Getting Back To It- Zack and Wiki: The Quest for Babaros’ Treasure

Image captured by Hatm0nstar

Another month gone by, another game crossed off the list…almost. It’s kind of funny how even when you make it your mission to play through a game, life and circumstance is still able to draw you away from it, and it can do so quite easily at that. My mission this month was to finally return to and finish Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. Sadly, my adventure ended before the game’s did, but not because it wasn’t fun.

The word that I think would best sum up Zack and Wiki would be: “novel”. It ‘s a game that makes sense in terms of its gameplay logic, but it’s logic that’s wrapped in a layer of wonder absurdity. This is a game with a monkey that turns into a bell (yup…), and not just any bell, but one that can turn anyone and anything into a conveniently useful item. This is where that odd logic I mentioned comes into play. The game is built around turning people an creatures into the tools needed to solve each environmental puzzle. Is there a key out of reach? Go find yourself a snake! Need to dig a hole? Then what you need is a mole, my friend. Need to bust a hole in that wall over there? All you need is a…frog? Okay maybe they don’t all make sense, but that’s part of the fun too. This is a game that takes nothing seriously and does everything it can to make sure its players are aware of that.

The rest of the game is just as silly. The player takes on the role of Zack, a candy-bar enthusiast who also happens to be the only human in a pirate crew comprised entirely of rabbits. Zack and his companion, Wiki (the bell/monkey I mentioned earlier), are on a quest to recover the treasure of the legendary pirate captain Barbaros. That treasure also happens to be Barbaros’ body, which is somehow made up of goblets and other gilded objects, instead of actual bones. It’s explained as some sort of curse, but I have to say that it the strangest curse I’ve ever heard of. Why are Zack and Wiki recovering these treasures, why so that Barbaros will give them his ship of course! And why do they want the ship? …Well apparently it’s because it would be cool to ride around in the ship of a legendary pirate captain. That’s it. Well, whatever gets the adventure going I suppose.

I remembered Zack and Wiki as a fairly challenging puzzle game, and that has absolutely held true. The basic setup is consistent throughout the game: Zack and Wiki find themselves in a room and have to figure out a way to get at a treasure chest located somewhere inside. Simple enough, but I found that the game was constantly doing its best to keep me on my toes. Sometimes I just had to get Zack from one end of the room to another, other times Zack needed to defeat an enemy before he could open the chest, and there were time where the whole thing was about moving the chest itself. The types of challenges vary, but it all boils down to learning the game’s own unique brand of logic, and often through good ol’ fashioned trial and error. It all amounted to a game in which I felt like I was genuinely getting better at the game even though each challenge was almost entirely different than those that came before.

The only real bump in the experience was the motion controls. Now normally I’d take points off any game that relies on motion controls anyway (I’m generally just not a fan), but Zack and Wiki actually utilizes them fairly well. The motions themselves make sense, and I actually found it fun to mimic the motions needed for each item. There’s even a motion for turning items around! All you have to do is twitch your hand upwards (as if you were going to toss & flip the wiimote in the air), and the action is mimicked on-screen, very cool! So it’s a little unfortunate that the game suffers from all the same problems almost every other motion control game encounters. Failure to register a motion, repeating actions if the motion is performed, imprecise aiming, and input lag all make their appearances, and they’re all able to quickly make what would normally be a fun challenge into an annoying chore whenever they do. Thankfully, these difficulties are the only major issue with the game that I came across.

All in all, I’m glad to have had the chance to return to Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. It’s constantly evolving challenges and pure puzzle solving were a welcome change of pace from…well just about everything else I’ve played actually. It’s not a game I could sit down and play for hours, but it’s definitely good for 30 minutes to an hour at the time (when the motion controls behave that is). Honestly, when I see something like this come out of Capcom (that’s right, it’s a Capcom game!), it makes me wonder why they don’t do more games in this vein. They’re obviously good at it…though it probably didn’t help that Zack and Wiki didn’t exactly do very well in sales. Though what do you expect when you do absolutely nothing to market a game and make it a hard to find gem from the very start? At any rate, fans of puzzlers and point-and-click games would do well to give this one a try. Even if you don’t normally play those, I’d even go so far as to say that anyone who’s a fan of Legend of Zelda dungeons will like this one. It’s not as action-oriented, but it does still have a sense of adventure to go with it the above-average brain-bending it offers

Next month’s game is one that really should have been higher on my list, but it’s coming up now actually works out quite well. Ever since Bethesda’s E3 press conference Fallout has been the only game on my mind. I need to dig into those games again, it cannot be denied! So for July (and possibly August) it’s all about exploring the post-apocalyptic Mojave in Fallout: New Vegas!

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Have you had a chance to play Zack and Wiki? If so, is there anything similar out there you’d recommend? If not, what puzzle games have you played that you couldn’t help but enjoy?

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Speaking of Capcom puzzle/adventure games, I recently received for my birthday the bizarre Europe/Japan-only Capcom point and click, Glass Rose on PS2. It’s not cartoony like Zack and Wiki but it certainly has a similarly absurd central premise! The main character, a time-travelling journalist in the game, is modeled on, voiced and mo-copped by a J-pop boyband star – I’m not joking. It’s a proper point and click experience like Zack and Wiki, you can plug a USB mouse into the PS2 to play it.

    I do want to go back to this game as I remember having a similar experience. A few frustrations but overall a very good puzzler. As you say even though the gameplay is very tight and smartly designed, and the game looks great, the tone feels a bit all over the place. I suspect that’s because of the dev team’s shift in focus throughout development. I seem to remember an interview with one of the team talking about how the critical buzz around Zack and Wiki in the West as a “hardcore” title made them shift the game’s focus away from being child friendly.

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Huh. It’s too bad Glass Rose never had a US release, cause that sound AWESOME! Was that mouse a PS2 add-on, or could you just plug in a USB mouse?

      Like

      1. Ha ha, it’s a pretty interesting game so far from what I’ve played. And any old USB mouse does the trick, which is pretty neat! Certainly much more elegant than the PS1’s official mouse which was/is a sight for sore eyes.

        Like

  2. Matt says:

    Zack and Wiki is an impressive game. The puzzles are so well-designed and intricate that navigating through a simple scenario towards a chest (even if said scenario is a tight room) may take over thirty minutes. I love it!

    Like

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      They’re all so deceptively complex aren’t they? They put so much thought into so many of them. It really took some actual critical thought at times!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Matt says:

        Yeah, it is quite impressive.

        Like

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