Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii) Review
Ever since the Nintendo Wii was first revealed and consequently released, we’ve had a bombardment of terrible third rate, third party games that do little to advance the industry in terms of controls, just as Nintendo planned to. However, several key developers have been showing promise in the implementation of Nintendo’s not-so-normal control system, including Nintendo themself. Up until now, we haven’t seen such a seamless and fluid incorporation of these functions third party titles. That’s where Capcom’s Zack & Wiki comes in – it’s a game that’s fun and appropriately uses the Wii’s controls to do the system the justice it so rightfully deserves.
Zack & Wiki is an original IP by Capcom designed exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. That’s the first great thing about this game – it wasn’t designed for the PS2 or PSP first (See: Alien Syndrome & Harvey Birdman) but instead, it’s made with the Wii in mind and only the Wii. Players assume the role of Zack & Wiki, the games titular companions. Zack is a….well…it’s hard to say what he is. He seems to be human, but he could also be a rabbit, we just don’t know. Anyway, Zack is a….something who aspires to be the greatest pirate ever, and has just joined a pirate gang known as the “Sea Rabbits” to further those aspirations. Joining him is his mysterious companion Wiki, a golden flying monkey who has a playful demeanour. During the prologue of the game, Zack & Wiki crash land their ship on an island, on the way to their pirate hide out. On this island, they encounter the mysterious (yet legendary) pirate captain, Barbaros. Here’s the catch though – Barbaros has lost his body parts, and must find the rest of them to restore himself to his former glory. He offers Zack & Wiki his legendary pirate ship in exchange for their help to reunite his lost body parts. This is where your quest begins.
Zack & Wiki is an incredibly nice looking game. Adopting a cel-shaded technique that’s almost like Wind Waker’s, Zack & Wiki’s world is rendered in myriads of wonderful and bright colours. The presentation of the game world, melded with the lovable character interaction provides a great atmosphere for the player to be immersed in. Zack & Wiki is filled with comical and slap stick situations such as Zack getting pan-caked by a boulder or simply being corrected by the other characters. Each event comes equipped with a facial expression that guarantees to get a smile or even a slight chuckle out of the player. Zack & Wiki is, for lack of a better word, a cute game with an eclectic cast of characters. The animations and emotions portrayed by Capcom are top notch, and wouldn’t be the same without the beautifully drawn cel shaded style. Although it doesn’t hold up against some last gen classics such as Wind Waker and XIII, Zack & Wiki’s style and charm should be appealing enough.
The soundtrack for Zack & Wiki is simply nothing short of memorable. Although there are some catchy beats, the main attraction in Zack & Wiki is most probably the vocals. The characters don’t actually speak per se, but instead make noises akin to Banjo Kazooie. These noises are somewhat comical in their execution but can get irritating to the players after hearing them for a while. All in all though, the audio in Zack & Wiki is nothing amazing but at the same time nothing horrendous either.
Bar the famous Lucasarts franchise, Escape from Monkey Island, the point n click genre was a dying one. There weren’t a lot of games that focused solely on point n click themed puzzles, but Zack & WIki manages to bring the classic formula back and refreshes it with the implementation of Wii based motion controls. Zack & Wiki only requires the player to possess a Wiimote, with several other players able to add to the fun also. Zack is controlled completely through the motion sensor, there is no movement using the D-Pad. Users simply point and click to tell Zack to walk to that specific position. If an interaction can be made with the environment, the pointer will change to signify so. Shaking of the Wiimote turns Wiki into a golden bell, which has the power to turn many of the island’s inhabitants into objects useable to solve the puzzles in each level. All the interactions are done with the Wiimote, and usually they are constructed in a manner faithful to their real life counterparts – but more on that later.
Each level is divided into 3-4 certain areas with a boss level also. Completion of each stage opens up another in the same area. The areas are pretty general, with a jungle area, lava/fire area, ice area and a few others. Each stage consists of an elusive and unreachable treasure chest, and a few creatures and items lying around. The basic premise of each level is to solve a set of puzzles to reach the treasure chest and obtain it’s contents. There is usually only one solution to each puzzle, and to be honest, there is almost NO help given without incurring penalties. Zack & Wiki is a game that will make you think, and reward you for acting intelligently, without making mistakes. The game does this by measuring your “HQ’ through a proprietary system known as “HirameQ”, a play off of Intelligence Quota (or IQ) designed to pay homage to the game’s original creator. Should a player make multiple attempts to perform one action, they will receive a lower HQ rating at the end of the level, and thus receive less bonuses. Should a player be stuck, they can utilise special cards given to them by a perplexing “psychic” who is also a member of the Sea Rabbits. Should you use a card, this “oracle” will provide a short video showing the solution of the puzzle, but not in it’s entirety, still providing players with a challenge. That’s the best thing about the gameplay in Zack & Wiki, it’s a challenging affair that hasn’t been seen in games for a long time. And, surprisingly enough, although the game offers you help, you will feel guilty for accepting it – something a game hasn’t done to this reviewer for a long time.
