Anacapri The Dream - Review

Seek an ancient artifact in an idyllic Mediterranean setting

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Main MenuMap of Capri

Genre: Mystery Adventure
Release Date: Q4 2007

Note: Originally published 20 Dec 2007


I don’t get adventure games too often these days. It’s not that they’re not available, it’s just that I don’t have the money I once did to spend $60 or more on every new title. These days I tend to wait a couple of years before the game comes down to a more civilized $10 and get it then. So, it’s pretty exciting when Randy sends me a BRAND NEW GAME FOR FREE!

Anacapri The Dream is a two-man project from father and son Silvio and Giuseppe Savarese following on from their critically-acclaimed A Quiet Weekend On Capri. I played A Quiet Weekend On Capri when it came out but gave up a little short of the end when I got lost. It was similarly a first-person point-and-click adventure but was a bit complicated and I lost my way. There seemed to be so many streets and alleys that I didn’t have a clue where I was. My reading about the game Anacapri The Dream led me to believe that it would be more of the same so I anticipated it might be a visually stunning but ultimately frustrating experience. I was glad to find a walkthrough (there’s even a link on the official website) to allow me to play this game to review it more faithfully. By the way, speaking of the official website, be sure to download the update (about 10 MB) there-I’m not sure what it actually does but I’m a firm believer in ensuring a game is as stable and up-to-date as possible at the outset.

Installation Woes??

The first thing I was struck by when I went to install this game is that it takes FOREVER to install. I can’t recall a single game that takes this long to install. I had this idea of installing it just before bed and having a brief look at it as a way of unwinding before catching some 'z's but it took me three failed attempts over three successive nights before I gave up and started installing it with plenty of time to go and do other things. The install took over 60 minutes before all the files were decompressed and the game was ready to go. There are huge games with 3D engines that install faster than this. The only thing that I can recall even approaching the time that this took was when I tried to install a large Russian (read not well programmed) game MANY YEARS AGO on a very slow computer. I realize that this game was created by a couple of independent developers but perhaps their programming skills could be developed to overcome the need to decompress every file so slowly… The game takes up an almost impossible to believe 7 GB on the hard drive and claims to have over 50 hours of gameplay!

First Impressions
 
The next thing I noticed is that this has the most stunning photographs (apparently 8,000 of them!) of one of the most beautiful places in the world. Anacapri is apparently the second-largest town on the island (after Capri). I dare anyone to play this game and not wish they could visit this idyllic Mediterranean island. It looks like a truly extraordinary place to visit - but very self-contained and not overwhelming as traditional style meets modern. In other words, a great site for the beginning of a mystery. Speaking of mystery, I really wonder what the designers were thinking of not providing some kind of an introductory movie. All of a sudden, you are plunked down in a café and told to go somewhere to meet someone - this was just screaming out for some kind of brief outline of why you’re here. The game does reveal this as you meet people but I don’t think much of the mystery would have been spoiled by having an introduction. There are very infrequent animations that add a little color and life to the otherwise static backgrounds. There are also points where the static image can be panned in any of four directions to reveal other hotspots. This reminded me of a lot of those 1990s QuickTime-based games like Mortalus and made for some more interaction than would otherwise be found with the static photos.

Sound

This in itself would not be the undoing of a game but what next follows is an absolute atrocity in an adventure game. This game has, without a doubt, the absolute worst voice acting I have ever experienced. Not only do the characters sound like they are reading but they sound like they have never read before and care not to ever read with an ounce of intonation or emphasis. Speech is universally clear, with no obvious muffling or background noise interfering with the speech signal. At one point, though, a waitress’ voiceover sounded like a computerized voice. The accents are not Italian either, so not only do we get subpar inflection, the actors aren’t even native to Capri. The characters waffle on in pseudo-English that between the absence of recognizable English and complete apathy in the vocal production makes understanding what is actually said a complete impossibility. Just talk to the turtle to understand what I’m saying (yes, you read right). Thankfully, the one saving grace is that all conversations are logged and can be accessed later so you can view the conversation script and attempt to make sense of the haphazardly written dialog. I really think it’s a shame when a game is dubbed. This game has the option of playing in Italian but unless you’re a native speaker you’re not going to understand a thing. NOTE TO ALL GAME DEVELOPERS: subtitles are not an extra, they are essential. Not only do they allow the hearing-impaired play games, they allow us to make up for lousy sound recording, difficult accents, and even allow the flexibility of playing a game in another language.

