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Avast! Zack and Wiki! February 6, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Video Games.
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The manual that accompanies Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure contains the following special message from Capcom:

Thank you for selecting Zack & WikiTM: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure for your Nintendo WiiTM computer entertainment system. Capcom&reg is proud to bring you this new addition to your video game library.

And well they should be, because it is positively one of the best games available for the Wii. Or any platform for that matter.

Zack & Wiki hearkens to the glory days of the point and click puzzle adventure. Players take on the role of Zack, pirate wannabe and newly inducted member of the “notorious” sea rabbits. On his journey he is assisted by Wiki, a monkey who, strangely enough, magically transforms into a bell. Their adventure begins when they meet the legendary pirate Barbaros — or what’s left of him. They find the pirate cursed, his body turned to gold and dispersed around the world. He asks for their help to put him back together; they agree, thus beginning Zack’s quest to establish himself as one of the world’s greatest pirates.

This treasure hunt is implemented in superb fashion. The control scheme is simple, and entails making use of the Wiimote much like a mouse in order to direct Zack’s actions (in point and click fashion). As each stage is setup as a mind-bending puzzler, this requires that players figure out the correct sequence of actions to perform in order to successfully avoid traps and acquire the treasure that lies ahead. But there’s more: shaking the Wiimote like a bell activate’s Wiki’s ability, which has the effect of turning living objects into useful tools — umbrellas, saws, and at least one lighter — for beating the stage. To make use of these entails moving the Wiimote so as to mimic how such objects are used in real life.

The game is a gem on nearly all fronts. Graphically, the cel-shaded anime style used in Zack & Wiki is pure eye candy. Also, despite its English localization the game manages to retain much of its Japanese humor (which is a good thing). Yet a few blemishes remain. For one thing, the game’s motion controls tend to be occasionally dodgy. Further, as a puzzler, there is an unavoidable amount of repetitive trial and error involved to getting anything done. The most glaring shortcoming, however, has must be in the odd time-sensitive puzzle, especially those that require clicking on just the right thing almost by reflex, which would not be so bad had the clues for what to do been clearer. Inasmuch as these tend to make the game slightly more frustrating than it should be, they do not detract from the overall experience of an otherwise solid game.

Commercially, it would appear that Zack & Wiki never quite took the marketplace by storm. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there are a host of Wii gamers out there that don’t even know the title exists. More’s the pity. The long and the short of it is that Capcom have a real winner on their hands that may just be the Wii’s best kept secret.

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