Adventure games have pretty much fallen into obscurity lately. A genre that pretty much made the PC as a gaming medium, that often has excellent story telling and fantastic gameplay designs has somewhat been all but left alone. Fortunately for Capcom, it means it’s time to make something of it, and by doing that it made one of the more innovative games for the Nintendo Wii, Zack And Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros Treasure.
A Wii exclusive, Zack And Wiki chronicles the exploits of a young sky pirate named Zack and his monkey, a Navi knockoff named Wiki, as they go on a quest to become the number one treasure seeking pirates in the world. While the style of the game screams “kids”, it is anything but, thanks to innovative gameplay that do something the Nintendo Wii sorely lacks, use the Wiimote functions in a GOOD way.
The game is basically an adventure game through and through, broken into chunks. Instead of an overall narrative where you collect a billion tools and rub them all together at a specific hotspot, you have numerous broken down scenarios with specific tools used for that scenario as deemed fit by your flying monkey. The trick is finding out which tool should be used with what interactive hotspot, and that is the fun of the gameplay. And since turning animals into not so random knickknacks magically creates all your tools, it means the lack of clutter will certainly be appreciated.
With the Wiimote, you are often asked to mimic the motions of the tool your carrying. So, for example, if you have a centipede that was turned into a saw, you can use the saw to cut down a tree by holding the Wiimote and making the necessary motion. It truly is innovative, because instead of flailing away like a spastic lunatic, you can calmly saw, turn, smash or otherwise search the environment to get to your goal, a giant treasure chest filled with some lovely booty. In fact, it really is on the list of few games that the Wiimote enhances the gameplay, rather than detracting from it. That alone is an impressive feat, because games like The Force Unleashed and Call of Duty have suffered from poor gameplay on the Wii, at the very least moreso than their HD counterparts.
While the gameplay is really well done, some parts I can’t help raise the Jolly Roger too. For one, there are a lot of deathtraps, and by deathtraps I mean one-click kills that will happen thanks to the games innate system of trial and error. You can click on a rock, and all of a sudden a man-eating beetle pops out and bites you till your raw. Or, you can click on a rope and watch your character fall a thousand feet below after wobbling for a few minutes. It really breaks the flow of the game, and adds unnecessary longevity at first.
I also didn’t like some of the side stuff the game has, as it really was not needed. The hints system, where you can buy hints for any gold you find, is useless, the scoring system for each level kind of makes me feel inadequate, because it bases it’s score on the speed of your completion and how you completed the levels, and anything short of perfect would be a failure in my eyes.
Lastly, the storyline in the game is not really detailed in the grand scheme that most adventure games are, i.e. really long and sometimes well written. Here, it is more straightforward and subdued, kind of like a background device to keep the puzzle-solving goodness going. While this is an a-typical adventure game, it still would have been nice to see some degree of story that was both deep and engrossing, and not the bare bones treatment as a mere excuse to go from one puzzle to another. One thing the story does get is a healthy dose of humor though. It is a fairly witty game, one with a lot of in-jokes and slapstick humor, and really helps move things along easily.
The game is also well done graphically. Everything is colorful and bold, and it attacks the senses in a good way, so to speak. The characters are distinct, vibrant and offensively Japanese. Hell, put Zack in an orange gi and he looks like Goku from Dragonball. The character designs are pretty cool though, and the level designs are really fun to take in aesthetically. Vibrant jungles, sandy beaches, dark caverns, even the native population is interesting in their Technicolor masks. If nothing else, it’s a welcome change from the more typical dullness of brown wastelands and gray backdrops that are in most games.
The games music is also pretty vibrant, but slightly over the top. The songs in the background are all catchy and soft, the sound effects are over the top and hilarious, and the voice acting, while annoying at times, reminds me of Banjo-Kazooie’s distinct voice overs, all scratchy and inaudible but different for each character to distinct their voice. It really helps with the games somewhat campy mood, and the music doesn’t detract from the puzzle solving aspects, which is a major plus.
Zack and Wiki’s charm is that it’s on the Nintendo Wii. If this were released on a PC or a 360 as is, the game would lose so much because the control scheme with the Wiimote is what makes it so fun. Without it would be another point and click adventure, here it’s an interactive adventure game. While the game has been relatively unsung, probably due to its kiddish looks and the fact that it’s on the one console where people buy crap like Game Party by the truckloads, it is still a real good game, and at the very least an archetype of what kind of games should be made for the system. Adventure games are probably not going to be revived anytime soon, but at the very least, Zack and Wiki shows that there is a market for them in some form, and with the right control scheme it could be a major hit for anyone looking to avoid crap on that system.
Final Score- B+