There are few ambient sounds -- mostly they are a standout, adding realism to the static images presented. It sounds like you are at the beach, in a cave, etc. What really jars, though, is the grating music that suddenly starts and stops as you approach an interactive area. The music doesn’t seem to match the mood of the island or the game and is greatly at odds with the subtlety that I expect music should bring to a movie or a game -- it should create and enhance a mood, not drown it. The most out-of-place music would have to be the electric guitar pieces that are more suited to slasher/horror movies than the tranquility of a Mediterranean isle.

Gameplay
 
So, what is the game about? According to the makers, you are Dr. Nico N., “an expert in ancient civilizations.” For some reason, you are summoned to Anacapri to seek out a legendary artifact called the Obsidian Disk, which is rumored to possess some kind of power but has an evil past. And things don’t get much clearer from that point. There is a reasonable amount of dialog but most of it is confusing and doesn’t forward the story any. Most of the time is spent wandering and wondering what to do, which becomes pretty boring…fast. It’s strange that the streets are so lonely. I remember it was similar in S.P.Q.R. wandering the streets of Rome. For such a popular and populous place, why were there so few people? The game claims to have “logical puzzles” but in such a confusing game, the puzzles don’t seem very logical. With the way the interface is designed, it’s very easy not to realize that there is something you can do with an inventory item. The menu interface is very simplistic (not simple) and looks out-of-date in a game from 2007. I have a prejudice against games where I can’t name my saved games. Even though there are eight slots to save, thankfully it defaults to the most recent save when you go to reload a saved game.

As I said earlier, this is a point-and-click game. Perhaps this game should be called point-and-click-and-click-and-click. Every click progresses you in the real world about 10 feet but unfortunately only about 10% of the screens actually have something interactive in them. You find yourself clicking and clicking, which allows you to really appreciate the stunning vistas but in terms of gameplay, it feels a real drag. It really says something when someone like me, a lover of point-and-click adventure games has real concerns about developing RSI from too much clicking! Be sure to have the markers switched on or you’ll spend an exorbitant amount of time attempting to actually find any hotspots on the largely non-interactive screens. On the plus side, the game is almost completely open-ended allowing much exploration. It reminded me a lot of a role-playing game except there is far less to do and far fewer characters to interact with. As I became accustomed to the mapping, I realized that it wasn’t too bad but initially I found it very confusing. Once an area has been visited, though, there is, from that point forward, the option to teleport without having to ride the bus or walk the streets to get there.

Puzzles are of medium difficulty but not always the most logical. I liked the way the dream world and reality were interconnected such that information in one place could be used in the other. It’s not always evident where any given inventory item should be used and there is no onscreen icon that illustrates that there is any interactivity with any object. What this essentially means is that there are 8,000 possible screens where you could use an inventory item. This is just an invitation for frustration so I suggest the game developers think about incorporating a way to make this more user-friendly. I realize that gamers are jaded and criticize a game for being too easy but the overarching reason that we play games is for FUN. Clicking 8,000 times unnecessarily is not my idea of fun. I like games to reward intelligent thinking so that you feel a sense of accomplishment when you get the answer or solve the puzzle.

For those who don’t like adventuring at all, the game has the option of “exploration mode” wherein there are no puzzles and you can wander the streets of Anacapri for hours and gaze in awe at surely one of the most picturesque locations in the world. Almost every photo captures an exotic beauty. I had heard that this game was going to be made with some support of the Italian tourist board and if it was, the effect that the game is likely to have on players and viewers as potential tourists make it worth every penny of their investment.
 
Conclusion

So, this is a pretty ordinary game that has potential in some areas. In terms of fun and comprehensibility, this game deserves a D/F but some of the features lift it slightly. I’d give it a C-/D+. I don’t really look forward to the Savareses’ next game unless they make far more radical changes to the game design than those that have occurred from A Quiet Weekend In Capri to now. Another side of me looks forward to seeing more of the beauty of their home so I am a little torn. 


Grade: C-/D+
 
+ Stunning photographs of beautiful Capri.
Really bad voice acting.
- Confusing plot. 
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System Requirements:

    Windows 98 SE, Me, 2000, XP, Vista
    Pentium IV 1.5 MHz or Athlon equivalent
    XGA monitor (4:3 aspect ratio) capable of resolution 1024 x 768 (24-bit color)
    7GB free hard disk space
    DVD drive
    256 MB DRAM

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