For some reason, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure has gotten wonderful press as the big surprise on the system this year. Well, I was surprised at how annoying this game was. This was a real letdown for me. And it starts off promisingly enough. Zack is a young air pirate and Wiki is his flying monkey thing that turns into a bell. Delightfully quirky. Problems really start when the gameplay does. At first, I was under the impression this would be like Skies of Arcadia, but it's really a puzzle game. In order to interact with the environment, you must place your remote in a variety of positions. Your remote is also used to move you around the terrain, so you're constantly switching between pointing, waving, shaking and steering your controller. The responsiveness of all this and the ergonomics of the gameplay is all over the map. Sometimes it works well, other times it's frustrating to deal with. The puzzles, considering this is E Rated, are surprisingly hard and you can die by making a single mistake. Problem is, every time you die or even try something that doesn't work right, your score for each stage decreases, meaning you'll be looking do each stage perfectly. You'll also use your bell to turn animals into tools to complete stages, but again, using these tools requires a lot of manipulation of the remote. I understand that the Wii has the functionality for this, but it doesn't mean they had to use it. You don't really gain levels or unlock anything useful for the game. The shop in the game consists of two items (one for hints, one for lives). I've played much better puzzle games that had richer storylines. The game has a cartoony design and doesn't even require a nunchuk to play, but I'm wondering how a young audience will be able to play this game without getting aggravated in the process. Capcom obvious spent good time working on this game, but I wish there was more than overly-complex puzzle stages to the game.
I must confess I did not play very much of this game. The control interface, from the part I played, seemed extremely competent and may actually be fun as the game goes on. The point and click aspect (read trial and error) slipped under my radar, however, and I never would have played it had I for a moment thought it was like those old point and click/puzzle games on the PC. I enjoy games based on skill and this game has nothing to do with skill-instead you solve puzzles that you randomly guess the answer to and recieve points based on how lucky you were (read how many tries it took you to get it right). Every time you fail you get a point reduction making "perfection" nearly impossible the first time and subsequent tries can be confusing when you get half points for seemingly no reason. Redoing section after section gets a little tedious especially when listening to the character sounds that are not really voices over and over.
The game's look and sound is very cutesy for the young crowd, but if you (or your kid) likes jumping around and really controlling your character, then this game is not for you. If you like colorful worlds and scanning your Wii-mote over every object to see if you can interact with it, then sign up because the story/script is not too bad and the gameplay is solid.
Overall a well-crafted game, and certainly a unique puzzler on the Wii. Early levels provide some great challenges as well as unique uses of the Wii remote. Later on I found the levels shifted more into a mode of "try A, die, try B, die, try C, move on, try D, realize you needed to try E first, restart", and so on. Had the designers stuck to the rare-dead-end, rarely-get-killed model of the first half of the game it would have been great; overall it's worth renting, but be prepared to get frustrated towards the end.