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Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure (Nintendo Wii) Review
Review by 
8.36/10 from 38 user ratings
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.)

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Posted: 02/04/11, 04:34:21  - Edited by 
 on: 02/20/11, 10:14:30    
Why not sign up for a (free) account and create your own content?
Oh yes... thanks for the great review... maybe I'll pick this up! ............ (Kidding! I already own it... )

I agree though..not a game for kids. I think adults would benefit playing this as a group as well..


Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 04:52:16
Wow, Zack and Wiki! Loved this game. Such a creative and enjoyable effort, that was unfortunately not followed-up on. I think it's about time for a replay, this time my girlfriend will play and I'll help her out. I've most likely forgotten the elaborate puzzle solutions, anyways.

Edit: typo

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:07:02  - Edited by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:07:24
There were actually rumours a few years back that a Zack & Wiki 2 was in the works, but I always doubted them. You know, doubted because of the first one tanking. BECAUSE NO ONE LIKES FUN NOWADAYS.

I wonder if they could ever revive the franchise elsewhere, like on the 3DS?

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:09:55
Well, it's not about "nobody likes having fun", it's that the game is hardcore and niche, despite its casual appearance. I know a casual gamer who bought this thinking it would be fun with his kids, and he was disappointed. Then, you have the many of seasoned gamers who likely skipped it due to the art style and/or lack of marketing. We informed gamers lapped it up, especially because of the hype on IGN at the time. Actually, I think your first statement implying the game is a "hidden gem" is false. Around these parts it is, anyways: 27 people have rated it on the NW, which is a very high number.

Maybe they could revive it, but honestly, Capcom just doesn't give a shit, 3DS or Wii or whatever. And no other dev stepped up with a similar type of game, did they? The market's not there, right now. Best shot is probably as a WiiWare game for the next Wii.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:19:01
Haven't played this yet, but I do own it.

I suggested hitting Zack & Wiki after Okami Club closed up its doors, but someone (sorry, I can't remember who) informed me that pretty much everyone has already been through it. Haha, well thats that, I guess!

Sometime on my own it'll have to be..

(And didn't read this for fear of spoilers!)

My main fears:
1) Death and everything about it (my own, my family, my friends, my heroes, etc.)
2) Superstitions (mainly because I could have bad luck, and potentially die as a result..or someone else. See #1)
3) Spiders
4) Spoilers
5) A whole bunch of others, and the best goes on..

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:24:20
@anon_mastermind Well I meant a hidden gem in general. People not part of the Negative World may read some reviews sometimes. But either way, if the rest of the world out there won't play it, then as many of us in here should.

So for the holdouts... get on it!

@Mr_Mustache I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews. There may be a few minor spoilers as far as what can be done with items, and a couple of short descriptions of some of the environments in the game, but that's about it.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:34:24  - Edited by 
 on: 02/04/11, 05:35:59
I bought and beat this game, but man was it hard. Your review does a good job of pointing out how tricky the puzzles can be. I was so determined to finish some of the hard puzzles without outside help, but I know I must have given in at least a few times.

Still though, I love how unique this game is, and I'm glad a bunch of my fellow NW'ers here have at least played it.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 07:58:38
Yeah I'd agree it was a really fun game (if a little unfairly hard at times IMO). I've watched that kid die so many times it's not even funny. I never beat it, simply because I just got burnt out watching that kid die every two minutes so that I'd have to figure out what to do, and then beat a level an hour later.

I'd agree though...it's a game that tries to cater to a lot of people, but in the end caters to a small group. The game could lure in kids with its cartoony characters...but the difficulty is insane (I remember my little cousin having a really hard time with it). It has some meaty, difficult gameplay...but it could turn older gamers off (I'm pretty open minded but it was a bit quirky even for me).

I think the only way a game like this might be able to be really successful these days would be if it was backed by a popular IP. I could actually see something like this being combined with some more platforming elements and making some sort of cool Mario vs. DK game (wherein the goal of every level would be to thwart whatever DK is trying to do). Or maybe a Pokemon game, where instead of turning regular animals into items, you're turning Pokemon into items.

