You don’t come across a game like Winemaker Extraordinaire HD very often. Then again, why would you? It’s part tycoon game, part minigame compilation, and part adventure game, all revolving around the creation of fine wines. That’s a niche market if we’ve ever seen one.
This iPad game is actually a port of an older PC game, but it’s one that works well enough on the tablet. Taking on the role of Maria Bellaventura, you crisscross the globe in search of the best ingredients, setting up shop as you open up new wineries and hobnob with fancy Winemaker Guild members.
All of these activities are presented via hand-drawn graphics full of vibrant colors, although the visuals seem dated to us. It’s clearly hearkening back to the glory days of PC adventure and simulation game, and the iPad has become a treasure trove of such titles, so we always welcome any we can get. Of course, they can’t all be of the same pedigree.
Bottle up your passion.
The chief problem with Winemaker Extraordinaire is that its very premise indicates that we’re now scraping the bottom of the barrel for new ideas in this genre. Unless you have a genuine passion to make wine, we’re not sure that you’re going to find the core of this game even remotely interesting. And if you do have such a desire, you’re probably better off taking out a loan and starting a real wine making business.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the game, especially if you find the subject matter intriguing. But even this glamorized version of the life of a wine connoisseur is not that fun.
Winemaker Extraordinaire is at its strongest when you’re building up your businesses and traveling. As Maria, you get to visit 15 countries, and there are a host of characters to interact with as you work toward building your wine empire. But since everything is focused around growing the business, these interactions tend to feel lifeless, existing only to move you further along in the game.
Where the magic happens.
The minigames that you’ll need to periodically perform are more like chores. There are only three, and they have you doing such tasks as planting grapes, picking grapes from leaves, and pressing grapes– otherwise known as work. That’s all well and good if there’s a big payoff, but in our experience, it felt like more of a hassle. Even when you get to mix ingredients you’ve collected to make new wines, given that you don’t actually get to taste this imaginary stuff, these nuanced varieties feel meaningless.
As a whole, Winemaker Extraordinaire HD simply lacks depth. The actual process of making wine is surely more complex than this, so if you’re making a simulation game, that complexity should be built in. Winemaker Extraordinaire HD has an identity crisis: It wants to be the best of all genres, but it ends up being a jack of all trades and master of none.
If you’re completely out of other tycoon-style games to play, or if the prospect of being a budding winemaker entrepreneur whets your palate, by all means give this game a shot. But come with lowered expectations, as this foray into the world of wine is not top shelf.