Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Zack and Wiki is a bit like Marmite (European yeast spread) you either love it or hate it. It offers one of the best proper game experiences outside of Nintendo's own first party line up. The game delivers a solid traditional adventure that turns out to be strangely engrossing. What's more, you play the game entirely via the Wii-mote. This provides a simple and direct interface that is the result of a developer properly investing time with Nintendo's tricky little controller.
The game puts you in control of Zack, a young whiper snapper of a lad, in somewhat oversized pirate garb. He tackles his various adventures with his trusty side-kick Wiki - a strange breed of golden monkey with the ability to fly using just his tail for propulsion. The story begins with Zack and Wiki being attacked by the dastardly Rose Rock pirates. To cut a long story short, this results in them having to eject from their plane and crash land on an Island. Queue the discovery of a treasure map and you have the makings of a familiar adventure game narrative.
Think Monkey Island with waggle.
But Zack and Wiki is enjoyable for its interaction and ingenious puzzles rather than a compelling or moving plot. The puzzling and adventuring is akin to those click and point experiences of old - think Monkey Island with waggle. Each level sees you guide Zack around collecting items and figuring out how they combine with each other and the environment to enable you to progress to the next stage.
As we have alluded, the big draw here is the motion controls. These are nicely integrated to the mechanics of many puzzles, and draw on the similar tactile key opening moments in Metroid. Not only are the novel aspects of the Wii controls nailed, but also those more mundane moving, running and jumping aspects also work excellently. You simply point to move Zack around the world. When you do encounter the more novel puzzle elements, the game soon has you holding the Wii-mote in a variety of grips and making all manner of embarrassing gestures.
Additionally, there's an assistance multiplayer component to the game. Essentially, up to three other players can point their Wii-motes at the screen and tap on or highlight any items or set pieces that might be relevant to solving a puzzle. Only one player controls Zack, so in effect the other players are just helpers. Still, it's an inventive way to get the rest of the family involved in the game, if you're into that sort of thing.
Underlying the whole experience is a real sense of fun. Timing was thought to be the preserve of the comedian. Well not any more, as we find the game's developers had exscusit comic rhythm. The whole experience just goes with such a swing; you are never long without something to do.
As was true of the old Ron Gilbert Monkey Island games, once you know the trick to each particular puzzle they are glaringly obvious. The clever trick is that before you 'get them' they are fiendishly difficult. It is rare that you feel cheated by the game, or that it has resorted to cheap tricks to halt your progress. Provided you stop and read the clues in the environment you will soon be on your way.
All those crying out for more ‘proper' Wii games really need to put their money where their mouth is and buy a copy.
Where the game becomes slightly thin is in characterisation and story, something the Monkey Island games always had in bucket loads. The characters, from which the game gets its left field name, are not really a key part of proceedings. We could easily have had this experience without the aforementioned odd balls, and perhaps ended up with a much more marketable and mainstream title for the game along the way. It's a shame the game hides the compelling and surprisingly grown up experience within the child like style of the Wii's pearlescent game box.
Visually the game is a real success. Although there is not the theatre or scale of Mario Galaxy, the game's engine always keeps proceedings looking sharp and well rendered. The cartoon aesthetic works well with the wider material and affords some relief for the sometimes overworked Wii graphics chip. All the environments and populace are bright, colourful, and decidedly crisp looking.
The sound too does more than a good job of creating a real sense of fun to the game. Each puzzle is accompanied with some great introductory music and effects. So much so that at times we simple stopped to listen to the tunes and melodies being piped out of our TV. Who needs 5.1 surround when you have such fine and high fidelity audio work?
Overall this is a great and under-appreciated Wii game. All those crying out for more ‘proper' Wii games really need to put their money where their mouth is and buy a copy.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: