Zack and Wiki

"My body parts also double as splendid items, though I'm the only one who can use them." - Barbaros, a chatty disembodied skull

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/250px-Zack_and_Wiki_Promo_Pic.thumbnail.jpg)

Zack! Wiki! The golden floating skull of the Ghost Pirate Barbaros needs you to find and re-assemble his scattered body parts for a huge reward! What could go wrong? The only thing more fun than digging up a corpse is digging up bits of a corpse, then explaining to the police that the skull said it was OK. Despite these piratical and necromantic themes, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, Capcom's delighful new puzzle game for the Wii is suitable for both children and adults, and a system seller. This game takes advantage of the Wii's hidden potential so much that it's almost indecent. Take it easy, Capcom, you're a third party publisher. Release a shoddy port or two, pace yourself.

At first, the game seems too adorable to have much meat on its bones. The cutesy characters are too Dragon Ballsy, perhaps a bit Pokemanly. At least those cartoons have voice acting, though. Like all too many Japanese games, Zack and Wiki speak in cute but perplexing noises accompanied by English text. I get the impression they didn't try too hard to localize the game. For example, you need to avoid "angry" enemies. This is indicated by that anime symbol that looks like the intersection of four squares. You know that thing. I'm sure it has a name but I don't care. Here in the West, we depict anger with flames and steam, and our eyes are trained to easily identify those symbols, as opposed to some "cruciform throbbing vein" above a character's head. Yes, I looked it up but I still don't care.

Another hurdle was that the first few levels contain puzzles like, "I have a key, a locked door, and a magical monkey that makes noise. Now what?" (Hint: there's a reason locksmiths don't carry around a set of magic noise monkeys.) However, the difficulty soon ramps up enough to provide a decent challenge and even the occasional "aha!" moment. Once it gets going, the game resembles classic puzzlers like Gobliiins or The Lost Vikings, with a handful of solid challenges per level, a manageable number of items, and lessons learned from your own death sequences. Yes, you can die, and there are no quick saves or checkpoints. The game offers a few chances to rewind time to just before death, but they don't rewind far enough to correct serious mistakes, and it's a waste of hard-earned gold. Any self-respecting pirate saves the booty for a bootyless day. Remember, hoard like you mean it, steal like it's yours, and the only letters in the alphabet are "R" and "X."

As a Wii game, Zack and Wiki is legally required to make you flail around like a semaphore signaler licking a light socket. To use any object, simply hold the Wiimote like that object and pretend to flip switches, saw logs, turn keys, pour water, and many other surprisingly clever actions. However, every simple, repeated action defaults to good old wrist-healthy point and click gestures. Zack and Wiki is the rare Wii game that has just enough motion control. Initially it feels a bit awkward, but then I started using broad, emphatic gestures, which fits well with the game's cartoony look. Waving the Wiimote turns Wiki into a bell, and makes the Wiimote itself ring out and vibrate. I reached a whole new type of "aha!" moment when I realized that I wasn't thinking, "wave controller to use bell." I was just thinking "use bell." Eventually I got so good that I stopped thinking completely, and then I took a nap.

I'm an adventure game lover. (Meaning that I love adventure games, and also that I make love by combining inventory items.) We loyal few know that adventure games didn't die, they just evolved, and now sometimes they look like puzzle games or platformers. Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk pushed the genre forward by exploiting the touch screen of the Nintendo DS. Zack and Wiki gets much, much touchier, without ever turning gimmicky. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come for the Wii. I want a Nintendo game where on the inevitable lava level, I actually get dehydrated and smell burning hair.

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Comments

I agree with you, although I do feel that you missed a few of the better points of the game. For starters is the fact that part of the game is determining how to use the control. It does not simply tell you hey wave it like this. It instead says hey start by holding the remote like this and figure out what to do. It is sometime obvious, but in some cases it adds a cool layer into the puzzles. For example some items can be flipped over by flicking the remote up sharply to simulate flipping it around in your hand this opens up new opportunities in puzzle creation. This game is great and a refreshingly different game in a sea of FPS and RPG games. Not to say that those genres are bad, but I want to herald an era of greater variety.

Cheers

Wow, color me very impressed. Impressed with the game, and with the (new?) writer. I hope you're not out of clever metaphors, Nyles, because I really like the cut of your jib.

I'm looking forward to this, looks like a perfect Wii game (out next month here).

Am I right in thinking that from the games you compare it to it doesn't suffer from the traditional adventure game problem of having completely arbitrary puzzle solutions?(like this?)

No mention of the multi-player co-op capabilities? I thought I read somewhere that several people (each with their own Wiimote) could play & solve problems together. I'm all for a fun new adventure game, but if I can get the wife and kids involved all the better.

Zak and Wiki is arriving at my door today from Gamefly. Can't wait to play it after reading this "Perspective." Good job Nyles, an enjoyable read.

Impressed with the game, and with the (new?) writer.

Yeah, we like him too.

I like it. I enjoy your style, your humor, and how you view games. Call me a fan, and I'm definitely interested in trying this game some point in the future.

Mixolyde, thanks! If I run out of metaphors I'm better with similes anyway.

Zelos: the Gobliiins series requires a LOT of lateral thinking and trial and error. Lost Vikings less so, but more timing. Trace Memory's pretty easy once you realize it uses every feature of the DS, and Hotel Dusk is the same, but with more random wandering and one frustrating arcade sequence.

