Some ways into Zack and Wiki:The Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure you will find yourself stumped. When (not if) this occurs you will press 1 on your trusty Wiimote and be ushered into Granny’s presence for some help. Now once you are here, let the music play, go ahead, let it go for a while, recognize anything? That’s right, the creators of Z&W have used the classic hymn “I surrender all” as background music. Even the straight old school piano arrangement of it feels like I’m back at my small town Midwestern church in the 80s trying to decide if I should go to the alter and get saved again, except in this case it’s a freakish clown puppet morph creature named Granny and not my local pastor who beckons. Once you are here though, kneeling in this space (yes, you read correctly, to summon Granny, Zack kneels to the ground and folds his hands in prayer) beseeching this clown puppet hybrid to give you a hint, it will all make sense.
You see Zack and Wiki is a game that will humble you. A game that will make you feel like the smartest person to ever have lived and at the same time crush you under your inability to shift that one last paradigm that puts all the puzzle pieces in place. If you haven’t heard of this treasure of a game yet, let me set the stage. Budding pirate Zack and his floating monkey bell Wiki (I’m pretty sure that monkey bell is not a species, but what else do you call a monkey that turns into a bell when you grab it’s tail) are on a treasure hunt. A treasure chest awaits in each level if only they can solve the often Rube Goldbergian puzzles that threaten to keep the booty at bay. These puzzle increase in difficulty as the game goes on which elevates both the level of wonderful befuddlement and immense conquering satisfaction upon completion.
Put simply ZW:QFBT is fun. The puzzle design, the sense of humor, even the innovative use of Wii motion controls, all combine for one of the most enjoyable and fresh gaming experiences I’ve had in a while. There is also an often overlooked multi player feature in which others can write stuff on the screen and become a more active part of the puzzle solving. A feature that in our house has made Zack and Wiki quite the family affair. Add this to the fact that you can snag the game for a budget price and this is one you definitely don’t want to pass up even if you will feel completely lost half the time.
In fact, that feeling is much of what makes this game so engaging and powerful, a feeling that resonates with the real world. People often ask what the answer to life is, as if there is some easy explanation for how this whole thing works. There is no more an easy explanation for life than there is and easy explanation for Zack and Wiki. It’s a process, a journey, a discovery. “Now wait a second”, I hear you saying, “aren’t you one of those Christian type guys? Isn’t Jesus the simple answer to everything?” Well, He’s the answer for sure, but simple? Not so much. And explanation? Not at all. The process of solving this puzzle is about submission and following. It’s about letting others write on your screen a little bit. It’s about understanding your place in each environment and the tools you’ve been given. It’s about dropping to your knees, admitting you’re lost and seeking guidance. It is about “I Surrender All”. And the treasure at the end of this level might just be more than a pirate boy and his pet monkey bell could ever imagine.