Zack and Wiki is a fun adventure game that I picked up because it looked like a Wii version of the Humongous Entertainment PC games I grew up with (Pajama Sam, Spy Fox— does anyone else remember those?) The key similarity is the point-and-click gameplay and the “puzzles” which are all about getting to X item or activating Y machine (as opposed to having them be straight-up moving-pieces puzzles). I like it because rather than doing a lot of fiddly moving blocks around, you just have to say, “Hey, that statue looks different from the rest. What happens if I poke it?”
I’m only on the second boss so far (I’ve been playing other things with my brothers too much) but it’s been a lot of fun right now.
Except for the gender stuff. Ohh, man.
When I started the second boss (which keeps freezing me, grr!) the main villain of the game showed up again– Captain Rose! And wow does she drive me crazy.
Captain Rose, as far as I can tell, is the only female anything in the game (the goons and animal-people reproduce asexually, I guess) and the game plays up the “female” part really obnoxiously.
She’s got the miniskirt, the high-pitched giggle (instead of an evil laugh), and the total incompetence that just screams female. She’s even got an hourglass figure (making her the only person in the game to have any kind of human figure at all.) She’s annoying, but completely non-threatening– her “scar” is drawn on with bubblegum pink lipstick.
That’s what drives me craziest– that they worked so hard to make her as non-threatening as possible. What’s the point of a villain that you just mock? Aren’t you supposed to be worried at least a little bit that you won’t win?
I think there must be some kind of villain-swap coming up– maybe Barbados turns on us after we finish putting him together?– but that’s somehow worse, that obviously the female villain isn’t the real villain.
It’s not uncommon for games to have joke villains before the big bad (Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga actually had Bowser as the joke villain and it worked really well) and there’s nothing wrong with making a female character ridiculously over-the-top for comic relief. The problem comes when the over-the-top joke villain is the only female in the game, because when there’s only one woman, she has to represent all of womankind; a tough task for an ordinary female character, and nearly impossible to do well with a joke character.
That’s why the Bechdel Test can help so much, really: if you’ve got enough women in your story that two of them can talk to each other about stuff other than the main man, you’ve probably also got enough women in your story that no one character has to represent half the world’s population.
I’m still going to play the game, because it is fun and that’d the point of games, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Captain Rose. Maybe she’ll improve as we see more of her…but I’m not holding my breath.