I’m fairly convinced the boundaries of development for the Wii are still a ways off. Metroid Prime has definitely shown us how the FPS genre should
work on the system, while Super Mario Galaxy has fused traditional platform controls with a mouse-like interface and usage for the Wii Remote. Other games have tried to utilise Nintendo’s unique set-up, but no one has really come as close as The Big N themselves in exploiting their machine. Well, that is until Capcom decided to have a crack at things.
Zack & Wiki isn’t your usual hardcore type of game. It has all the Japanese design flavour of their manga-inspired art culture along with all the kooky jokes, offbeat characters and Eastern interpreted Western style story-telling you could ask for. Ultimately this is a very
This isn’t a bad thing though, not by a long shot, and the way in which Capcom have integrated the potential of the Wii Remote is really hats-off material. Here you have a game that doesn’t necessarily impose any immediate danger on you, it’s a game about thinking outside the box in more ways than one, and as a result it’s as refreshingly engaging as it is frustratingly challenging.
The story sees our duo, Zack and Wiki, as pirates hunting treasure. Zack’s life-long goal is to become the world’s greatest pirate, his flying golden monkey, Wiki, only wishes to serve as Zack’s side-kick. Initially they find themselves on a mission to find some treasure when they’re plane is attacked by the malicious Captain Rose, a cut throat pirate with enough money to not really need
anymore treasure, but for some reason that just doesn’t stop her. At any rate, your first order of control business for the game happens inside the plane. Your pilot has already jettisoned and the transport is due for its appointment with the ground below any minute. It’s time for you to utilise Zack’s inquisitive nature and explore what the innards of the plane have to offer.
The way in which the game works is you’re presented an immediate area to explore with a host of interesting looking points to interact with. In the case above, it’s the inside of your plane. With the Wii Remote you then point to an area you want Zack to move to and hit the A button - not at all dissimilar to a point-and-click adventure game of yesteryear. You can equally just hold down the A button and subtly move the point of the controller to where you want him to go. The on-screen curser will usually turn red if there’s something you can interact with and hitting the A button again to check these will make you focus on them.
It’s a simple idea, but with the concept of confined levels with which to pack puzzles, the game gradually becomes a serious challenge. You also have a number of different actions at your disposal and throughout most levels you’ll be required to use the Wii Remote in a gesture sensitive way to overcome impediments. For example, Zack’s side-kick, Wiki, can make creatures from each level take on different forms (don’t ask why or how, but stand near an enemy and shake the remote, a bell will ring and suddenly said enemy turns into an object). By turning a snake into a saw, I made Zack pick it up and then used it (with a sawing-like motion) to cut through wooden bars blocking my path. And this is but one example, the Wii Remote is used in a variety of ways from having to play it like a flute to turning it as a key.
After a bit of a tutorial level, Zack and Wiki find the cursed remains of the infamous pirate Barbaros. Unfortunately for him, it’s only his skull they find and it turns out the rest of him has been scattered about the land. Guess what you have to do then? A promise of having his ship after putting him back together seals the deal and the game kicks off proper.
Beyond puzzle-solving, there are a number of different elements to gameplay in Zack and Wiki. Before each level you’ll manage your progress and character from the game’s hub (your pirate HQ). You can choose which level you want to do, spend money on finding new treasures or buying advice or continues (in the form of dolls and tickets) or just check your HirameQ to see how good you are at solving puzzles (bet I’ve confused you with that one).
Okay, so in Zack and Wiki your points system works on how well you can think on your toes. There are a few different ways to solve a puzzle, the longer it takes you (and the more processes you use), the lower your HiameQ score will be, however, solve a puzzle immediately and you’ll earn massive points. You also earn bonuses at the end of levels if you haven’t used Platinum Tickets (which are basically continues) or Oracle Dolls (marionette dolls that give you advice if you’re stuck). It’s an interesting system (with an interesting name), but one that feels immediately rewarding; there’s nothing like instantly figuring something out and seeing the massive score that follows - and recognises – your prowess. You'll find yourself eventually trying everything in your power to not
lose any chance of a high-score.
The game itself – as mentioned above – is actually really very challenging, and for the discerning player, there’s also plenty to do within the game-world beyond just tackling levels. But the real problem here may (or may not) come in the form of the overall presentation. This isn’t necessarily for kids, but upon first glance you’d most definitely think it was. It’s bright, cute and openly quirky. There’s also no voice-acting aside from a few bleeps and bops and the odd “Wiki!” screamed from Zack when he’s in danger, which means there’s plenty of text to read, which unto itself is just as odd as the game’s overall presentation.
Still, if you can look past (and even embrace) the game’s unique look and feel, there’s plenty of meat here for puzzle junkies. Controlling Zack can sometimes be a nightmare, but if you like your games a bit slower-paced, you won’t really have that issue. It’s actually pretty challenging and as a result, quite charming. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Wii owners looking for something that actually
utilises the console’s strengths will no doubt get a real kick out of this – for everyone else, there’s still the option to hire, but at the end of the day, it’s great to see a string development house that isn’t
Nintendo looking to flex some creative muscle on the Wii. Kudos Capcom.