Zak & Wiki Hands On Impressions
My time at TGS seemed so limited despite the fact that I was there from 10 in the morning right through until closing time at 5. My back was aching , my shoulder whined about the bag it carried that was crammed full of pamphlets and my feet were begging me to give it up. But at 4:40 I walked by the booth for Zak & Wiki: Quest for Barbaro’s Treasure. They were still letting people in line, and the sign said the wait was 15 minutes. I decided it would be a good stop as I hadn’t had much real hands on time with any Wii games yet.
The play area was one of the few in the whole place that actually had seating available for people who were trying out the game. At that point in the day, that would have been enough to sell me on the whole experience. While waiting in line an attendant dressed in the usual khaki shorts and vest wore by theme park “jungle tour guides”, handed me a large lamented printout describing the basic controls of the game. She gave me the English one which had the name Zak & Wiki printed on it, but I noticed that the Japanese version of the game was keeping the original title “Treasure Island Z”. It’s a toss-up, but Zak and Wiki: Quest for Barbaro’s treasure is defiantly the worse one of the two.
I end up making it to the end of the line at 4:55, and get seated at the largest of the TV’s right at the front where everyone can see. The attendant runs over and briefly talks to someone as the game demonstrator who was sitting at my spot gets up and walks off. I wait a moment and enjoy just having the moment to sit down. Soon a thin smiling young guy comes and sits down next to me. “Hi! How’s it going?” He says overly cheerfully in perfect English. He hands me a Wii controller and asks if I have ever played a Wii game before. I say I have and he looks a bit relived. Pointing to the TV he tells me to click the jungle level, and then the first stage. The way the menu is set up gives me the impression that the game is a series of single puzzle based missions rather than an adventure game like I had previously thought.
The level loads up and I get started right away. My “guide” makes the pretense of letting me explore the level for myself, but then proceeds to make annoying little hints and tries to egg me on. I laugh politely at his cheesy jokes and run through the level in what feels like recored time. It was obviously either the first level in the game, or very early on, because it was incredible easy. My guide seems surprised at how fast I solve the level and asks me if I had played the game before already. I assure him I hadn’t, and told him it was just a really easy level. He nods and looks around the room. One other TGS attendee is still playing off to the side , so he asks me if I want to try another level. I briefly consider declining as his little jokes are starting to grate on my nerves, but I agree and he gives me an enthusiastic “all right!”. The last customer of the day sometimes gets the best service right?
He lets me choose the next one, and I end up on a random stage in a fire level. From the menu I could see about 5 different areas. Jungle, Fire, Ice, and two others I forget at the moment. As the level starts my guide points out a couple of quick things so we can skip the cutscenes and get into it. I notice a blue dot on the screen and my guide uses a second Wii controller to draw circles and arrows on the level showing me my objective. I ask him if that will be a feature in the game, and he says it is. So now when your playing your buddy can annoy you by drawing a large penis across the screen while your trying to play! The level is quite a bit longer, but still pretty easy. TGS is definatly over now, as people stream out behind us towards the exits. So my guide is no longer pretending to let me figure it out on my own. All the other guides and attendants are standing behind me watching, as well as a few people outside who stopped on their way out of the convention hall. We finish, and then everyone cheers, relieve I am sure they can finally go home. I am handed a small gold brick with a skull (which turns out to be quite large towel that opens after unwrapping it and soaking it in water), and then follow the throng of people out to the exits.
Over all it seems like it might be a pretty good game. It does fall into that casual, mini-game ish area, and yet I wonder if It will get overlooked by that crowd. I am not sure exactly what other purpose the Wiki character was for, but in the levels I played he somehow became a bell when you shake the Wii controller back and forth. This would turn animals in the level into objects you can use to solve puzzles. For example I turned a snake into one of those claw grabbing toys, which I used to pull a key down off of a chain. One annoying feature though, was only being able to carry one object at a time. So when you needed to use something more than once, you would have to run all the way back to pick it up again. Over at IGN Matt Casamassina, who is on their Wii-k in Review podcast, has started a “Buy Zak & Wiki Campaign”. I’m not quite ready to pre-order just yet from what I played, but I willing to give it another go if I get the chance.