Found a crank handle? Then you’re going to be using the remote like the handle to turn gears or work a pulley system. Turned a caterpillar into a saw? That dodgy looking pillar is begging to be sawn down with a nice back-and-forth action. There’s fishing, shovelling, batting, clawing, twisting, turning, rotating and placing to be done, and it’s all going to have to be mimicked physically with the Wii remote. Gimmicky? Maybe a little, but it really does add to the sense of involvement with the game and its puzzles. Sensibly, we even get an onscreen prompt to show you how to hold the remote and use it.
The stages, meanwhile, start off easy, soon get tricky, and get truly nightmarish in their complexity once the game hits its swing. Remember those bits in Monkey Island 2 where you had to put together some bizarre chain of events in order to obtain a certain resolution? Well, Zack and Wiki easily equals them for mind-boggling trauma on a regular basis. An early scene that involves a mole, a frog, a snake and a couple of scaredy-cat pirates to dislodge a huge icicle might seem tough, but by the time you’re dealing with multiple lava flows, various see-saw mechanisms, numerous spiders and several potentially Zack-crushing balls, you’ll realise that it’s only getting harder and harder and harder. Each scene might only take five minutes to complete once you know the right sequence of objects, actions and solutions, but you can easily spend thirty minutes to an hour just working out exactly what that sequence is.
If you’re stuck, the game does have its own in-built hint system, courtesy of a dotty fortune teller and the oracle dolls you can buy from her shop at Pirate HQ. All the same, there may be times when you find yourself reaching for an FAQ – and I won’t blame you. All I can say is that the solution is usually quite logical if you stop and think, and that the game usually gives you a choice of stages to tackle at any one time. If you do find yourself banging your head against a brick wall, you can usually give something else a try. You might even learn something that might help!
In general, Capcom has done a beautiful job. Zack and Wiki looks sumptuous, with some of the loveliest cartoon-style graphics I’ve seen in any game to date. The areas themselves are superbly themed and realised, and if the design sticks to the classic themes of old-school platform games – here’s the icy bit, watch out for the lava, let’s explore the haunted castle – the artwork is gorgeous and the little touches, like the constant heat haze in the lava levels, atmospheric.
Personally, I also like the fact that Capcom has stuck with nonsense voices instead of English dialogue – it makes the characters so much more charming – and the cut-scenes and quips are constantly amusing too. Plus, it’s a big game with a depth that might surprise you. Not only are there seven main areas to get through, but also a host of secrets to discover and a ranking system to encourage replay (though whether you’ll really want to go back through puzzles when you already know the solution is another matter). Unlike so many Wii games, Zack and Wiki is built for more than just a weekend’s play.