Zack & Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
Posted by D on July 22, 2008
For me the point-and-click adventure marked a high point in games design that has seldom been equalled. At their best they combine truly great story telling with a challenging puzzle game. It’s not for no reason that people go all misty eyed, and then bore you to tears, telling you about how “games were better back in the day” at the merest mention of Day of the Tentacle or Monkey Island. I’ve always thought it was a shame that Lucasarts abandoned making original and engaging games, instead prefering to produce “Yet Another Generic Starwars Game 12” (because that particular cash cow hasn’t quite been milked dry) but one consequence is that I’m always on the look out for a decent point-and-click adventure game. Yes I was that person who bought all the Myst games (incidentally, Riven was the best). So you can imagine how delighted I was to hear of Zack & Wiki: The Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure on the Wii. A point-click-adventure about young boy, Zack, who wants to become a pirate and to do so he must complete a range of tasks and finally face off against a dreaded ghost pirate. It’s like somebody somewhere was channelling all I loved about point-and-click adventures, so it’s rather unfortunate that the plot of Whack & Slippy is incoherant, disjointed and almost totally abritrary. As though someone swept up and kept all that was discarded when they sat down to design Monkey Island 2.
Slack & Sticky monkeys with the old point-and-click adventure format by dividing the game into levels and awarding you points for how well you complete each level. This means you can return to any given puzzle as often as you want but in turn this removes much of the continuity from the story and means that the game is more of a puzzle game than it is an adventure game. And this, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing, it’s a perfectly functional and mostly diverting puzzle game. The object of each level is to solve its Rube Goldberg challenge in order to access the treasure chest at the end. Subsequent levels increase in complexity, largely by increasing the number of steps required to reach the treassure chest. That’s not especially unexpected but what is novel is that many of the puzzles or sub-parts can be solved in multiple ways, with the ideal solution scoring the greatest number of points. I’m not entirely sure what a points system brings to this game other than a mechanism whereby bonus bits can be unlocked, and what gets unlocked doesn’t appear to serve much purpose.
Crack & Drippy streamlines the point-and-click puzzle game by greatly reducing the number of item types in the game. Each item type frequently reappears between levels so the challenge lies in how you combine these parts to solve the levels. As this is a Wiimote extravaganza each item requires a particular type of demented flail to utilise. That’s mostly pretty neat until you get to the levels where you have to do something exactly right, first time, to score maximum points at which point the game will completely and utterly refuse to understand exactly what manner of demented flailing you’re trying to execute.
And speaking of flailing, that brings us onto the character of Wiki. Wiki is a magical, golden, flying monkey and by flailing the Wiimote around like a parkinsonian campanoligist Zack will ring Wiki like a bell. This causes all nearby objects to transform. All the items in the game exist in one of two forms, an animal form or as the useful item. Ringing Wiki converts them between those two states and this power of transformation underpins most of the game’s puzzles. It’s an odd game mechanic and my only real issue with it is that you can’t actually ring the life out of Wiki. Wiki is pretty close to the most nauseatingly and irritatingly cute character to be inserted into any form of children’s entertainment. Ever. His irritatingly cute voice made me long for something sharp with which to poke out my ear drums and I couldn’t skip the cutscenes fast enough. Come back Scrappy-doo all is forgiven.
The game also contains a whole load of secret treasure objects to collect. Quite why, who can say. They don’t provide anything useful nor do they change anything about the game. There is even a “minigame” (if you can call it that) where you “send” an NPC character to “visit” quadrants of a treasure map and bring back more of these items but the whole process is rather tedious and seems to have little bearing on the main game itself. What purpose it serves is anyone’s guess.
Overlooking the wholly detesable Wiki character, Slap & Spitty is mostly quite diverting and it has the appropriate level of polish. The interface is fine when it works but can be a little annoying when it just won’t do as it’s told and the story is inane to the point of stupidity. The graphics on the other hand are excellent, but then again I’m always a sucker for the clean matte stylings of cell-shaded graphics, so you may wish to take that with a pinch of salt. Fundamentally the game lacks a certain depth and as such it’s hard to draw any real level of satisfaction from completing it. The puzzles aren’t really up to much and the limited repertoire of items means that they are often amenable to a brute force combinatorial solution. Suffice to say there’s little or no replay value, except on those levels where you have to do something first time in order to do it right. All in all if you have nothing else to play you might want to give this a go but otherwise I’d save your pennies for something a little more deserving.