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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: A Quiet Weekend in Capri




A Quiet Weekend in Capri (Game release date: 2004)
A beautiful, creative Mystlike adventure game, unfortunately crippled by amateruish gameplay and design.


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Highlights: Innovative premise, pretty photography Lowlights: Amateurish gameplay, awkward interface, no real puzzles to solve, thousands of useless empty areas

I've never played a good game that was this bad before. "A Quiet Weekend in Capri" has so much going for it, from its creative premise (using an alternate-reality version of a real Italian island as its gameworld) right down to its beautiful photography and evocative music. Somebody spent so much time and effort designing this game, and then dumped it onto a framework reminiscent of something I programmed in BASIC when I was twelve. (You'll think I'm exaggerating until you see the interface buttons, which seriously look like a child drew them on a Magnadoodle.) The gameplay is pre-Zork, understanding only "get," "use," and directions as input commands. There's no Mystlike fiddling with contraptions, no graphic-adventure-type NPC interactions, no CRPG-style quests. Instead there are more than 4500 different location screens, of which only about 200 ever serve any purpose beyond aesthetic filler. That is every bit as bad as it sounds. You literally wander a few hundred screens over to one side of the island, only to find you need an object you don't have yet, so you have to go a few hundred screens in some other direction to find it (with only a few exceptions, there are no movement shortcuts.) A Quiet Weekend in Capri turns out to be a relentless barrage of useless area after useless area after useless area, and although they're all lovely shots (this isn't some lame batch of vacation pics here, the photographer is truly talented,) at some point you'd rather have spent your $30 on a coffee-table book.

Which is too bad, because there's a good game buried under all this tedium. Uniquely among Myst clones, the designers of Quiet Weekend in Capri seem to have grasped what it was that made Myst so dramatic in the first place: the genuine elimination of a narrator, letting the player stumble into a strange new world and explore it for him or herself. The plot elements are interesting, the moments where you bump into unexpected evidence of the divergence between the parallel realities are electrifying. Unfortunately, because of the grossly amateurish gameplay, it's almost impossible to enjoy any of it. This is a game only for the truly patient... or for people with some real-life reason for wanting to memorize a road map of Capri.

Style: A Quiet Weekend in Capri is a first-person puzzle-adventure game with a rudimentary point-and-click interface. The game is untimed and no manual dexterity is required. Combat and leveling are not elements.

Series: A Quiet Weekend in Capri is a stand-alone game, though a sequel is apparently in the works.

Finding A Quiet Weekend in Capri: Like many games released more than five years ago, A Quiet Weekend In Capri is still sold by many software retailers, but at ridiculously high prices. You shouldn't have to pay $60 for this game... try the "New and Used" section of Amazon.com, or look on Ebay.

Getting A Quiet Weekend in Capri to Work: This game ought to be plug-and-play. I had no problems getting it to run, and I'd be shocked if anyone else did either, given how minimalist the gameplay engine is.

Hints For A Quiet Weekend in Capri: I have a page of Weekend In Capri hints up online, which makes some general gameplay suggestions; however, I haven't written the usual walkthrough to go with it. Because there is so little for a player to interact with in this game, my low-spoiler walkthrough approach really doesn't lend itself well. If you can't find an object you need, your best bet is probably a traditional walkthrough like this one.

Pitfalls In A Quiet Weekend in Capri: You can either have subtitles or English audio; it's impossible to have both. This can make the game difficult to follow. I recommend playing in Italian with English subtitles--some of the voiceovers are very difficult to understand by audio alone.

Game Length: 25 hours, about standard for a graphic adventure, but the vast majority of that was spent navigating--A Quiet Weekend in Capri has significantly less gaming content (fewer puzzles, plot points, quests, decisions to make, etc.) than most adventure games out there.

Age-Appropriateness: This game is rated E (for everyone 6 and up) and has nothing objectionable in it at all, in fact, it's very easily navigable by kids, though mine quickly got bored of wandering the endless empty streets.

Lora's Quiet Weekend in Capri Review: (Flawed)

Plot and Quests: A Quiet Weekend in Capri has an excellent premise and a plot that could have been really compelling, but there are so few actual plot points or real moments of exploration that this initial promise is never really fully delivered on. The quests are all simple fetching and delivering items (this is an annoying enough trend in adventure games as it is; did we REALLY need a game in which the protagonist is LITERALLY a delivery boy?)
Puzzles and Mental Challenges: There are only two true puzzles in this game, and both of them are simple "figure out the correct code from these clues" exercises. There are many interesting contraptions, but none of them need to be solved to work: you just touch them and something magic happens. Even inventory combination is seriously limited in this game.
Characters: The main character is ingeniously presented--you are playing yourself, but you've somehow changed bodies with an alternate-universe Italian youth named Rafele. Not only is that creative, it neatly sidesteps many of the problems of first-person adventure gaming. Unfortunately, all of the NPCs are as two-dimensional as their pictures.
Gameworld: High marks for concept--I loved the idea of an alternate-universe version of a real-world location--but poor marks for execution. Disappointingly few things were interesting or even different at all in this strange new world--the technology level and political reality have been radically changed, yet everyday items all look the same as they do back home, and the few people who talk to you have nothing to add.
Gameplay: They weren't even trying. 90% of this game is spent doing absolutely nothing of any interest whatsoever, and the remaining 10% is essentially "click here to continue."
Interface: The interface is simplistic but generally functional. The awkward control screen makes it difficult to save games or jump to known locations. Savegames are hard to tell apart, since you can't name them OR save a screenshot. Very 1986.
Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): It's hard to love graphics that are so aggressively static (you hear burbling water and see a still snapshot of the fountain; you hear an NPC talking to you and see a still snapshot of a person), but A Quiet Weekend in Capri at least makes you seriously like them. The quality of the photography is outstanding, and the music is good.

Lora's Recommendations: I can't really recommend this game; its gameplay is so primitive and uninteractive it barely even qualifies as a game in my book, and its interesting moments just aren't worth the hours of clicking back and forth through what is essentially a digital slideshow of artistic photography. Diehard fans of the puzzle-adventure genre will appreciate A Quiet Weekend In Capri's creative premise and mysterious mood, and the Italian-language option might make it an interesting tool for people studying Italian. Other than that, though, there are much more interesting puzzle adventures on the market out there.

If You Loved A Quiet Weekend in Capri: You should immediately play the Myst games, if you haven't yet; none is harder to navigate than Weekend In Capri, and they all feature logical, interactive puzzles and remarkable set design as well as an evocatively mysterious mood. The original Myst is the simplest and in many ways the best. Riven has better puzzles but a much higher degree of difficulty, Exile has a great story but less sense of wonder, and Revelation has the best interface but is pretty much a retread of the other three. If what you liked about Quiet Weekend in Capri was how little it tied your brain in knots, on the other hand, I recommend Syberia, which is a gorgeous graphic adventure with a mysterious ambience that has very easy puzzles but a much higher ratio of interesting events to mindless tedium than Weekend in Capri. Or Dark Fall is a spooky 1st-person puzzle adventure that is very easy to navigate.

For a more detailed critique of A Quiet Weekend in Capri involving spoilers, please see my Backseat Game Designer page. Happy gaming!



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