I know that this is an old news game at this point, but I believe it deserves more attention than it received when it released. And with the Wii heading into what looks to be a rather slow year, what better time than now to take a look at some of the gems you may have missed?
Lemmings. Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Portal. Braid. And, of course, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. What do all of these games have in common? They represent something that is rare in the video game industry (to me, anyway.) Puzzle games that don't simply rehash the same old puzzle mechanics that we have seen a million times before. Believe me you, Zack & Wiki is a truly unique puzzle game that will make you think in ways far beyond the variations on block pushing and blue key fits blue door that make up 90% of the puzzles in most video games.
You play as Zack, a pirate boy, with the help of a flying monkey thingy called Wiki, as well as a gang of pirates back at base. There is an arch-nemesis, a young girl named Rose who is constantly trying to thwart you at every turn. There is some story involved about paying off a debt or finding the secrets of the world or something. It's irrelevent. This isn't to say there aren't a few charming lines of dialogue here and there, but for the most part, the game is about the gamplay.
I'm Zack. This is Wiki. What were our parents thinking!?
Graphically, Zack & Wiki is bright and colorful, almost resembling a saturday morning cartoon. It looks pretty crisp, although the screen can get glitchy at times. This may have just been my TV, I'm not sure. (edit- Turns out it WAS my TV, the game itself does not have glitchy graphics.) The style is pretty neat, and some of the stages border on beautiful even, such as a jungle stage with a setting sun in the background. The music and sound effects are pretty good as well, with the music being the eventful type you would expect in a game that looks like a cartoon, and the sound effects being unique and varied.
At it's core, Zack and Wiki is a point and clicker. However, don't expect a ton of player/NPC interactions and dialogue. This isn't an adventure game, it is a puzzle game through and through. No nunchuck attachment is required for this game, just the plain ol' Wii remote. To move, you simply point at the part of the screen that you want Zack to travel to and press the A button, and he runs over there. To interact with an object or the environment, point at it and press the A button, and... get the point? You can also shake the Wii remote to ring Wiki like a bell, which can accomplish many things, most noteably changing animals into items and back again. There are something like over 80 unique things to interact with, and each of them has their own control scheme, both in the way you hold the Wii remote and the buttons and motions involved. Zack & Wiki is an early Wii game, so the motion controls may feel a bit dated at this point, but considering the vast amount of items in the game, the controls are surprisingly intuitive (for the most part), and there really hasn't been much since that can match it.
What else can a saw do? You might be surprised. Then again, you might not.
The game is divided up into various themed worlds, and each world has three to five regular stages and one boss stage. The goal of any given stage is to reach the treasure chest at the end, solving puzzles while avoiding enemies, spikes, lava, rolling boulders and more, but this is easier said than done. Each stage can essentially be looked at as one large puzzle. Think of something like a Zelda dungeon, where there are a bunch of smaller puzzles to solve that combine to create a larger whole. This is the general idea behind the stages in Zack & Wiki. And this is where the game gets brilliant. I have played very few games with puzzles that step outside the box, but Zack and Wiki continually does this, keeping the entire game fresh and inventive the whole way through. You will use the same items in multiple ways in different situations, you will combine items, you will flip items and use them backwards, you will break items to use their pieces. I'd say more, but I'm afraid that I'm already spoiling too much. The point is, if you don't learn how to think outside of the box, you won't make much progress in Zack & Wiki. And if you do learn how to think outside of the box, you will surprise yourself when you stumble upon something so bizarrely brilliant that you can't believe the developers could possibly have thought about it, and it actually works. There are a lot of surprises to be had in Zack & Wiki.
There is plenty of variety in the stages as well. From a lush jungle area with water slides to a risky path deep inside a burning volcano to a haunted castle with creepy ass paintings, there is plenty to do and see. A couple more environments would have been nice, but I can't really complain. I was always pretty eager to see what was next, and with over 80 items the game was constantly introducing new things to interact with and new environments to interact with them in.
Vast and beautiful. That's the jungle for you.
Zack and Wiki manages to mix in some action and stealth elements into the puzzle solving at times, making it more than a simple puzzle game. I found the boss stages to be particularly interesting. They act as an odd hybrid of puzzle solving and real-time action, helping shake up the game a bit. Of course, the boss stages are also where it can become clear that point and click movement is not the best way to control action sequences. It never became a serious issue, as the bosses are designed around the controls, but I did at times wish for an analog stick to move around with.
