Except for small forays into zombies or a Metroidvania, developer Nostatic Software is chiefly known to me for its old school adventures. The studio’s newest essentially completes and cordons itself off as the ‘quietest’ trilogy on XBLIG, now that Vacation Vexation ($1.00) has joined Quiet, Please! and Quiet Christmas in continuing its puzzler / adventurer’s quest to find a moment’s peace.
Exactly like the previous games in the series, it has you playing as a young girl seeking silence. This time, she’s on vacation with her family at some nameless seaside resort, and all she wants to do is read a book without any distractions. To achieve that goal, she goes about it the way that any other American youth would do these days; commit a series of crimes stretching from vandalism and destruction of property, then on to retail theft and all the way up to aggravated assault. No, I’m not kidding. The protagonist is a regular Problem Child.
Puzzles and their (sometimes esoteric) solutions will routinely see you preying on others to get your way, though it’s all in lighthearted fun (getting a cat to chase a wind-up mouse, tricking the hotel’s front desk staff into running errands, etc.). Most will involve you carrying a certain object from one spot to the next, with some items / locations closed or walled off until you’ve progressed deeper into the story.
It’s the little things here that ultimately make the game, like your obnoxious little brother following your every move, scooping up quest items and quickly becoming bored with them, or getting shit on by one of the resort’s many birds, seagulls, etc. Some humorous dialogue and comedic sequences help out as well. It’s all part of the game’s charm, and does more to sell the world than you think.
Games within a game? Cue the Inception theme.
How much you enjoy that world is dependent upon how much you enjoy some trial-and-error puzzle solving, though. While a lot of the solutions are apparent or soon discovered, there are others that will have you scratching your head and trying every item combination (who would think to add suntan lotion to chemicals, for instance, or use a bathtowel as a rope to board a truck?). With no real hints given or implied, it can start to feel like busy work, and it can be argued that the in-game arcade, full of familiar remake / demakes like Space Invaders and Frogger, is sometimes more fun than the main game.
Still, Vacation Vexation is a unique experience with a solid, cutesy core, once you get past some of the more obscure puzzle designs. All my squabbles will mean little to fans of the series anyway. It offers more of the bizarre adventures of a very sensitive girl, and that seems to strike a chord with certain gamers.