All the same, it is a game with one really serious flaw, and that’s the sheer level of frustration involved. The old LucasArts games had two cardinal rules: don’t kill the player, and never let the player do something that will prevent them getting further in the game. Playing Zak and Wiki, you realise how sensible these two rules were. Not only can you die – and sometimes quite suddenly – but doing so means having to repeat the whole level from the beginning unless you can back out using a shop-bought revive token. These are relatively expensive, and in some missions timing is so crucial that you can burn your way through your stock with ease. What’s more, using one reduces your score and throws away your current stock of collected currency – the very thing you’ll need to buy revive tokens for your next adventure. Add in the fact that you can make mistakes that make the current level impossible to complete, and you have a recipe for remote-throwing levels of annoyance.
And it gets worse. Sometimes the controls get twitchy, and sometimes you lose the cursor altogether, leaving you waggling the remote furiously – often at a critical moment in the stage. Having spent half an hour avoiding killer stone idols, solving junction box puzzles, and making careful use of lava-powered lifts, do I really want to get killed by more hostile idols at the very end of the stage just because my cursor won’t behave? Nope. I don’t think so. Sometimes you just have to walk away, simmer down, then come back again once the red mist has cleared.
The fact that I always come back is testament to how charming and enjoyable a game this otherwise is. It’s especially good if you like playing Wii games with your family, because while there’s obviously no multiplayer option, it’s fun just to sit around and offer advice while other people play. In our household, it’s become something of a group effort. Oddly, this helps reduce the annoyance levels, because when one player gets sick of the routine, someone else is always waiting to fill the breach.
So Zack and Wiki isn’t perfect, nor is it quite in the same class as Mario or Zelda. All the same, it’s one of the few Wii titles to come even close, and one of a handful of truly essential titles on the system. Most of all, I hope it’s a game that will inspire other developers to try something similar, and maybe even a few old hands to produce point-and-click adventures that combine the best of the old narrative approach with the fun of the Wii controls used here. Until someone pulls that off, this will more than suffice – it will keep you enthralled, annoyed but enchanted right until the end.
A storming puzzle adventure that makes wonderful use of the Wii. Just prepare for some moments of severe frustration along the way.
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