Every now and then a game comes along that simply refuses to sit nicely in a set genre. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is one of those games. It breaks the mundane pattern of modern games and brings the player a unique and fun experience. Zack & Wiki is a very focused puzzle game, similar to an adventure game but without the filler material of running around trying to find the next challenge.
Players take control of Zack, a pirate out to prove his worth and pay off a few debts. Accompanying him is his golden monkey minion known as 'Wiki', who can claim the title of 'most irritating side-kick since Navi'. Zack and Wiki find themselves meeting with legendary pirate Barbaros, well at least his head, and promise to help rebuild him.
To achieve this bizarre goal, Zack must retrieve pieces of Barbaros from treasure chests scattered all over the land. Each piece is cleverly secured by a series of different puzzles all demanding a fair amount of thought to solve. Puzzles require the use of objects lying around the environment, finding a stick and holding it above a fire will create a torch to let you see in the dark cave. Falling to your death? Grab an umbrella and calmly descend.
Wiki also comes in use when solving the assorted puzzles. Shaking the Wii remote will transform Wiki into a bell and ring him. Any nearby creatures are instantly turned into an inanimate object of much more use. Grabbing objects slightly out of reach is no problem after turning a nearby snake into a pair of 'slither grippers'. If there is a tree in the way, a centi-saw, made from 100% Centipede will carve your path.
The Wii remote is used intuitively and is a nice change from other games that just seem to interchange a button press for a remote movement. Zack and Wiki involves the player by using many different grip positions depending on the task at hand. When you are sawing a tree, you must saw with the remote. Grabbing objects with the grippers requires you to aim as if you were using the tool.
All these small details may not sound like much, but it really does help things feel natural. This allows you to think about the task ahead, instead of becoming frustrated with the remote not behaving how you think it should. When a change of grip is needed, the player is given a small message indicating which grip to assume and what action they will need to perform. Personally I thought this was a bit over the top, as everything was so natural it was like a game telling you how to drink a glass of water. All the stop-starting of 'helpful' text did ruin the flow, but as it is a 'pick up and play' type of game, there isn't much flow to break anyway.
Another small gripe I had was with the way Zack is controlled. When I started up Zack and Wiki I naturally had the Nunchuck attached assuming I would need the analogue stick to move my character around. Alas this was not the case, instead Capcom opted for a 'point to where you want to go and click to make your character walk there' control scheme. With a disappointed sigh, I unplugged my Nunchuck and gave way to my hatred of the aforementioned control method. After a small amount of time playing, I became accustomed to the 'point and click' and did not have any problems playing, though I still think an analogue control method would have worked much better.
As with most adventure style games, Zack and Wiki find themselves exploring different elemental areas. Ranging from lush forest ruins to frozen ice temples and fiery volcanoes. In each section there are a handful of different levels, finding the chest clears the level and opens a new one in that area. After solving a good majority of the small areas you are given access to the large area of that section, which as most people would have guessed is the equivalent of a boss fight.
However, since this isn't a combat based game, the 'fight' is a puzzle based around defeating a large creature by using the environment. The Boss stages play similar to the standard stages, with a bit more added pressure as making a mistake tends to end in your untimely demise.
There is a hint system in place if you get stuck. It can only be used if you have an 'oracle doll' purchased from the lobby. Using a doll summons the oracle who will tell you a hint based on your progress in the level. 90% of the time the advice she gives is something you already know, but if you are completely stuck, they do help.
You can also purchase 'platinum tickets' which are used to reverse time if you fall victim of one of the many traps in each level. The platinum ticket will take you back a little way to before you died. The alternative is to start the whole level again.
Zack and Wiki certainly provides a good challenging game without too much filler. The puzzles require a good amount of thinking. Not too much that it becomes ridiculously hard, but enough so that you don't find yourself bored because you have solved the stage during the quick introduction pan. If you are the type of person that enjoys a game that challenges your thinking capacity instead, then Zack and Wiki should be on your wish list.