Created by Capcom / Rated E / 1 Player / Wii Remote / MSRP $39
In the middle of what some would call a tornado of mini-game compilations for the Wii, is this little gem of a 3rd-party title which is making some heads turn. Zack and Wiki is the perfect role-model of a video game for the Wii: It's fun, it's challenging, it looks fantastic, it uses motion control correctly, and it's only $40. What more can you ask for?
Zack and his strange golden monkey named Wiki are out on a quest to find the sixteen pieces of Barbaros' treasure with the promise of Treasure Island and the Legendary Ship as a reward. Each piece of treasure is encased in a large golden treasure chest you open at the end of each level's completion. The entire game is built as a type of point-and-click adventure: the stage is a small compact area, but it's all one large puzzle as you'll need to understand what you need to be doing on the stage, and how to go about doing it. For instance, you may need to open a door with a key that's hanging out of reach, so you'll need to find an item capable of extending your grip.
Everything starts out very simple, with the game nearly holding your hand through every step you make. But it's by the second level they let go and push you in while saying, "good luck with that!" It's at this point you're forced to think for yourself, and things only get more complicated.
Pretty soon you have much larger stages, many more items, and numerous ways of meeting your death. If you're killed from making a wrong choice, the level's over and you must restart. This kept me on my toes at all times as I was always in fear of dying, so every choice I made needed to be a smart one. There is an option to revive by purchasing golden tickets before the stage, as well as an oracle doll that will give you a hint if you're stuck, but using these lower your HQ score and, well, getting hints simply ruins the experience. It's never worth using a hint, as it's so much more rewarding to figure everything out yourself.
It's very rare that you'll be angered when figuring out a puzzle, as each one is incredibly clever and rewarding. But once you learn how to beat a stage, you'll never really forget, which is why it's so important not to look online for answers. The game can be ruined very easily from seeking knowledge elsewhere. In fact, if you were to follow a strategy guide from start to finish, I could estimate the game would be complete within a couple hours. But this title lasted a long 15-20 hours instead.
The Wii Remote is the perfect controller to play this game with, if it isn't the only way. Instead of forcing the remote to do things it was never meant to do, Capcom has taken their time to look at how the Wii Remote can be used successfully during every inch of an inventive game. When you click on an object on the stage to walk over to it and inspect it, there's also generally a way to use it. In these cases, you must manipulate the Wii Remote like you would the object in real life. Pull a lever, turn a key, swing a hammer, etc. Instead of making a mini-game compilation out of these various uses of the Wii Remote, they're only used when they're needed in the game. It's much like choosing not to use every single font in your library.
Part of the puzzle associated with these items, though, is you're not told how to use your Wii Remote correctly. Instead, you're given a starting position such as to hold it vertically, and then you take it from there. Most times it's very clear what you need to do, seeing as how a lever is simply a lever. But other times you must turn and manipulate objects in ways that don't immediately make sense, such as the screenshot below.
Zack and Wiki is a fairly short game, but there are hundreds of treasures to go back and collect once finished with the game (although it seems fairly random at this point for me). The experience of playing this title is so fresh and full of intrigue that you'll feel like you really accomplished something by the time you're all done. Video games are often about racing through things from start to finish, that it's nice to have a game that makes you sit down and really think about the answer that's hidden right in front of you.
Zack and Wiki has a gigantic opportunity to grow into a much bigger franchise, and I could easily see multiple sequels about their adventures that are just as fun to play as this one. This is a fantastic game, and I really hope it grows into something even better over time.
Verdict: A brilliant and challenging game you could only play on the Wii.