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DVD Review: The King Of Kong

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The King Of Kong is a documentary following two competitive gamers who are competing to gain the Donkey Kong world record for the highest score.

The film follows high school teacher Steve Wiebe’s attempt to bust Billy Mitchell’s record of 874,300, untouched since 1982. This is harder than you might think, since the aforementioned Mitchell now holds sway with the judges of such things, Twin Galaxies (now the official Guinness World Record judges for arcade game records). Whether he succeeds or not and the full story surrounding same is available on Wikipedia for all to see, but I highly recommend seeing the film instead, which has some real emotion and heart behind it. According to that most reliable of sources, The Internet, a film adaptation is in the works, which seems foolish since this had a theatrical release and it’d probably just be something in the Dodgeball style.

The film is very clear cut (despite being a documentary) as to whose side they’re on. Billy Mitchell is the hot sauce mogul who funnelled his record and his mullet into his business. He is portrayed so that by the end of the movie you will think that he’s scum of the highest order for refusing to play with Wiebe, even though most of the people involved in the film say that he’s a kind and generous man (sometimes not phrasing it in the best way). Lovable Wiebe, on the other hand, comes across more clearly as the everyman underdog who tries to beat somebody else at a video game. We’ve all been there.

While it gives some useful tips (apparently you can control the barrels to a certain extent in the first level), the film seems to be missing the notorious ‘custard pie’ level and the last level where you have to remove the nails to kill Donkey Kong (who would of course later become Cranky Kong), making it seem like those levels do not actually exist.

Incidentally, at the time of writing the current World Record Holder is still Steve Wiebe (title regained less than a week ago) after the title went back and forth between the two. The documentary does play with the facts a bit, but it’s all in aid of a good story and it plays more like a film in that respect.

The DVD comes with a large amount of extras, including two commentaries and extended interviews, some of which border on both funny and creepy (the Mr. Awesome section has to be seen to be believed). It also comes with an animated short that depicts ‘A Really, Really Brief History Of Donkey Kong’ and is pretty damn funny for its short running time. It also has a brief Star Wars style crawl that tells you what happened between the time of the film’s release and the DVD release. One feature that I have not yet had a chance to look at is the arcade glossary of terms, but since the important ones are explained within the film anyway, it doesn’t really matter if you look at this or not.

This naturally appealed to me as a Donkey Kong enthusiast (although I was always more of a Nintendo 64 child). My own high score is currently 63K on the sub-par NES Classics Game Boy Advance version and at this moment I’m trying to beat it. However, I believe the central story of a man trying his hardest to succeed against people who don’t believe in him will appeal even to those who don’t like gaming. It shows that documentaries don’t have to be about important issues that affect us today to be interesting and absorbing. Because to the two arcadesmen featured here, this is the most important issue on the planet. Best £1.50 I ever spent.

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About Scott Varnham

  • terrible

    horrid excuse for a story. not only did the movie cut things to make it look different than it happened but even if twin galaxies was “on Billy’s side” the people running it back then are not part of twin galaxies now. lame excuse for journalism.