Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
System: Xbox (Also on 360, PS2, Gamecube, PC, DS, PSP, GBA, Mobile Phones Apparently. I’m sure they stuck it on the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 too)
Sometimes you feel like a nut. And sometimes you feel like a gorilla. A great big gorilla. I know when I’m swinging from tree to tree I get that feeling. And when I saw Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie sitting on the pile of games to review I knew, I just knew it was meant to be. Like Peanut Butter and Jam. Like Rye and Ginger. Like me and Jennifer Love Hewitt. OK fine, maybe she disagrees. But she will accept it someday. I just have to keep her in my basement long enough. OK, maybe I should get into my actual review now instead of further enticing the RCMP to look more closely at my life.
The story of the game tells the tale of a movie production gone horribly wrong. Lets just say this movie inside the movie is the reason George Lucas invented ILM and hates using real locations. Film director Carl Denham is the Steven Spielbergo of his day. In an attempt to make his movie before his producer officially shuts down production he rounds up the entire crew, actors and all, loads them onto a freighter and sets sail for mysterious Skull Island before anyone finds out he’s been shut down. The ship runs aground and your character through much of the game, Jack Driscoll, abandons ship with much of the film production crew. You and other members of your party get separated by the strong tides that surround the island, and you must make your way through the jungle and strange beasts you encounter to get to a place safe enough for the ship’s rescue plane to land and return you to civilization. Along the way you run into some prehistoric creatures, some island tribes people, and a Starbucks.
Denham decides he wants to shoot his movie while on the island, since that’s what he’s there for, and who cares if things have gotten off to a rocky start.
So he gets the female lead of the movie to stand in front of the camera and take some test shots. And it all goes so well that the US Coast Guard shows up, evacuates everyone and the movie goes on to beat every box office record.
Of course, it’s never simple is it? I mean, sure you just know things are going to go wrong. And of course you’d love to say I told you so when you wind up saving everyone’s butt repeatedly, but for the time being, lets just say that you have to save the girl, then save the guy, then save another guy, then save the girl, etc. Actually it’s not that cliched. Amazingly there are times when they save you. I know, funky huh? Blew my mind too.
So that’s Jack’s side of the story. But there is also that big old gorilla, King Kong. He first enters the picture when the natives capture Jack and Ann, and try to sacrifice Ann to their big ass god. He takes her away, and decides he’d rather not eat her. This angers the peasantry, who came out for an execution and by Kong they were gonna get one! So they start attacking their god, and this lack of faith in their god disturbs Kong. He decides to smite some followers, verily. Ann of course thinks Kong just wants to eat him in a more private location, so she screams and screams, and eventually finds a way to escape. Of course she only finds herself in more danger, meaning both Kong and Jack must attempt to rescue her from all the dangers of the jungle. Women. You can’t take them anywhere.
The designers decided to go with a minimalistic approach to the user interface you see on screen while playing. So there is no health bar, no ammo count (unless you turn it on in the options) and no map. This leads to an interesting gameplay experience at first, as you actually have a button to tell yourself how much ammo you have left. Of course you don’t think it, you say it, so everyone can hear you and start to make comments after awhile about talking to yourself, and alerting the various bad things to your presence.
While it’s not as good looking as the 360 version, the Xbox version of Kong is actually a very good looking game. In fact the faces of the various actors from the movie look very lifelike. Jack Black for one looks remarkably like his real self. Though he might have lost some weight in the digitization process.
None of the characters look too real, or rather look so real they look spooky. Instead they seem to look quite natural.
The levels look just as good as the characters, and so too do most of the various beasts you’ll run into (and over as Kong). Not everything looks perfect though. While most of the dinosaurs you encounter are really well made, not everything looks as good as it could. Brontosaurs for one could have used a few more polygons around the hips.
Lastly there’s the great big ape himself, King Kong. He looks pretty good, in a battle scarred sort of way. Compared to the movie, it pales. But this primate is taking a back seat to no other simian. Unless of course, he wants to.
The first sound I think of when I think King Kong is his roar. Then I think of the voice acting. Lastly i think of the soundtrack. Kong first makes his presence felt shortly after Ann starts screaming at Carl’s request for the test shots he takes shortly after landing on the island. She screams, Kong ROARS. It manages to set the tone for the rest of the entire game, from Ann screaming her head off to guns firing to various dinosaurs roaring all over the screen. And of course when you finally see Kong for the first time, they take it up another notch. Every time the King is victorious in battle you get to hear yet another roar as he beats his chest, which also sounds great: thump thump thump thump ROAR.
The voice acting also goes a long way towards the atmosphere of the game. Right from the get go, each character sounds the way they should. Jack is heroic, Carl sounds like a weasel, Ann sounds strong and free spirited. They each manage to move the story along with simple statements. Nothing deep, you’re supposed to get the meaning of the story on your own.
Lastly the soundtrack is full of both sweeping dramatic scores and tribal jungle beats, and both are once again used very well. In fact I don’t think theres very much at all that I can complain about regarding the sound of “Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie”. The portion of the game that takes place in New York obviously loses much of the atmosphere that had been built up through the rest, but that could just as easily be a comment by the designers about how far man has come from his primitive origins.
For most of the game you are in control of Jack Driscoll. In his shoes you will run around firing pistols and throwing spears, and you will do it from a first person shooter viewpoint. The controls are fairly basic. Jump, Shoot, Zoom, Pick up. There are a few others but thats really all the important ones. As Jack the game controls quite well.
There are portions of the game where you do command King Kong to do your bidding. And strangely the game controls very much like Prince of Persia when in these portions of the game. Kong can run, swing, run along walls, climb, not to mention Kong Smash!
