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CVG
24 Reviews

Zack & Wiki

There's a monkey and an island, but not a rubber chicken in sight...

Labelling Zack And Wiki as a point-and-click adventure seems slightly unfair. Yes, there's both pointing and clicking aplenty, but such a label will have people mentally filing it away with Monkey Island, King's Quest and Broken Sword - and such a comparison will lead to disappointment. If you were weaned on Monkey Island wit and Broken Sword humongo-inventories, you'll be shocked to see how solely puzzle-focused Zack And Wiki actually is.

Hitting quizzical mass
Yes, there's a bare bones story about reconstructing the, erm, bare bones of a skeletal captain (the most blatant 'I-will-turn-out-to-be-evil character' we've seen in a while), and your mad female rival will raise a smile with her strange lipstick war paint, but narrative smarts are largely jettisoned for puzzle density. Is it a fair exchange? We shout a resounding yes.

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24 self-contained stages await you, and while there are a few barmy exceptions to the rule, most play out like the board game Mousetrap, with jungle scenery disguising the plastic see-saw and cage pieces. With a treasure chest in plain sight, you have to work out how to jam and unhinge the level's nefarious machinations, clearing a path that doesn't lead to one of many brutal execution scenes.

The tasks are at their brain-troubling best when built on a bedrock of scientific logic. Light refraction, elemental properties, levers and pressure may seem bran-flake dull after a dish of zany Mario Galaxy Frosties, but hidden under the guise of lava chutes and creaking gothic cogs the - gasp! - actual good that it's doing your brain is well hidden. Not that it's all good science, mind.

Shaken and stirred
For every progression powered by real-world smarts, there's a puzzle that requires you to suss out and apply some nonsensical element dreamt up by Capcom. While shaking Wiki as a bell is a comic highlight, his power to transform nearby creatures into useable items introduces a whole new made-up rulebook to factor into your solutions. New items that lack obvious functions and bizarre creature behavioural patterns are the main culprits - the result is akin to opening a GCSE science paper to find the questions have been written by Willy Wonka.

Okay, so it's more evident in the introductory levels, and you quickly adapt to the game's mind-set; we just can't help wishing it wasn't so pronounced. Our only other design niggle lies with the odd projectile-filled level that asks you to move Zack at speed. Not only do these levels betray the relaxed take-your-time ethic that draws us to puzzlers in the first place, but the point-and-click movement, although ultimately solid, was not designed for speedy, accurate running.

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Let the physics get physical
Bad words about gesturing item enactments? We won't hear 'em. While pottering around the environments Zack can only carry items. Click on useable hotspots, however, and the camera zooms up close for you to physically get to grips with the items and contraptions needed to progress. Enjoyed hefting out the door cylinders in Metroid Prime 3? You'll go a bundle on this.

Zack And Wiki tears a page out of WarioWare's book, folds it into the best paper airplane you've ever seen and lobs it straight into your smile-making synapses. We've nursed baby dragons, plucked painted-keys from portraits and sawed down an environmentally-unfriendly number of trees. What's more, we've actually done it. Rather than have a pre-rendered sequence mollycoddle us, we seized the game world with both hands.

Not that the remote-work is hiccup free. A few items seem a tad flaky - we're looking at you, stubborn rotating light gun thing - and when motions activate themselves without your deliberate input the whole setup seems questionable. But this happens rarely.

As a set of 24 puzzles, it's an unrivalled cranial-journey from start to finish, but it's a path that heavily erodes as you tread it. You solve it, you've exhausted it.1 An IQ scoring system doesn't particularly work - few puzzles offer alternate solutions for potentially higher scores, and after dying so often in later stages you'll find you've mutated into a natural speed-runner.

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