The Capri Connection is the third game in the scenic series by the father-son team of Gey and Silvio Savarese. For this particular offering, Gey has taken over the reins of development solo, creating an adventure that branches out from the titular island, starting with a leisurely journey through Parco Virgiliano, the “Park of Remembrance.” Stone terraces along the clifftops overlook the harbor and the dark teal sea. Wildflowers are in bloom, and rows of evergreens display bizarre shapes sculpted by the ocean breeze. Years ago, I played partway into each of the preceding games – A Quiet Weekend in Capri and Anacapri: The Dream – but never finished them. Those two Capri games left me with memories of great natural beauty, tough puzzles, and the conviction that I had absolutely no idea where I was headed or what was going on. For better and for worse, The Capri Connection maintains this tradition, though of course this time I persevered through to the end.
The story: In Universe 3 (the universe of the game), a scientist named Costanzo Gravitiello has accidentally created a Space-Time Rip. This Rip has sent certain landmarks from our world (Universe 1) into the gameworld (Universe 3). So, for example, a famous American bridge appears and disappears and reappears between the islands of Procida and Vivara off the Italian coast. There are a couple of other landmark displacements, but they are rare. Why these structures in particular have swapped themselves between universes is not explained.
The Space-Time Rip has also switched certain people’s minds from one universe to another, placing them in their counterparts’ bodies. You are Nico Fredi, the hero from Anacapri, and you are suddenly shifted into the body of Nick Freuds in Universe 3. You receive a phone call, indicating that you are the only person who can heal the Rip, which is expanding rapidly. You must teleport to various places using an antique refrigerator device called the Frigo-T. In your travels, you will search for Professor Gravitiello while keeping your eyes peeled for colorful crystals that are part of an invention that might close the Rip.
The game’s story elements come at you in bursts, set apart by long periods of exploration. The story progresses chiefly through conversations with various characters. You are hindered in your quest by people in Universe 3 who are enjoying the company of the Universe 1 counterparts. An example – the former wife of the King of Capri, who now finds that the switch-er-ooed King is actually happy to pay her alimony.
You are further helped or hindered in your quest by everyday residents of Universe 3 who know all about the ominous Rip. They cooperate only if you solve puzzles for them. Some are aware that time is of the essence, but that doesn’t stop them from testing your brain before they’ll assist you. And once you’ve solved the puzzle or filled out their quiz, they rush off to an appointment, so they can’t help you any further.
An extra layer of story complexity is added by fictional characters whose minds have been transferred from off the page into the bodies of real people. These are supplemented by historical figures who are traveling through time and show up (much to their own astonishment) dressed in modern clothing. Mythological and fairy-tale creatures make surprise appearances (though these have managed to keep their traditional costumes). Even a Space-Time Rip is an insufficient explanation for this weird smorgasbord of characters. For Universe 3, anything goes, whether or not it makes any sense.
Conversation with this all-inclusive set of non-player characters is entirely one-sided – the game contains no dialog trees and you have no input at all, so dialogs are effectively monologues. Occasionally the characters pause and repeat a question you supposedly asked, and then answer it. This creates a facade of interaction, without the satisfaction of actually having any.
The characters are not animated, but posed via static photographs as voiceovers play in the background. They appear to be typical Italians, some (according to the credits) “…interpreting themselves as in their real life.” The dialogs contain no subtitles and cannot be clicked through. Sometimes they plod on for several minutes. Some of the dialogs are amusing, but others are weighted down by plot exposition. At times the language is stilted, with minor grammatical lapses.
The voiceovers range from acceptable to dreadful. A couple of characters sound exactly as though they are reading out loud from a book. The different accents make some words unintelligible. One dialog is performed entirely in a whisper – I didn’t understand a word of it. Conversations that are not only incomprehensible but unskippable as well become exercises in tedium. Fortunately, The Capri Connection allows you to go back and read the text of the dialogs. This is a lifesaver if you haven’t understood what a character has just said. To follow the story, I found it essential to read (and in some cases, re-read) these lengthy texts.
Looking past its convoluted story, what makes this game worth playing are the visuals, music, and puzzles. The Capri Connection uses a first-person perspective and a point-and-click interface. It features environments that consist of thousands of photographs presented in a slideshow-like format. These take you on long strolls through the streets, mountain paths, gardens, and forests near Naples.
As you wind your way back and forth through breathtaking landscapes, it’s hard not to conclude that this is one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth. You’ll encounter ancient marble statuary, pastel-colored villas stacked in terraced levels along the hillsides, and beaches tucked away between giant rock formations that march into the sea. Sometimes you enter a local home, art gallery, museum, or quaint restaurant in order to take in the ambiance. While there, you might pick up something useful or find a new bit of information, or you might even spot a tipsy Cumaean Sybil who spouts riddles.Continued on the next page...