Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure

For a game as seemingly kid-oriented and innocuous as this, another of Capcom‘s attempts to create strong new franchises for the Wii, it sure was a time-sink. In fact, having just completed the game (in my usual O/C manner), the game clock is reading 53 hours, 53 minutes, spread over about a fortnight.

Which is odd, because the first play-through only took ten or fifteen hours.

From the opening orchestral strains, it’s clear that Zelda is a massive influence. The bulk of the score could charitably be called an homage to the Ocarina and Wind Waker soundtracks; the more cynical gamer might use a phrase featuring the word “rip”. Regardless, it fits the cartoony adventure of Zack & Wiki well.

The characters aren’t anything special – there’s little background proffered for the young pirate Zack, the miniskirt-wearing Captain Rose shifts little from her initial spoilt-bitch persona, and Wiki – a magical flying monkey who can instantly transform into a hand-bell – just annoys with his overly optimistic and sugar-sweet cutesy comments. They’re all beautifully depicted using vibrantly coloured cel-shading, which makes the experience of playing Zack & Wiki more akin to interacting with a cartoon.

Ah yes, the gameplay. Let’s cut to the chase: Zack & Wiki is a point-and-click adventure, similar to the SCUMM games of old. There’s very few reflex- (or “skill”-) oriented parts of the game, allowing you to explore the small levels, experiment with various object interactions, and generally just have fun with the experience.

That’s right – fun. It’s an really enjoyable experience, with the small levels and limited inventory facilitating the type of “problem-solving” that often trips other games of this type up – ie, the try-every-object-everywhere approach. The penultimate level took me upwards of four hours and three concerted efforts to solve; I can go back and knock the bugger off in 15 minutes now, however.

And that’s the biggest flaw in this game: the replayability, or lack thereof. Sure, the Obsessive/Compulsive in me gleaned another forty hours out of the title (and the time just flew by, performing gleeful 100% treasure hunts a-plenty); but, outside of maxing your highscore (which, once you’ve sussed the puzzles, is almost a step-by-step proposition) and acquiring all the collectibles (of which there are tons) there’s little to draw you back. And, whilst that’s an unavoidable failing of the fundamental structure of the game, it’s still a shame – Zack & Wiki is thoroughly enjoyable while it lasts, a fantastic reminder that sometimes it’s better to have a muddled think about a problem than go in with guns blazing.

(And, having just bashed out all of the above… Yahtzee says it so much better.)

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