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Joystiq hands-on: Project Treasure Island Z (Wii)

Zack Stern

Officially unveiled at Capcom's San Francisco Gamer's Day, Project Treasure Island Z is scheduled for a Fall, 2007 Wii release. (The title's name may change before then.) The adventure/puzzle game is based on many -- Capcom says 80 -- different Wii Remote gestures, like twisting keys and scooping water. After playing the game, I'm interested in its final version; Capcom seems to be living up to its innovation-and-risk ideal.

Gamers, especially the American audience, will first notice the risky kiddie graphic and character style in the single-player-only game. Project Treasure Island Z has a lot of substance beneath that saccharine layer, but Capcom faces a significant challenge in selling the game to older players.

I asked about the target audience and age for the title, and a company representative admitted that it skewed young at first glance. However, she mentioned that Capcom will work to market the game to a broader group, including hardcore, dual-system gamers.

After getting past the graphics, I picked up the Remote -- the only means to control the game -- and swung into action. I moved my character by pointing and clicking on-screen. "Zack" (no relation) interacted with the environment when I clicked on objects. But the point of Project Treasure Island Z is the method of those interactions.

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The puzzles are based on properly moving the Remote after figuring out what to do next. It wasn't enough for me to know to move a lever; I had to pull the Remote in a lever-like motion. Other examples include sawing a tree and ringing a hand-bell that's a morphed version of Zack's golden, flying, helper-monkey friend.

No, I didn't make that up. Again, this game will be difficult to market to people above the age of 12, but the gameplay may sustain players' interest.

And the Wii doesn't need any more mini-games. What I tried has the potential to be more than a series of mini-games strung together -- the gestures felt like actions and part of the adventure instead of individual games -- but that's another delicate issue Capcom needs to handle.

The sense of repetition may become the biggest problem in the game. Each area lasts between several minutes and a few hours. And if you die, you star that stage over. We writers found many ways to kill ourselves accidentally, repeating the several-minute demo five or ten times in a row. The longer stages are going to be later in the game, after you learn the basics of staying alive, but even repeating short stages grew frustrating. (Didn't we learn anything from the great-but-flawed Dead Rising?)

Capcom says the game will have about 40 hours of unique play, and it will appeal to a passive multiplayer crowd. I have fond memories of sharing one-player games (or one-at-a-time titles) with friends, and I agree that this may be fun to play with a group. Still, I'd like to see a deep, multiplayer Wii game with cooperative physical movements; why not have two people each hold an end of a saw?

Maybe that'll happen in Project Treasure Island Z 2. For now, we applaud the risk in this $40 Wii game, and we hope it turns into fun title for all gamers.

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