Release Date: October 23, 2007
There really is nothing quite like Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. Literally. If you cast your mind back over the last generation, how many new point-and-click puzzle adventure games have there been over all three major platforms? That’s right. Just one– and that’s Zack & Wiki.
You’d think this would be cause enough to buy one of the most unique and imaginative Wii games you’ll ever play, but unfortunately Zack & Wiki was also released in the latter half of 2007, which was a pretty bumper year as far as brilliant games were concerned (Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition were just three of Wii’s big releases that year), so perhaps it’s easy to see why it got lost in the shuffle. Besides, it’s got all the right ingredients for swift and snooty rejection by the so-called “hardcore” market as well– bright and colourful box art with childish cartoon characters on the front? Check. Potential risk of the dreaded “waggle” controls? Check. A point-and-click adventure that isn’t on PC? Double check.
But as with so many Wii games, looks can be incredibly deceiving, and none more so than Zack & Wiki, for underneath its bold, kiddy exterior was a rock-hard puzzler that would really make you work for your treasure. The premise was simple– players had to use the Wii Remote to guide Zack around the course and solve a series of puzzles to help unlock each level’s treasure chest. But if you thought Brain Training was a tough mental workout, then Zack and his Sea Rabbit pirate pals (yes, really) had Dr. Kawashima strung up the top of their ship mast by the string of his academic undies, because this game was brutal.
The hard part wasn’t the main controls– they were all gesture-based, so if you wanted to, say, tip a coconut down a hole leading to a snake’s nest in order to scare away an enemy, you’d have to tilt your Wii Remote round until the coconut fell out of your hand and dropped down the hole below. Likewise for turning cranks and handles– you’d have to wheel your hand round in a circular motion (in the right direction, of course) in order to lever open a door or power a wooden gondola. No sir, that wasn’t the hard part at all. If anything, that was the most intuitive thing about the game, despite making you like a right idiot half the time, and it helped brighten up a genre that can so easily fall into a pattern of mind-numbing button-clicking.
A lot of the puzzles are tough, but finally figuring them out is oh so satisfying.
No, the hard part was trying to figure out the order of each level’s various puzzles, because one wrong move and BAM– it’s like the awful alternative to the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The thing is, even though Zack & Wiki can be monstrously difficult at times, it’s got such a mad sense of humour that you can’t help but love it. Think Raving Rabbids meets The Secret of Monkey Island, and you’ll have some idea about what I mean. There’s a frenzied energy to playing this game, and you can be sure there’s always something that will keep you smiling, particularly when nearly everything on screen can be turned into some kind of crazy gadget at the flick of Wiki’s enchanted bell.
Yes, you read that correctly– Wiki is a magic, flying monkey that Zack can also use as a bell to turn things into different items. Shake the Remote at the aforementioned snake, for instance, and it’ll turn into a “slither gripper” for reaching high objects. Centipedes can also become handy “centi-saws” for chopping through wood, while bats double up as “batbrellas” that can be used as make-shift parachutes or for sliding down zip-wires. But these are just some of the many item-izable objects to play round with in this game, and it makes sure you’re always thinking about your wider surroundings as well as the immediate puzzle at hand.
Again, it may sound a bit silly, but it’s all part of Zack & Wiki‘s innate charm. I mean, how can you not love a game whose main Sea Rabbit calls himself Johnny Style? It’s just impossible! Okay, so maybe it’s a little over the top for “serious grown-ups who hate fun”, but part of what makes Zack & Wiki so appealing is its ability to capture that kind of Looney Tunes silliness while still being able to make you kiss its scurvy-ridden bootstrap out of sheer reverence. From the overblown tantrums of Captain Rose, your main rival, to Zack’s delightfully exaggerated facial expressions as he gets steam-rolled by yet another massive boulder, it’s every bit Saturday morning cartoon as it is solid puzzle adventure game, and considering it’s a one of a kind this generation, you really owe it to yourself to dig up this buried treasure as soon as possible. Otherwise Captain Rose might get her filthy mitts on it and we’ll never see another one like it again.