With a hulking presence that big, you can forgive Kong for hogging more than his share of the spotlight this Christmas. Toss Academy Award Winning Director Peter Jackson into the mix, and you’ll be hard pressed to avoid the hype surrounding the release of not only King Kong the movie, but King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie.
While a game version of a film isn’t all that surprising, what makes King Kong stand out from the crowd is just how good the game is on its own. While seeing the movie will undoubtedly add to the enjoyment of playing the game, it’s clear that the game isn’t meant to be lumped on top of the movie excitement, but rather, has been made to stand beside the movie on its own pedestal. The other unusual aspect of the game is the direct involvement the director of the movie has had in the development of the game. As well as creative input, Peter Jackson himself handpicked the same development team that brought us Beyond Good and Evil to develop King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. With seemingly more effort put into the organising of this game than some games see throughout their entire development process, it’s no wonder this game has turned out so well.
King Kong is divided into two storylines, where you play from a first person perspective as Jack Driscoll, and a third person perspective as the colossal Kong himself. Unfortunately, more than three-quarters of the game is played from Jacks perspective, so you’ll have to make the most of the brief game time that Kong is given. Starting out as Jack, you’re very quickly and suddenly reminded that on the mysterious Skull Island, you’ve taken a tumble from the top, right down to the bottom of the food chain. Giant crabs, oversized insects and most of the cast of Jurassic Park come crawling out of the woodwork to welcome you with open jaws. The lack of decent weaponry to deal with these creatures is one of the most challenging aspects of the game. As Jack, you’ll spend a majority of the game fighting with sticks, fire and anything else within easy reach. Occasionally, you’ll come across some cargo drops of different guns, although ammo is scarce. The game also features an auto adjusting difficulty level to help cater to gamers of all abilities. Just as you’re ready to throw the controller away in despair however, the tables are turned, and you get to see the island from a much larger, slightly hairier perspective. The good news is the fights suddenly become a lot easier. The bad news is that as even as King of the Jungle, you’re still going to have to put up a mean fight to stay that way. Kong has a limited, but effective repertoire when it comes to fighting – bashing any enemies, and then bashing them a bit more. You’ll also be required to guide Kong in a bit of undemanding platforming, as he swings around the place. While the simple nature of playing as King Kong sounds almost tedious, it actually makes for a welcome relief from having to struggle playing as Jack.
The lack of an onscreen interface makes for an unusually gripping game. With no flashing health bars and ammo stats to distract you, you’ll very quickly be sucked into the frightening atmosphere of the game. Injuries to Jack are shown with the screen flashing red, and with successive damage to his health will cause him to start moving and fighting sluggishly. In another deviation from the usual game formats, you’ll be relying mostly on audio and visual cues in the game to judge how well you’re doing. Shouted instructions from your party members will be your only help to in trying to figure out level goals and objectives. The levels are quick paced and relentless, so you won’t have time to stand around catching your breath while hiding behind a pile of rocks. Even playing as Kong, the game still manages to impart a sense of urgency and panic that most adventure games lack. The length of the game is probably its main weakness. The frantic pace of each level makes it virtually impossible to slow the game down. It’s not a long game by any stretch of the imagination, so you’ll be enjoying one or two days of adventuring at most.
The graphics in King Kong, however, are one of the strongest features in the game and are rivalled only by the film. The surfaces have a surprising amount of texture and depth, yet each setting is uncluttered and not so detailed as to distract you from your missions. The colours range from muted and dark to bright and sharp, making it a graphically intensive game. The amazing sound in King Kong is the perfect accompaniment to such a visually pleasing game. A full orchestral score is featured and a wide range of background creature noises follow you on your journey, giving you a most uneasy feeling that you’re never alone in the jungle. You’ll hear unidentifiable shrieks, rustlings in the undergrowth, and even the heavy breathing of Jack as he outruns his pursuers. The character voices are more than adequate and add to the authentic experience of the game. A special mention also goes to Kong for a roar so loud it’ll shake you down to your toes. For the ultimate enjoyment of King Kong, make sure you play it with surround sound.
King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is by far the best movie to game adaptation this year. The game is as short as games come, and has an ending level that feels remarkably tacked on, but chances are you’ll be so thrilled with what the game does offer that you won’t feel the need to moan too much.
King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is available now in stores.