Written by guest reviewer Caballero Oscura
As movie tie-in games go, King Kong is well above the norm. This is primarily due to the involvement of one man, and it’s not Peter Jackson. Although Jackson’s name is above the title and he was fully involved in the development of the game, the heart of this project is Michel Ansel, director of the criminally overlooked gaming gem Beyond Good and Evil from a couple of years ago. Peter Jackson played through that game while he was wrapping production on Lord of the Rings, and when the time came to develop a game based on Kong he realized Ansel would be a perfect choice for the project.
Beyond Good and Evil was a lush, fairly linear adventure that excelled thanks to a tight, rewarding narrative, superb characterization, stellar graphics, and pitch-perfect controls. It’s no surprise that Kong shares a similar format, and it is gratifying to find that it has top-notch production values throughout and even manages to expand on the world of Skull Island through the addition of creatures and environments ultimately dropped from the film.
As the game begins, you play as the character of Jack Driscoll as he first starts to explore Skull Island. Gameplay takes the form of a traditional first-person shooter, and you’ll find plenty of weapons around the island to keep your trigger finger happy. Surprisingly, there’s no heads-up display of any kind to alert you to health/weapons status, and even more surprisingly it’s not missed at all thanks to subtle verbal cues and flashing screen effects. Of course the island is littered with huge, nasty beasts looking for a quick Jack snack, and you’ll quickly learn that they’re very smart and sometimes can’t be killed by your weapons. It’s not all run and gun in your quest for survival, as the plot calls on you to solve a few basic puzzles and use strategy to advance. And then there’s Kong.
Although you play as Jack for most of the game, some levels put you in the big monkey suit for some serious critter-bashing. Playing as Kong is just as fun as it should be, moving the perspective from first-person shooter to third-person brawler as you terrorize the creatures with your sheer monkey strength. It’s a real rush to grab a T-Rex and take out your pure animal fury on it with a bone-crushing barrage of punches, kicks and throws. Your lady friend Ann even gets in on the action at times, helping clear minor obstacles when you place her on certain platforms.
As expected with a movie tie-in, the story follows the basic plot of the film. This is a bit of a liability as it leaves little room to expand the game, turning this into a roughly six-hour quest that seems to end much too soon. But there’s something to be said for quality over quantity; ultimately it’s hard to fault the
incredibly atmospheric game design that fully immerses gamers into the world of Skull Island. King Kong is another success for Michel Ansel, a thrilling gaming adventure that does its license proud.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Violence. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360 and Mobile Phone.
(**** out of *****)
Caballero Oscura is a member of The Masked Movie Snobs.