While there does not seem to be a week going by without a release of a new hidden object or time management game, the number of options for people who enjoy strategy games like the Chocolatier or Tradewinds series’ is rather limited. All the better that Winemaker Extraordinaire turns out to be a compelling and well-made game in the same line. Instead of making coffee, truffles and chocolate bars the player travels the world to acquire new wineries and collect more and more blends of wine.
Maria Bellaventura is in a sorry plight: exhausted from her job, unhappy in the big city and grieving for the death of her grandfather. In a particularly touching introductory scene, Maria receives a letter from her grandfather who tells her to return to the family vineyeard in Italy. There she gets to know the first of fifteen members of the Guild of Extraordinary Winemakers,an organization that fell apart many years ago due to greed and selfishness. She also learns of the "Vino Ultimae," the world’s most glorious wine. Maria’s grandfather tore the recipe to pieces and gave one piece to each member after the guild’s separation.
The main objective is to gather and reassamble those pieces, but this task will require a lot of orders and favors, which Maria has to fulfill for the former guild members. In the beginning you only have one winery in Italy and two different wine blends, namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. As you progress in the game, new locations in Germany, France, Australia and other countries will be unlocked, and you get the chance to purchase five more wineries altogether, allowing you to make more profits and to expand your variety of wine blends.
The process of buying supplies, selling wine and unlocking new blends is quite similar to Chocolatier, as is the world map and the layouts of the different locations. In each town is one supplier, where you can fill your stock with differently shaped bottles and various types of grapes, at the cellar you can sell wine, from the travel terminal you can reach other locations and at the guild you will get new quests and orders.
However, not every grape is available in every country, and the costs may vary, too. A very realistic touch of the game is that you can plant some types of grapes at your wineries, for example Riesling in Germany or Nebbiolo in Italy. Furthermore the production of some wine blends is also restricted to only one country; highly expensive Champagne can only be made in France and Malbec has to be produced in South Africa.
While the number of wine blends is extremely small compared to the large variety of different recipes in Chocolatier, the actual process of wine-making is more complex. There are three different mini-games that really spice up the game. If you decide to grow grapes in your vineyards, you can handle this process by yourself or hire someone for a large amount of money. The rows of soil have to be planted, watered and pruned. The number of grapes that you grow strongly depends on your performance in this time management-like game.
You are also able to influence the quality of your wine, which will increase its price remarkably. Therefore you have to remove leaves and little twigs from a grid by selecting three or more of them. According to how pure the grapes are your wine will get a one- to five-star quality. The third mini-game deals with the production of the wine itself – in the style of Tetris, rows of grapes have to be reordered according to the formula of the recipe, thereby constituting the amount of wine you produce a day.
Winemaker is definitely as addicting as Chocolatier, thanks in particular to the variety of mini-games and the interesting storyline and characters. You’ll find detailed descriptions for each person you can find a detailed descreption, the same applies to the wine blends which may be an interesting feature for wine connoisseurs. The graphics are very easy on the eyes and the retro-style of the game goes very well with its theme and creates a highly appealing atmosphere.
Granted, the game might be far too easy for people who have already finished similar games, and the length is not that convincing either. After approximately five hours you should have completed the game’s main goal and be ready to test your abilities in the free mode, which does not offer any additional challenges.
Nonetheless Winemaker Extraordinaire is definitely a recommendable game for both fans of and newcomers to the genre. The quest to help Maria bringing her family business up to its former glory is undeniably entertaining and compelling. It is up to you to find out if this wine is to your taste.