Based on its box art, gamers might initially think that “Zach and Wiki” is another crazy Japanese game based on a succesful anime series, or perhaps something licensed from a Nickelodeon cartoon. Instead, Capcom has created a surprisingly traditional adventure game, brimming with puzzles, charm and tricks specially designed for Nintendo’s Wii. “Zach and Wiki” could easily find fans among casual gamers, families and fans of old-school adventure games.
Zach is a young wanna-be pirate and Wiki is his flying monkey sidekick. It’s all very twee at first, but by the time Zach has to save his little sidekick from death by hypothermia, even the most cynical players will be won over — and might not even mind the little monkey’s high-pitched call of “Zaaah-khuuu!”
The game is divided into levels, each its own puzzle with a treasure chest at the end. Many of the puzzles are similar to the sorts of challenges found in a “Tomb Raider” game. Since the puzzles are self-contained, there’s no confusion about the order in which they need to be solved. Everything necessary for the solution is presented up front with a little cinematic introduction.
The puzzles are driven by adventure-game logic, which might prove difficult for casual gamers who would otherwise love the game’s easygoing charm. For example, if there’s something too high for the diminutive Zach to reach, he can’t just ask the flying monkey to grab it for him; that would be too easy. Instead, he has to use a magic bell to turn a snake into a set of tongs. There’s a hint system, but gamers who rely on it might have to replay levels to earn the gold to buy hints.
The puzzles are notable for the way they take advantage of the Wii’s unique motion-sensing controller. To use a key, for instance, players actually thrust the Wiimote forward and twist it. To play a flute, hold the Wiimote sideways and work the buttons with your fingertips. To open an umbrella, hold the Wiimote upright and press one of the buttons with your thumb. These are delightful little tricks that give each puzzle a touch of character.
This is an ideal game for a couple or a group of people, particularly families; there’s a good balance of splashy art, animation and humor for kids, but still enough challenge for adults.
Although there’s no multiplayer support per se (additional players can use controllers to point things out, but only one person at a time is in charge), figuring out the puzzles is a classic instance of two heads being better than one. For those who like to play together, “Zach and Wiki” is a great alternative to the usual videogame pastime of shooting each other.