The game kicks off by introducing us to the various main characters in the game, flying through the air, looking for ways to make a living by uncovering hidden treasure and selling it on for a hefty profit. The cast is rather forgettable, though, with the only ones of real note being the protagonist Zack and his faithful flying monkey friend, Wiki, both of whom you get to control early on in a quick puzzle that must be solved as your plane comes under attack and you are forced to bail out. This then leads players on to the meat of the (rather lightweight) story, as upon crash-landing, Zack and Wiki stumble on a buried treasure chest that contains the head of legendary pirate, Barabaros. A deal is struck and in return for piecing his whole body back together, he promises to bestow them with his ship. And so the premise is set and off they go on an adventure to uncover each and every part of the scary-looking pirate king.
The game's presentation style is one of a cel-shaded nature, which many will automatically associate with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker from the GameCube, and to be honest, whilst attractive, this never quite lifts itself much higher than a polished GC title. Everything certainly exudes vibrant colours and wreaks of personality, though, which tied in with the fact that it looks far better than 90% of the Third Party efforts out there right now anyway, makes Quest for Barbaros' Treasure all the more visually appealing. Even the soundtrack aspect of the game is impressive in some regards, with certain tunes that definitely add to the atmosphere of the game. However, much of the music is instantly forgettable and, on top of this, sadly Capcom chose to not fully-voice the game, instead opting for the odd line of Japanese slipped in amongst a bunch of garbled, constantly repeated noises. Whilst possibly 'cute' the first few times you hear the character snippets, very quickly they will drive you insane. The game's sequel should certainly rectify this...
But for now let us focus on this and just how striking it actually is. Those jumping in hoping for something akin to the fantastic Broken Sword, Monkey Island, or even The Longest Story, like myself, will honestly be disappointed, as sadly Zack & Wiki only aligns itself with those games in that it uses a point-and-click mechanic for moving Zack around (a feature that, for the most part, works extremely well, other than when you need to move quickly thanks to accurately pointing whilst the camera moves is a pain in the neck). The basic set up of each stage is one large puzzle, kind of like The Crystal Maze, for those that remember it, except there is no bald, ex-Rocky Horror Show host or crazy mother character hidden in the level, ready to offer advice! But the roots of the game do indeed stem from the same idea, with the player being placed down in the middle of an unknown area and left to figure things out without nary a hint or clue in many cases and several penalties for any wrong moves.
Wiki's role, you may be wondering, is to be pretty useless other than for one key talent – he can shake a bell really well. Simply waft the controller around like crazy and you will be tinkling more than someone with a weak bladder (*groan* ...sorry). Why ring a bell, though? Well, other than getting rid of evil spirits found in treasure boxes, it transforms inanimate objects into animate ones and vice versa, thus proving to be a vital part of each stage, as various tools and weapons imperative to progressing are unavailable until you transform the creatures littering an area. And on the flipside, manipulating the structure of solid objects into moving beings can be equally advantageous when attempting to plunder the level’s treasure. An early example would be creating a saw by waggling at a monster that jumps out of a nearby tree, thus giving you the opportunity to then chop said tree down and then cross over it...
...Which brings us nicely onto the clever use of the Wii motion controls in the game. Throughout the adventure, players will be faced with a diverse array of tasks that involve movement of the Wii Remote, such as pushing forwards and backwards repeatedly in this example of sawing through a tree trunk. Other such wonders include turning keys in the same manner as in Metroid Prime 3, rotating the controller in the desired direction to unlock doors, or turning it on its side and whacking like a hammer or even flicking your wrist to cast a fishing line. Whilst the actions could very easily have felt tacked on, the integration of the gesture system works seamlessly in tandem with the main stock of the game. There is the odd time when a motion might not be recognised on the first attempt, but nine-times-out-of-ten everything goes without a hitch.
Each stage can be completed in a variety of ways, meaning the advancement through a level proves to be nice and diverse, yet care needs to be taken with the methods used, as for each false move, the player is penalised by either a loss of points for the level, or even death at some points (leading to a simple re-start of the level, or 'continue' if you bought special tokens). To try and counter this, Capcom has strived to simplify matters so as to make Zack & Wiki as accessible as possible, with Zack only able to carry one item at a time, rather than amassing too many, leaving the player unsure which to choose from. However, on the other hand, if you know you need to use two or more items on the other side of a stage and must trek all the way backwards and forwards to carry each one at a time, it can end up being a tiresome chore. It is obviously swings and roundabouts, though. Also, there hidden elements around certain stages, such as a musical mini-game where you need to shake the Wii controller in time with the on-screen prompts, which appear to the tune of famous old Capcom titles, such as Mega Man. On the whole, the whole game is a joy to play through if you approach with the right attitude, and is certainly the freshest experience on Wii so far, for which Capcom should most certainly be applauded.
Yet when it comes to the topic of 'value for money' the situation becomes rather sticky. Zack & Wiki does offer up a wide selection of puzzles over a large number of different locations, complete with all the special extras hidden within many of the levels. Still, the difficulty seems to vary far too much occasionally, going from ridiculously simple to overly frustrating, which can make progress extremely arduous in places. In addition, sometimes deaths feel rather cheap, as if the developer made specific puzzles extremely awkward just for the sake of extending the adventure a bit more. Whatever the case, once the game's twenty-four stages have been breezed through there is little reason to come back, unfortunately. The draw of beating high score totals is not particularly strong, in all honesty due to it not being that sort of competitive game, and the hidden elements are not always that satisfying. But the core game is so enjoyable for the majority of the adventure that most will be satisfied with that alone and will be glad they took the risk on such a game.