Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure Review (Wii)

Zack & Wiki is a bit like Marmite (European yeast spread) you either love it or hate it. It offers one of the best proper game experiences outside of Nintendo's own first party line up. The game delivers a solid traditional adventure that turns out to be strangely engrossing. What's more, you play the game entirely via the Wii-mote. This provides a simple and direct interface that is the result of a developer properly investing time with Nintendo's tricky little controller.

The game puts you in control of Zack, a young whipper snapper of a lad, in somewhat oversized pirate garb. He tackles his various adventures with his trusty side-kick Wiki - a strange breed of golden monkey with the ability to fly using just his tail for propulsion. The story begins with Zack and Wiki being attacked by the dastardly Rose Rock pirates. To cut a long story short, this results in them having to eject from their plane and crash land on an Island. Queue the discovery of a treasure map and you have the makings of a familiar adventure game narrative.

Time for some teamwork Underwater love - over rated!

But Zack and Wiki is enjoyable for its interaction and ingenious puzzles rather than a compelling or moving plot. The puzzling and adventuring is akin to those click and point experiences of old - think Monkey Island with a little more action and a lot more waggle. Each level sees you guide Zack around collecting items and figuring out how they combine with each other and the environment to enable you to progress to the next stage.

As we have alluded, the big draw here is the motion controls. These are nicely integrated to the mechanics of many puzzles, and draw on the similar tactile key opening moments in Metroid. Not only are the novel aspects of the Wii controls nailed, but also those more mundane moving, running and jumping aspects also work excellently. You simply point to move Zack around the world. When you do encounter the more novel puzzle elements, the game soon has you holding the Wii-mote in a variety of grips and making all manner of embarrassing gestures.

Underlying the whole experience is a real sense of fun. Timing was thought to be the preserve of the comedian. Well not any more, as we find the game's developers had exquisite comic rhythm. The whole experience just goes with such a swing; you are never long without something to do.

Tumble our way through this one! Mouth watering chest!

As was true of the old Ron Gilbert Monkey Island games, once you know the trick to each particular puzzle they are glaringly obvious. The clever trick is that before you 'get them' they are fiendishly difficult. It is rare that you feel cheated by the game, or that it has resorted to cheap tricks to halt your progress. Provided you stop and read the clues in the environment you will soon be on your way.

Where the game becomes slightly thin is in characterisation and story, something the Monkey Island games always had in bucket loads. The characters, from which the game gets its left field name, are not really a key part of proceedings. We could easily have had this experience without the aforementioned odd balls, and perhaps ended up with a much more marketable and mainstream title for the game along the way. Itís a shame the game hides the compelling and surprisingly grown up experience within the child like style of the Wiiís pearlescent game box.

Visually the game is a real success. Although there is not the theatre or scale of Mario Galaxy, the gameís engine always keeps proceedings looking sharp and well rendered. The cartoon aesthetic works well with the wider material and affords some relief for the sometimes overworked Wii graphics chip. All the environments and populace are bright, colourful, and decidedly crisp looking.

Wii-mote turning action. Smiles all round.

The sound too does more than a good job of creating a real sense of fun to the game. Each puzzle is accompanied with some great introductory music and effects. So much so that at times we simple stopped to listen to the tunes and melodies being piped out of our TV. Who needs 5.1 surround when you have such fine and high fidelity audio work?

Overall this is a great and under-appreciated Wii game. All those crying out for more Ďproperí Wii games really need to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and buy a copy.

Favorite Game Moment: Itís a great game to play sat in the lounge using the big TV with the family watching. As you play through each level everyone in the room is drawn into the action and canít help but chipping in with advice. Using the second Wii-mote to point to things is inspired!

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