brings up options to start a New Game, select any Chapter and Continue.
The first screens before each chapter gives a brief introduction to the story. This text is in the same standard size as menus, so not customized. You can proceed to the next screen pressing any key.
The gameplay takes place in first person view, with no visible HUD elements beyond the crosshair. When you arrive to the island you are greeted by the sound of water, an eerie silence and a beautiful vista of the docks and the city in the distance. It is a sunny day; birds fly above the sea and yet there is this feeling of uneasiness in the air. The game makes good use of sound and silence since the beginning to communicate how alone you are, when someone might be close with footsteps and the music changes in accordance. The sound also reflects the surfaces you walk on, if the item you hit is a stone brick or a wooden box and some Easter Eggs are sound lines. I really feel many of these sounds carry a lot of information and help power up the experience, so the game might greatly benefit from having optional captions for these.
But let’s focus on the controls. To traverse the scenarios, you can move in four directions by holding down the key you defined for it. You control the camera with the mouse. You can run briefly by pressing a key and holding down the direction, until your character starts panting heavily from the effort and the screen edges show dark borders, as if you are going to blackout. To jump you just press a key, and crouch/stand up in the same way. You can not jump while crouching, though.
To interact with items, like reading signs, opening cabinets and doors, grabbing/dropping objects… you just need to press the Interact key once.
Most items can be rotated to look at them, and in some cases find surprises. This is done using the same directional keys as for moving. Pressing the Interact key again you stop this examination.
The only holds you must do are for levers that activate certain mechanisms. I wish these were a simple press too as even if the holds are not long it’s less tiring the other way, and thus more accessible.
All these actions are introduced in the beginning with on-screen prompts and a brief explanation. All these prompts use the customized text format. The on boarding is well paced and the game shows constantly what actions and the inputs to perform them whenever you are using/targeting an item.
The only issue found with prompts and signposts text is that at very high size values the text cuts off and you can’t scroll it. The screenshots above show the same text at 1.0 and 2.0 respectively. This obviously would require a fix.
With Outlines active, they will highlight most items nearby except stone bricks, boxes, wooden planks, and such.
In fact, it’s not that these don’t highlight ever, but like some don’t trigger the effect, so this is probably a bug and should be fixable. The outline is very helpful throughout all the game as these previously mentioned elements can be tricky to spot in some darker areas and they are vital to solve most puzzles and proceed. Aside from it I just wish there was a way for selecting their color for different colorblindness modes as well.
The game puzzles have different varieties. Some are navigational, as finding the right way through a hedge maze, while others require crouching and jumping, piling objects to reach higher places or a mix of all this. Many require running and proper timing and can be tricky to pull off, which is where I miss the auto-walk feature the most as I would allow to ease the pressure on the player’s hands.
Speaking of piling up items, it’s very simple to do. Once you are in range, target the object with the crosshair, press once to grab it and you can move around and turn your camera to position it while it remains suspended in the air. The only thing to be wary is that wooden items will break easily if they hit something.
Of course, other puzzles require good orientation and memory, as some doors only open entering the right combination of symbols. While some are often found nearby, it is not always the case so it is not rare to forget them. Add the fact that someone might appear anytime to scare or kill you and that makes it easier to forget due to that pressure. I did a couple times. Maybe the game could have a Journal that shows the pictures collected or have a Puzzle Assist option, so once you inspect the pictures in the world they show above the switches and memorizing them is no longer an issue.
Last the Photomode is easy to use. Once you activate it by pressing the key you assigned it to, you can move around the nearby area using your movement keys. To rotate the camera, you must hold down one of your mouse buttons (left or right) and move the mouse. I wish there was a simpler way to do without hold, like using one of your keys/buttons to swap between camera rotation and interaction with the photo adjustments interface. The photo adjustments are fully usable via mouse, by just clicking on the different options you can adjust their values and you can navigate between tabs by clicking the left/right arrows on the top or the icon for the tab you want customize. This is something not easy to find even on big budget games and it’s very convenient. My only other issue is that the keys to hide the UI and reset the adjustments are hardcoded. If these were remappable or used icons on the screen it would be just perfect.
As for progress, when you die you go back to a preset position nearby. This means you don’t need to be saving at all. I still would like to have a manual save, just in case you get stuck and the restart point isn’t where you need/want to be.
Horror Tales: The Wine was hard to review game because I am not a big fan of horror games, as they cause me anxiety. And yet, it is one of the games that felt more rewarding to review. Some accessibility features of The Wine surpass many AAA games, proving once more indie devs have a lot to say. From the get-go the UI was easy to navigate and there was nothing I couldn’t do. No menus to get stuck on, consistent good design and no excessive number of keys or complex controls. As mentioned in the review I miss a few features on the Settings, that could help open the game to even more players with other needs such as increased mouse cursor sensitivity or the auto-walk for consuming less energy and make traversing easier, and resolving the hardcoded keys would be very welcome. The developer has shown in the past that he listens to feedback and cares about accessibility so I hope that in a future update or the next game these will get addressed. I had a very positive feeling and, scares aside, a good time playing the game because at no point I felt there were barriers that got between the gameplay and me. Of course, your experience may be different but hopefully you will find this review helpful to make your own assessment and decide if this quest for the wine of salvation is accessible for you.
Antonio I. Martinez has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 and has been a gamer for most of his life. His background formation in computer programming and English compose his basic skill set. Previously the mobility editor for Can I Play That, now works in this new project to help other fellow gamers and contribute to spread accessibility. You can contact him on Twitter at @Black1976