Combat with Kong can be fun and it can be annoying. Fun because he’s big and powerful, annoying because they give you the ability to power yourself up but seldom give you the chance, meaning you’re often fighting opponents that you could sway away life flies but instead have to be on your guard with. Run away to power up and watch them come chasing after you, jaws ready to clamp down on your jugular.
As I mentioned above the designers went with very little on-screen indicators to tell you how much ammunition you have. What they also did was go away from the standard health bar found in just about every game known to man. Instead you take one hit and you see red, take another hit and you see nothing ever again. Or at least until you hit continue. A lot of the Jack portion of the game is you running around looking to find away to clear a path by using that old trick of modern man, fire. It’s actually a trick that the designers probably rely on just a bit too often in the game, looking for fire so you can burn away the overgrowth of grass that stands in your way. Frankly I think it sends a dangerous message to the youth of today. See an obstacle? BURN IT TO THE GROUND. OK I don’t think it’s THAT bad, but really, a little less light the grass on fire might have been an idea that should have popped up during design meetings. Or maybe they are secretly telling us to smoke weed. Hey that might make an interesting party game, take a puff every time you have to burn some grass.
During the Kong portions of the game you will probably do more than your fair share of Kong smashing, mostly because theres so little of it that you’ll want to get your monkeys worth out of him. Kong can finish off his larger opponents by grabbing them and doing a finishing move. All you really have to do is mash the button of choice enough for the game to conclude that you want the enemy dead. Not the greatest way of settling things, but damn if it doesn’t look good when you do it. For most of the Kong levels you are chasing after Ann or protecting her from the evils of Skull Island society, or enabling her to burn more grass. You’d think a big monkey could walk through a field of grass, but nope.
The game is about 80% Jack, 20% Kong, and in those percentages theres a story, as the game feels too short while playing Kong and too long while playing Jack. You won’t run into very many bosses while playing Jack, it’s more about surviving the level as Jack than defeating a boss. Kong on the other hand is very much about defeating other giant foes, which gives his levels the feel of a typical platformer, get to the end of a level and then defeat one, two or however many enemies and save the girl.
The 2 hit kill system does a lot to make the game much more interesting, even difficult. At times you may find yourself up against a number of giant scorpions for example, without any ammunition and only one spear. With a health bar you may choose to stay and kill every single one, taking hits and probably barely surviving. Without it you now have to choose who you fight off and who you just run away from.
I think the designers really tried to avoid the DOOM trap that many other FPS games fall into. Not finding 3 keys to open doors, but finding ammo in the middle of nowhere for your guns. Yes you do run find weapons and ammo all over the game, but not in huge amounts, and it’s explained quite well in game (air drops from the rescue plane that you are trying to get to). Still, more ammo might not have been a bad idea. Perhaps getting your companions to carry some for you or something like that if you’re trying for realism.
OK, I’m gonna spoil the movie here….ready? Kong dies at the end of the game. He climbs Mount Empire State and gets shot down by modern (for the time) air power. However, since gamers love a happy ending, Ubisoft have given you the ability to earn a new, happier ending to the game. You earn points by replaying the levels, and certain point levels earn different bonuses, like an interview with Peter Jackson (holy weight loss Batman!) and concept art etc, until you finally unlock the new ending for the game, which I won’t spoil here.
After the unlocks though, thats it for replay. No multiplayer that I found anyway, and only the two endings, so unless you really dig Kong, theres not a whole lot of replay here.
I think it’s safe to say that if you’re interested in the movie you’ll find yourself enjoying the game. Also, while it’s a bit sparse in terms of it’s on screen presentation, and for me it felt like it may have gone on a bit too long, the game is a serviceable FPS with some enjoyable monkey action on the side. So if you’re looking for a new game and you enjoy your monkeys, this will appeal.
I have to admit I enjoyed the not knowing how much ammo I had left, those kinds of things. In fact I only found out that you could turn it on after I had finished the game. It was so refreshing to have to worry about shooting something more than required, as you would need that ammo later. Resident Evil used to have that feeling but this intensifies the feeling because you don’t know anything about your ammo unless you start talking to yourself.
Other than that though, the game is based on a remake of a movie that was made 70+ years ago, so I can’t really say it’s the most original game in the world.
The game really does have a mood during the early portions of the game that are really entertaining and almost addicting. But by the time you have to set your fourteenth fire or so the addiction is gone. Towards the end of your experience on the island many of the characters are saying what I’m feeling, which is lets get off this hell hole of an island. Damn near had a “Heart of Darkness” feeling for awhile there.
What else is there to say? I doubt very highly there will be a Peter Jackson’s King Kong 2: This Time It’s Personal: The Official Game of the Movie, so I can’t suggest anything for that in here. I will say the name of the game is ridiculously long. I’m sorry, but as a writer Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie sounds more like a run on sentence than a game title.
One more thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else. There is a level in the game that has Jack running through the dinosaur equivalent of rush hour, with lots and lots of Brontosaurs dutifully marching their way down Jurassic Avenue. They provide scenery and danger for Jack as you run along the level desperate to find some fire to burn more grass (I’m not kidding about that party game. You’ll wind up stoned out of your mind). Now, I don’t mind the fact that this is a herd of Brontosaurs that’s doing this. What I DO mind is the fact that this HUGE herd of Brontosaurs is somehow living on this tiny island out in the middle of the ocean with who knows how many giant predators. Right there is where this game lost that mood I described earlier. I realize it’s a game. But when you strive for realism I’m gonna nail you when you stray beyond the realm of it.
Replay Ability: 5/10
Short Attention Span Summary
A solid game that goes on just a bit too long. The game may turn out to be better than the movie though, as if you can put up with it’s flaws, you’ll find a decent game here. Give it a rental. Not your standard horrible movie to game transfer.