AnaCapri: The Dream is the sequel to A Quiet Weekend in Capri, an adventure that was released in 2004. The first Capri game was well-received by reviewers, but I didn’t play it. It somehow slipped through the cracks, and, given its premise, which sounded more like a tourism advertisement than it did a game, it probably wasn’t a game that I actively pursued anyway. I mean, an interactive movie might be fun, but an interactive commercial?
So I don’t really have any way of comparing AnaCapri to A Quiet Weekend in Capri. I can only surmise that AnaCapri is a similar style game, where instead of exploring Capri, which is located on the eastern side of the Island of Capri, you get to wander around Anacapri, which is located on the western side. Except... something must have changed between the two games, because I thoroughly loathed AnaCapri, and I can’t imagine a game anything like it generating positive reviews or a sequel.
Anyway, the premise behind AnaCapri revolves around a mysterious obsidian disk. You’re a scientist invited to the island to look for it, but then it turns out that most of what you see takes place in a dream, and so you have to deal with things like talking turtles, illusionary sandal makers, and magical postcards. In some ways this is sort of fun, because it means that the developers can do whatever they want, but in other ways it hurts the game, because you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. For example, when Barbarossa the pirate appears to you as a seagull and talks to you about his life, including his dealings with the (fictional) obsidian disk, do you listen to him at all? Do you believe in anything he says? I think if you want your game to be something of a multimedia tour of a location, it’s better for the game to be more grounded rather than less.
Speaking of multimedia tours, that’s the part of AnaCapri that works the best. The developers took hundreds of pictures of the city, including its forts and churches and people, and they faithfully integrated those pictures into the game. As a result, when you explore Anacapri, it feels like you’re really there. But again there’s a downside. The developers didn’t show any restraint. They took pictures of everything, and they created a game location for roughly every twenty feet of real space. That means there’s a lot of trudging around to do, with most locations not having anything to do with any of the puzzles, and all too often I felt like I was trapped in an overlong presentation of somebody’s boring vacation photos.
The puzzles in the game don’t help it, either. They range from tedious to obscure to outrageously silly, like when you need to transfer some nereids (fish-like creatures) to a boat. How do you do it? Why, you pick up an entire aquarium and lug it around with you for the rest of the game, of course! I remember an old Leisure Suit Larry adventure that made fun of this sort of thing (Larry folded up a huge Big Gulp drink and put it into his pocket), but AnaCapri is trying to be serious, and the developers don’t seem to realize how silly they often make the game look. If games got points for providing unintentional, campy humor, then AnaCapri would score a lot better, but all I did most of the time was shake my head in disbelief.
Want another puzzle example? At one point you need to get into a guy’s house, but the gatekeeper won’t let you in because he doesn’t know who you are. However, if you can prove that you’re friends with the guy by listing his three favorite pets, then the gatekeeper will give you access. So what does the gatekeeper turn around and do? Not only does he give you a list of possible pets to choose from, he gives you hints for what the three pets are! I mean, talk about defeating the purpose of the test. I don’t think I’ve seen a dumber puzzle in an adventure game in a long time.
There are other problems with AnaCapri: The Dream -- the design and performances are amateurish (I think they used the locals for all of the speaking lines), the story moves along slowly enough to put you to sleep, and the historical information, while plentiful, is often presented in a script that’s all but illegible to read, making it worthless. And so, without surprise, I’m not giving AnaCapri a positive score. It was more like a nightmare than a dream for me. I didn’t enjoy any part of the game, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.