One of the major negatives of the game is that it can often be a bit trial and error. This alone wouldn't be a huge issue, except that if you do manage to die, you have to start from the beginning of the stage. As the stages can be pretty long and require solving multiple puzzles, it is a bit annoying having to start over, especially if you have to run through a bunch of puzzles which you have already solved. There is an in-game currency that can be used to buy many things, including hint dolls and continue tickets, and I suggest buying up as many of the tickets as possible, so that you can avoid having to redo an entire level when you have made serious progress. There is also a semi-maddening rhythm-based mini-game that a lot of people have a lot of trouble with. I personally never got stuck much on it, but I can understand why it made others suffer. It requires very precise movements of the Wii remote, and many gamers simply do not have the rhythm required to pull something like this off. On the plus side, one of the songs involved in this mini-game should bring a smile to the face of any old school Capcom fan. 'Nuff said.
I'm not going to say it.
And that is basically it. There are various collectables, and you can race against your best times in stages, and send out treasure seeking ships, and view logs of enemies and items and the likes, but none of this adds all that much to the core game itself. You're either down with the idea of solving a bunch of puzzles to get through stages, or you aren't.
I don't know if I consider this a negative towards the game itself per se, but Zack & Wiki feels like it suffers from an identity crisis at times. The style, characters, and storyline all scream “for children”, but the gameplay itself requires a level of patience and pure thought power that most children simply do not posess. As it stands, I would highly recommend this game for adults, and I would not really recommend it for children, even though it looks like the kind of game that children would enjoy. However, will adults play a game called Zack & Wiki that looks like it was made for five year olds? I'm not sure, but I'll say this much; if you are looking for an excellent puzzle game that will really push you to think in ways that you are not used to thinking, you don't want to pass this one up.
It may have one of the worst names in the history of video games, but Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is, dare I say it, a true treasure itself.
(PS. There, are you guys happy now? YOU BETTER BE.)
What's with everyone quitting after the first boss?! Was there some slow part I'm forgetting, or is this just a coincidence?
Now that I really think back, it did take awhile for the game to grow on me. I wasn't instantly in love, but by the end I was definitely in love. There was just so much sheer creativity involved in some of these puzzles. Blew my mind.
The beginning of the game actually hooked me pretty well. It was towards the end of the game where I was just too burnt out on it, as more levels were more trial and error based, and they just took sooooo long to beat.
I probably should've utilized the game's "items" better (the ones that revive you and stuff). I think if item usage was more streamlined, I may have been inclined to use them all the time. Always felt like cheating to me, haha. Automatic checkpoints would've been greatly appreciated, especially when you're going through a level correctly and then just botch some part at the end.
I played the first few levels of the game, but didn't get far. I got stuck at one level where natives were guarding a treasure chest, and I had to somehow distract them so I could get at the treasure. I never did figure out how to solve that level, and I haven't picked up the game since.
@PogueSquadron Yeah it was really kind of silly to not have checkpoints considering that if you do die and get sent back to the beginning, you know how to solve the puzzles to get where you were, so it's just making you do needless repetition. And 95% of the game is solving puzzles, the focus on execution isn't enough to justify making you do it all over again. I guess it was their way to make you value thinking things out a bit before just jumping in, but eh... still a weird design decision.
You can generally buy up enough continue tickets for this to not be an issue though.
Unfortunately, the Z&W sequel will most likely be the surprise launch title for Nintendo-Sony-Microsoft Conglomeration's 10th generation console sometime around 2023. The puzzles will be implanted directly into our brains, and I'll end up spending three hours trying to figure out how to get he peanut butter out of the kitchen cabinet without waking up the evil monkey.
It was a good game but I realized I need to have interesting characters and/or narrative for my point'n click games, otherwise I lose interest. The world and humour were way too shallow and juvenile to hold my interest, and I didn't finish it.
This. The game just couldn't hold my interest for long. Even though I finished it, I cheated by looking at the FAQs on the last couple of levels. I simply didn't have the patience and had already lost the interest midway through the game.