“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. The old saying reiterated over and over by teachers, librarians, parents, just about every person trying to appear wise in the eyes of a preteen. Whilst that saying may have been a stretch for books, “Don’t judge a game by its cover” seems to have been what they were reaching for. Zack and Wiki, despite the childish cover art and presentation that bears striking resemblances to Dora the Explorer, Zack and Wiki could be the title to finally usher in an era of games worthy of the spectacular system.
In essence, Zack and Wiki is a puzzle game disguised under the veil of a traditional platformer/adventure style game. With an amazing control scheme that makes full use of the Wii-mote, Zack and Wiki is a strangely engaging experience.
Players take on the role of Zack, a young chap far too old to be playing pirates, who is a member of the Sea Rabbits. Accompanying him is his sidekick Wiki, a gold monkey who uses his tail like a helicopter in a striking resemblance to Sonic the Hedgehog’s sidekick Tails. The story is pretty basic, whilst on a voyage; Zack and Wiki encounter the evil Rose Rock pirates led by the topsy turvey Captain Rose. After being trounced by Captain Rose and her crew, Zack and Wiki are abandoned on a mysterious island. They quickly come upon a treasure chest that contains the golden skull of the great Barbaros. Barbaros is cursed and his body parts have been scattered across the world. Barbaros will grant Zack a wish if he seeks out his body parts and rebuilds him, and so Zack and Wiki go on the quest for Barbaros’ Treasure.
The level structure is very 1990’s PC-esque based upon point and click puzzle mechanics (though comparisons could certainly be drawn to the more recent Sam and Max episodes). The Wii-mote controls a star cursor onscreen, which changes colour when
the cursor highlights an item or something that can be interacted with. The controls are mapped solely to the Wii-mote, not a nunchuk in sight, so as you’d expect motion sensing is a critical factor in solving puzzles Unlike many other Wii titles though, the motion controls work seamlessly. Controlling Zack is and the tasks Zack needs to carry out — pulling levels, twisting knobs, placing items etc are all completed with relative ease. By far the strangest task you’ll have to carry out is nursing a baby, but we’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.
As previously mentioned, the levels are reminiscent of a 1990’s PC puzzle game. The puzzle designs are cleverly deceptive, and copious amounts of time can be spent in the latter levels just staring at the screen. For those who sometimes need that little spark to light the bulb, hints can be purchased from the home area. There are also multiple ways to solve many of the puzzles, adding an element of replay value. There is also a multiplayer type facet, but not in the traditional sense. Players work together to solve the puzzle, but the same experience can be achieved through a single Wii-mote without the added complications of four.
Graphically, Zack and Wiki is superb, and would not look out of place classed with the likes of Mario Galaxy. The artwork is cartoonish, bright, colourful and vibrant — much like you’d expect to see if you flicked on the Nickelodeon Channel. But don’t let this deceive you, this game certainly wasn’t created with young kids in mind, portions of the game cater to many ages no matter how young or old. The environments though small are fantastically designed and don’t feel at all cramped or clustered. Some of the usual problems like frame-rate issues are notably absent which is a huge bonus. The sound takes a slight backseat to visuals and gameplay, and I personally turned it off on some levels in order to concentrate. But it definitely is serviceable and fits the styling of the game well.
Zack and Wiki truly is a fantastic game, which thus far in the Wii’s life has been a rarity for third party games. Though the cover is deceiving, Zack and Wiki is a well-polished game making full use of the Wii controls. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the Wii, but in the mean time pick up Zack and Wiki, you certainly won’t regret it!