Game 69: Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure

Posted: July 15, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 805/1001 according to the list

Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Another day, another Capcom game. Yet… we’re not bored yet. Gimme a high-five Capcom…*crickets*Fine, we’re never going to be invited to a game unveiling where we can rub shoulders with Capcom execs whilst we pocket the Hors d’oeurves and avoid the fire-eaters but we can dream.

Ever since we played Drop 7 we of Pong and Beyond have been attempting to limit the number of puzzle games we cover since we had already covered more than we had meant to. I missed them so much so I’ve been really looking forward to the titular mouthful that is Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. Golden money ‘an all.

Our Thoughts

This title just looked strange from the start, and having played it, it has only become stranger. There were reportedly about 200 names drafted up for the game and this is the best they came up with. On the one hand I can see what they did there since it makes sense on a number of levels. It namedrops the two protagonists as do games such as Ratchet & Clank, Banjo-Kazooie and Jak and Daxter, it describes exactly what the game is and it has great kid appeal. It ticks all the boxes and it misses the point completely. Whilst in Japan the childish, anime-feel has universal appeal the name and cover art only really appeals to those under twelve. Thus it has remained largely unsuccessful in the West – much to the chagrin of critics and Capcom-fans who really fell for this game.

When you play the puzzles you can see their point as their complexity ramps up very quickly to the point where very lateral thinking is needed. I would love to see the eight year old who could solve all the puzzles without a visit to an online walkthough… or not as they would be some kind of wizard. In fact, while we might have worked it out ourselves more often, in the interest of time we used one once or twice. Part of this is due to the strange mechanics this game sometimes offer. In particular, the animals transforming into items when you ring the bell that’s called ‘Wiki’ (it somehow eventually makes sense) seem random. While a mole turning into a drill makes some sense, a boar into a hammer is harder to understand, and a bat turning into an umbrella simply seems insane. The thing that really helped with this game is having another person playing it with you to offer a fresh perspective on a puzzle. An advantage we obviously had.

The thing that makes this game really interesting is that it is a very rare example of a well executed console-based point and click adventure game, which actually makes this the first within that genre we have covered. Somehow I thought it would have been either Broken Sword or Sam & Max (there’s another eponymous duo) but that’s what happens with borrowing. Not that I’m complaining… I’m not… I really enjoyed this game despite the fact my arm ached from the fishing minigame. Some of the funniest and most clever games in that sense are still coming up… to the point where Sierra’s offering was mostly ignored in the list in favour of most of the Lucasarts catalogue.

One of the good things about this game appearing on a console is that it makes full use of the Wiimote’s capabilities. Aside from the pointing using the Wiimote, a lot of actions you take are actually movements made using the controller. This is rarely strictly necessary – turning a key might as well be a click instead of you actually doing it – but it  makes it a bit more immersive and clever. It is still, however, used for good measure in a few puzzles, such as defeating a fish by trying to reel it in, as well as a music-based minigame that comes back on several levels. There are very few games made by third-party developers that have used the Wii controller in such a versatile fashion. True games like Okami and Dead Space: Extraction have also been praised for good Wii controls but neither contain as much variation in Wiimote movements that can be found in Zack & Wiki. And while they may seem gimmicky at times, they’re still better than the ewww-factor implicit in the Wiimote use in No More Heroes. Even if there is a half-naked man in the top-right hand corner of the screen shaking the Wiimote like an empty ketchup bottle. True, it’s close, but the graphics make everything look a lot more innocent.

The graphics, as so many things in the game, are quite Japanese – anime-like. There’s an element of kiddishness in there, cute and cartoonish. They’ve even kept the original ‘dialogue’ noted by Wiki’s occastional cry of “Zakku!” Something that was easy to do as they were mostly cries of ‘Alright’ and similar.

One thing we have neglected to mention is that this game is pirate-themed. Something that was just falling out of fashion upon the game’s release and which makes it more surprising that this was not commercially successful.  Who, on some level, does not like pirates? It’s not a big part of the game – it has no impact on the actual game, and really only influences the look and feel of some parts – but it makes it fun.. And in a way cute, when you consider Zack looks rather young. That isn’t helped by the fact that he chomps on a chocolate bar whenever left idle. It was added as an afterthought, and you can see that sometimes. Even so, it doesn’t make the game any less cute, and it certainly helps give him a reason to collect treasure… what more could you want there?

Final Thoughts

So our little pirate guy? Aside from the fact that it’s a pretty good game, it’s also a good adventure. It’s not entirely like the original point and click games – the story is fairly flimsy and not the main drive of the game – but it has some interesting (and at times obscure) puzzles to work out. It’s also a very nice-looking games with some very strange and fun environments – the water slide in particular making me want to go down them.

The controls have their issues and make the game harder to control sometimes, but most of the time, when it works, it works well, and out of everything, it’s the use of the Wiimote that truely stands out during this adventure. That and the cute bell-monkey. He’s just adorable. Ding!

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