Boss battles are pretty much larger than normal levels, filled with several mini puzzles that must be achieved in order to defeat the boss. Many of these levels employ a trial and error system in that certain tasks must be performed before others or they will eventually result in Zack’s demise. Such an example is that a player must change the tracks a boulder travels down before travelling up a staircase. If the player doesn’t, when they walk up the step case, they will trigger a switch and be consequently killed off by the said boulder. Changing the tracks naturally means that Zack will avoid the boulder. Examples like these also provide a noteworthy level of frustration to the gameplay, though it isn’t too detrimental to the entire experience.
Also included is a multiplayer mode, though it is pretty mundane. Additional players can grab Wiimotes and draw on the screen, possibly to alert the controlling player to things they may have missed. Unsurprisingly, in our test plays a lot of people instead decided it would be funny to draw obscenities all over the screen instead of actually helping the primary player out. The multiplayer isn’t exactly one of the key selling points of the game, but it was worth a mention anyway, and a kudos goes to Capcom for implementing it even though it wasn’t really required.
The charm and selling point of Zack & Wiki is the implementation of the Wii’s unique controls. The most basic of functions is the rapid shaking of the Wiimote, like it were a bell. When this is done by the player, Wiki will transform into a magical bell, playing music from the Wiimore speaker and all. Anything in the close vincinity of the the character will be transformed into an item usable by Zack to solve nearby puzzles. A centipede is transformed into a saw and a snake can be transformed into an extendable hand, though you’ll be transforming ALOT more. All these items are used to solve the game’s puzzles, and this is where the game is truly remarkable. If using a Saw to cut down a tree, you actually move the Wiimote like it is a Saw. Using the extendable arm? You actually have to reach for the item and use the A + B buttons as “tongs’ to grab the item. Turning a crane? Turn the Wiimote as you would a handle. The accuracy of these movements and the precision required really makes you wonder what other third parties were doing while Capcom were making this masterpiece, as Capcom have hammered it down to a tee..
As for replayability, Zack & Wiki doesn’t offer a lot of incentive to play through the game again unless you desire to get a higher score over your past ones. Without any form of online Nintendo WFC functionality, there isn’t any incentive to get a higher score besides personal bragging rights for yourself. Completion of the non-mandatory missions also unlocks treasure maps, for which the player can use to locate treasure in other levels to further their completion rating for the game, slowly crawling towards a famed 100%. Besides that though, Zack & Wiki offers no real replay value outside of the completionist demographic.
There are a few complaints that come with Zack & Wiki though – and that’s mainly the accessibility of the game. Being designed for a console that is supposed to be more accesible to everyon, Zack & Wiki is not one of those games. The puzzles can be somewhat perplexing to most average minded gamers and the ones found in later levels are extremely hard to deal with without excess help, turning off some players from playing the game. Furthermore, the stigma associated with cel shaded graphics may turn most of the hardcore crowd off the game, as it did for Nintendo’s classic Wind Waker on the Gamecube. Aurally speaking many gamers may find the limited voice acting cringe worthy, especially that of Wiki’s, which sounds like a typical high pitched Japanime character. And finally, many may find the story somewhat transparent and extremely conventional, but it’s the gameplay that counts in Zack & Wiki.
Criticism’s aside though, Zack & Wiki is yet another example of what can be truly done with the Wii’s innovative hardware, should it be put in the hands of a hopeful third party developer. Capcom hardly ever disappoint with their efforts on the Wii, with hits like RE4 Wii Edition and Umbrella Chronicles being released last year, and they certainly don’t disappoint with Zack & Wiki, a game that I thoroughly recommend every Wii owner goes and tries out. Although it might not be for everyone, it certainly is for those looking for a fresh and original challenge that doesn’t consist of the bog-standard mini game compilations out there. A true gem and hopefully we’ll see enough sales to see a fresher and broader sequel.