The game is so unique to other games these days, that a familiar IP could be a good way to get people into it. It might make it easier to digest if it was a Mario or Pokemon game or whatever, rather then "Oh, it's that game where you play that pirate guy with his golden bear friend thing who flies around and turns animals into items."

I do want new IPs, absolutely, but Zack and Wiki could've at least done a better job in being a little more "digestible" for lack of a better term. Maybe it could've done that with some more down to Earth characters, a familiar IP, or something of that nature.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 09:37:40
8.9??????? It deserves a 9.0 at the leastest.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 10:18:35
PogueSquadron said:
I've watched that kid die so many times it's not even funny.
And that says a lot, as few things are as hilarious as watching kids croak.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 16:14:27
I wouldn't watch this video if you haven't played through the game yet as it is kind of spoiler-ific, but it (supposedly) includes all the ways you can die in the game. Of which there are a lot. It's actually a surprisingly intense game in that respect, for instance, the second death in the video where Zack is impaled on spikes... this kind of thing took me by surprise a bit my first time through the game.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 18:17:56
Quit .9'ing stuff! What are you, IGN??

I have yet to open this game. *shame*

I feel like I'm kind of just an industry charity, sometimes.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 18:21:30
I thought the levels had excellent atmosphere and along with the music. The characters (Wiki in particular) were a little too far into the superkawaiianimepokemonmangafuntime realm for my taste though. The Wiimote controls were a little tough to manage "Turn the key, no, turn the key, no turn it this way! This way! Turn you!" The puzzles were creative though I admit to having consulted gamefaqs more than once. The most annoying part I remember about the puzzles is that you can render them unwinnable without realizing it. So you just wander around for 10 minutes wondering what to do next before you realize there's nothing you can do but restart.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 20:35:07
I bought this day 1. one of the best games on the wii

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 21:01:42
Zero said:
There were actually rumours a few years back that a Zack & Wiki 2 was in the works, but I always doubted them. You know, doubted because of the first one tanking. BECAUSE NO ONE LIKES FUN NOWADAYS.

I wonder if they could ever revive the franchise elsewhere, like on the 3DS?
I really hope this is true. Add in the touch/dual screen and augmented reality (and of course 3D), and the dev team could make some truly amazing levels.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 22:03:23
One of the first games I had for the Wii and I enjoyed my time with it, but didn't play very far into it. Made it past the first "boss" IIRC. Keep meaning to come back to it one day, but I was finding that the levels were taking longer and longer and I only get to game in short bursts these days. I also found that I could only do one or two levels and then felt like I needed a break from the game despite having enjoyed those levels.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 22:52:09
Long-time lurker, first post...

Nice review.

I LOVE Zach & Wiki. It was probably the first game that made me realize that there was more to this strange white machine I got for father's day than a decent bowling sim.

For those who haven't played it, the motion controls aren't great. Sometimes, they're downright awful. But it doesn't make me love the game any less. It scratches all my gaming itches, from all the collectibles to the brutally hard puzzles. I think the music is fantastic; only the SMGs really rival the soundtrack in my opinion. And while there isn't much story to it, the characters are quirky and fun.

A Z&W2 with the Motion Plus would be an insta-buy for me.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 23:26:40
chrisguy said:

A Z&W2 with the Motion Plus would be an insta-buy for me.
Hell yeah, I made a thread about it once but it didn't turn out well. Touchy subject.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 23:42:31
@chrisguy Yeah I may have overstated the motion controls, a lot of them are definitely iffy, but it's still impressive how many various controls there are for various items. Like, they really tried, which is more than you can say for most developers on the Wii regarding motion controls.

Posted by 
 on: 02/04/11, 23:48:44

I stopped after the first boss as well.

I've got some time off ahead of me, I think I'll give it another shot.

Posted by 
 on: 02/05/11, 02:41:39
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