Sunday, 20 January 2008

Zack and Wiki impressions

Although the Nintendo Wii is an undeniable success most hardcore gamers feel like Nintendo has turned it's back on them, other than Nintendo's first party titles the Wii game catalog consists mainly of party games, disturbing fish petting simulator and PS2 ports with tacked on motion controls, so its nice to see third party publishers working on something different for the Wii, something that even the hardcore market could enjoy.
One of the most promising third party titles is Zack and Wiki, a adventure puzzle game from Capcom. I got my hands on this game yesterday and although I've only played it for around two hours I am impressed and to a large extent, relieved.
As I said I haven't played the game for too long, and much of this playtime was getting acquainted with the game mechanics, how the game utilizes the Wii controls and getting stuck on one of the puzzles.
The premise is simple and from the short section that I played the story takes a back seat to the gameplay. You take control of Zack and to some extent Wiki, the newest addition to 'The Sea Rabbits', a lovable group of pirates. After being attacked by the Rose Rock pirates you crash land on an Island where, after a short introductory puzzle, you find the trapped remains of Barbaros, a legendary pirate.
Barbaros explains that his remains have been scattered and offers his mythical ship in exchange for Zack's help in putting him back together.
The game puts the Zack into a level and then leaves the player to utilize the contents of the level to solve the puzzles and get the treasure, this is where Wiki comes into use, although the game does have enemies they are mainly used to solve the puzzles, Wiki is able to change into a bell and turn enemies into tools which Zack can use, for example, shaking the Wiki bell while near a frog turns the frog into a frog bomb, using the bell on a centipede transforms the angry bug into a centisaw which can then be used to cut down trees.
Zack and Wiki is one of the few games that uses the Wii remote creatively and accurately, at various points in the game the player is required to use the motion controls to complete the tasks, the game asks the player to think of the Wii remote as a physical representation of the item Zack is interacting with on the screen and handle it as they would in real life, the on screen assistant pops up regularly to show the player what to do, for example when using a crank the Wii remote should be held horizontally with both hands, then, the player should move the controller in a circular motion just like a real crank, when inserting a key into a lock the controller represents the key and is to be rotated as a key would be, much of the motion controls have appeared in other Wii games such as Metroid, Wii play and Wii Sports but the fact that the controls are built into a fully fleshed out game as opposed to a mini-game collection makes it far more satisfying. Although the controls are fun to use there are some aspects that take a little getting used to, the game uses a point click interface to move Zack, clicking on any accessible area of land will make Zack move there but I found myself simply holding the A button then moving the Wiimote to guide Zack, similar to the way Link is controlled in The Phantom Hourglass, in this case the Wiimote acts as the stylus, I won't lie though, at times I found myself wishing I could just plug in the nunchuk and move him around with the analogue stick.
As well as the intuitive and creative controls the games visuals are very pleasing to the eyes, it is done in a very anime style which is appropriate since many of the characters seem as if they are taken straight from an anime , this is especially true of Wiki, the solid colors create a very vibrant world that is a joy look at.
Zack and Wiki are great characters but they I don't expect them to gain the popularity of other duos such as Rachet and Clank or Jak and Daxter, nevertheless they are extremely entertaining to watch, even though they do the same little poses and the animations are repeated they are still fun to watch, much like Link in Zelda.
Although they are great characters Wiki can become extremely annoying after a while especially when you are stuck on a puzzle, the characters don't actually speak instead they make noises to represent speech and convey emotions similar to another great Capcom game, Okami. Wiki seems to have been voiced by a Japanese girl, the flying monkey regularly bursts into squealing fits, for the most part this is cute and endearing but when the same high pitched noises are strung together in succession it can become a bit annoying.
This game has let me breath a sigh of relief, for a while there I was starting to resign myself to the fact that the only good games for the Wii would be the established Nintendo games and a few rehashed third party games in between but this game has given me hope in third party development for the Wii, all it takes is some care, consideration and creativity, the three C's for the Wii.
So far I am having a blast with the game, the puzzles are starting to become more difficult but I'm looking forward to delving in deeper into this quirky and creative game, thank you Capcom.

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