When Capcom demoed the initial build of Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure to their Marketing Department, Marketing shit a pile of bricks rivaled in height only by antiquity's Tower of Babel. "How can a game with such cute graphics and unconventional gameplay ever be a commercial success," cried Marketing while spontaneously defecating all over themselves. Out of desperation, and oddly analogous to the Tower of Babel's story, Capcom's Marketing department pulled what can only be described as the "Hail Mary" of advertising: they conceived a jumblefuck of a game title that targeted every conceivable type of gamer. Saved By The Bell fans? Check. User-maintained online encyclopedia lovers? Check. Problem gamblers and horse racing fans? Check. Pirate lovers? Check.
So, did the Marketing Department's work pay off? Was Zack & Wiki worth the effort? Should there be another "s" after the apostrophe in Barbaros'? How does a mid-90s high school student use a then non-existent Internet encyclopedia to find the lost treasure of a late racehorse? Scroll past the black line below to simulate the suspense of a "read more" link.
First of all, yes, there probably should be an additional "s" after the apostrophe in Barbaros. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, Bluebook, and Modern Language Association, one should always place an "s" after the apostrophe when creating the possessive form of a singular proper noun ending in s. To eliminate this second "s" implies that the treasure belongs to several Barbaros--and we all know there is only one.
Aside from this glaring oversight, Zack & Wiki is currently one of the best, if not one of the only, reasons own a Wii right now. With a cheaper-than-average price of only $39.99, there is little reason not to buy this game right now.
Zack & Wiki is a return to glory for fans of PC point and click adventure games. Like these beloved games of yore, the player controls all movement of the main character, Zack, by pointing to a location on the screen and clicking to make the character walk there. While this doesn't sound particularly engaging, it is a common convention of the point and click genre and makes the game easily accessible to those without significant dexterity or platforming skills.
Instead, like any good point and click, the value of Zack & Wiki is found in the quality and variety of its puzzles. Here, Zack & Wiki does not disappoint. While early puzzles are simple and over far too quickly, the difficulty makes a solid leap later in the game and a truly engaging experience unfolds. While some of the puzzles can be rather opaque and take some thinking, none of them are impossible or necessitate random clicking around the screen. Instead, examining items and shaking your fucked-up-monkey-that-flies-and-turns-into-a-bell will often net you the necessary clues to advance. The frustration that accompanies some harder-than-average PC point and click puzzles is further avoided by the introduction of a system where you can "purchase" tips on the numerous puzzles throughout the game--not with real dollars, this is not an EA game.
What makes Zack & Wiki truly great is that it effectively utilizes the Wii's motion controls. Where most Wii games feel like the motion controls were tacked on, Zack & Wiki features crisp, accurate motion controls that actually correspond to what is happening on screen. Zack & Wiki successfully does for the Wii what games like Hotel Dusk did for the DS--it forces players to utilize the system's unique control scheme in ways never before tried. Another interesting aspect of the game is that friends can turn on extra Wii Remotes to point at and shake items on the screen in order to help the main player solve puzzles. While not terribly useful, it's certainly an interesting feature that makes watching a loved one play slightly less boring and creates a more interactive group experience.
Zack & Wiki is, decidedly, not about conveying an epic or emotional story. Sure, there is a story (it's something about a kid with shitty fashion sense and a fucked up monkey looking for treasure), but the plot and characters are little more than a weak adhesive, made from equal parts flour and water, designed to string together a series of uniquely engaging puzzles. Buy the game for fun and, with the $10 you save over most other Wii games, you can buy a book for a story.
Visually, Zack & Wiki is a success. While there are a few framerate hiccups, Zack & Wiki does output in widescreen at 480p and sports very fluid animation with a lively color-palette. Although many will complain about the "kiddy" visuals, the discerning (or jaded) gamer will find something special in the world of Z&W.
While Zack & Wiki is not the prettiest game on the block, it is a very good looking game that will show you a great time and let you and your friends stick it wherever you want all at the same time.
This game makes me a happy panda.