Zack and Wiki, as Old Man Grant mentioned, lets you figure out how to use the object, but you never end up using an apple to saw through a log. It does involve trial and error, and dying a few times, but nothing like Gabriel Knight 3. There simply aren't enough items in any given level for it to become impossibly complicated. I wish I could say more about the tricks they use to keep it fresh, but they're a lot of fun to discover on your own. It follows the classic adventure game method of introducing the tools, giving you a general goal, and then stepping back to let you work out the details.

hyperfocal wrote:

No mention of the multi-player co-op capabilities? I thought I read somewhere that several people (each with their own Wiimote) could play & solve problems together. I'm all for a fun new adventure game, but if I can get the wife and kids involved all the better.

Yeah, it does have co-op, in a way. Player 2, 3, and 4 can draw stuff on the screen and I think they can pick up coins, although picking up coins isn't that important in this game. I think it'd work especially well if you have little kids, because they can master the gestures but the puzzles themselves get pretty challenging. You could draw on the screen to guide them towards a solution, so they don't get too frustrated.

Oh and Nyles, end of day. I like the cut of your jib boy.

Nyles wrote:
hyperfocal wrote:

No mention of the multi-player co-op capabilities? I thought I read somewhere that several people (each with their own Wiimote) could play & solve problems together. I'm all for a fun new adventure game, but if I can get the wife and kids involved all the better.

Yeah, it does have co-op, in a way. Player 2, 3, and 4 can draw stuff on the screen and I think they can pick up coins, although picking up coins isn't that important in this game. I think it'd work especially well if you have little kids, because they can master the gestures but the puzzles themselves get pretty challenging. You could draw on the screen to guide them towards a solution, so they don't get too frustrated.

That is an awesome feature. My wife and I play stuff together a lot (Portal right now) and pointing from across the room while screaming, "No, no that! The other thing right THERE!!!" just doesn't cut it most of the time.

I am intrigued.

Also, I commend your use of the classic "nap as punchline" trope. Even if naps aren't funny, they're always appealing!

ETA: There's an awful lot of jib cutting and appreciation thereof in Nile's threads. You're going to need that sail when the wind isn't at your back, son. You might want to trim it up before it gets cut any more. (You write well, BTW.)

This game wasn't on my radar at all, but it seems like I've heard a ton of positive comments about this. Hopefully it will be a hit... I'd hate to see it sink into the sea of mediocrity with all those other third-party Wii titles.

Any mention of semaphore signal makes me happy. Plus, great writing!

Nyles wrote:

I'm an adventure game lover. (Meaning...I make love by combining inventory items.)

Ah. And thus we find the use for those aforementioned magical noise monkeys.

Great writing. I enjoyed this piece a lot and am half-tempted to give the game a shot despite the distaste I have for those arbitrary and ridiculous puzzle solutions such as the one depicted in Zelos's link.

Dammit, what the hell is a jib?!

Also, it's a new release for only $39.99

McChuck wrote:

Dammit, what the hell is a jib?!

Also, it's a new release for only $39.99

It's the triangular sail at the front of many sail boats.

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/73/The_More_You_Know.jpg)

Of course, knowing makes "your jib" and the cutting of it sound less funny.

I am VERY glad to see that GWJ likes this game! I've been encouraged by the constant Buy Zack and Wiki campaign that IGN ran, and by their and GameSpot's good reviews of it... but I trust GWJ perspectives much more. Thank you for the article!

wordsmythe wrote:
McChuck wrote:

Dammit, what the hell is a jib?!

Also, it's a new release for only $39.99

It's the triangular sail at the front of many sail boats.

wordsmythe wrote:

There's an awful lot of job cutting and appreciation thereof in Nile's threads. . . . etc.

And this typo finally falls into place. I was confused there for a minute.

LilCodger wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
McChuck wrote:

Dammit, what the hell is a jib?!

Also, it's a new release for only $39.99

It's the triangular sail at the front of many sail boats.

wordsmythe wrote:

There's an awful lot of job cutting and appreciation thereof in Nile's threads. . . . etc.

And this typo finally falls into place. I was confused there for a minute.

Ah ha! Best go correct that, I suppose.

IGN has been saying lots of great things about this game for a while, especially on the wii-k in review podcast. I am really glad that its getting such good responses from all around. I might have to pick it up.

Though, there are sooo many good games to play. I need to spend some time on Jakeleg's new server with TF2, and I need to get online with world in Conflict. Thank god I don't have a XBOX 360 or I would be broke and get no sleep.

A game about a talking disembodied skull and no one mentions Murray?

Good review, I've been interested in this game, and after reading this I might get it when it comes out in new zealand.

I was planning to pick this game up because of the positive press. Now I think I certainly will. Just a tip next time, don't assume everyone reads anime.

stupidhaiku wrote:

A game about a talking disembodied skull and no one mentions Murray?

From the Demo:
Murray: And we will stride through the gates of hell!
Guy: ...stride?
Murray: Alright. Roll! Roll through the gates of hell!

I picked up Zack and Wiki on my way home from work last night. I couldn't resist a throwback to point and click adventure games with silly senses of humor and such. I'm almost done with the first area, and have enjoyed it so far. It is definitely very Japanese. But, if you can get over the frequent annoying sound chirps and really long chatter it has a lot of charm and fun gameplay.