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Peter Jackson’s King Kong

King Kong’s menacing mug shot on the cover of Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (what a terribly messy title) certainly stood out amongst the covers of the other games on the Xbox 360. His sharp white fangs immediately grabbed my attention, and his angry eyes did a great job of pumping me up for the disc he was so preciously guarding. I was really excited when I got the game home; anticipating ripping and tearing through the jungle like our gigantic simian friend did in his movie. I imagined myself as Kong, running at a blistering speed through his densely packed jungle home, vaulting over any objects standing in my way and destroying any enemy that dared challenge my superiority.

Then I put the game in my system and found out that I was stuck playing as the puny, weak screenwriter Jack Driscoll. I had read a few reviews of the game before I purchased it that admitted a large chunk of the game was played as Jack, but I still felt disappointed and cheated that the majority of King Kong took place through the eyes of someone other than the big giant ape. All that excitement I had disappeared as I walked around as Jack, and I was left feeling a little dejected. Instead of ripping apart dinosaurs and wandering through the jungle, I spent most of my time aiming and tossing spears at giant bugs.

During the levels where you aren’t playing as King Kong, (which comprise far too much of this rarely enjoyable, overhyped exercise in tedium), your time will be spent burning bushes and finding levers to open doors. Basically, you have to search through an area to find some hundred year old piece of wood so you can jam it into a pole that spins around and opens doors. What’s really annoying about this is that it’s blatantly obvious that Jack could take the spears he’s constantly stuck wielding and jam them into the hole, avoiding all that extra, pointless work. Unfortunately, the makers of this failed King Kong experience decided that it would be more enjoyable to force players through an unending series of inane tasks instead of embracing common sense. These tasks would have been fine in moderation, and maybe even a little interesting if they were spread out between other puzzles, but the “burn the grass, find the lever, open the door” puzzle crops up so frequently that it gets boring really early on and doesn’t stop until the game is over.

Occasionally, Jack will get the opportunity to fight fearsome predators, like quick and fearsome dinosaurs, but most of his time will be shooting his guns and tossing his spears at giant, irritating centipedes that have overrun the island. These centipedes are not only annoying, but they’re also marred by incredibly poor animations that really make you wonder if any work was done “360ing” the graphics of this game. For some reason, they look incredibly twitchy, and their body parts seem disconnected as they wiggle around the ground. And when you finally do get to fight dinosaurs, you’re frequently fighting an infinite amount of them. When this happens, you aren’t supposed to fight them. Instead, you’re supposed to run away from them or lure them away from some point you need to get to. If you manage to bring one down, another one will pop up in his place.

Even worse, as you attack these miserable enemies, you’re subjected to an incredibly disappointing graphics engine. First, the Xbox 360 version of this game looks nearly identical to the Xbox version of the game, which is a major shame. While the texturing is solid for the most part, the actual environments aren’t very diverse, and you’ll find yourself trudging through caves, tunnels, and foliage that look just the same as the last cave, tunnel, and foliage that you were forced to wade through. The water “effects” are absolutely abysmal. There are no ripples as your character (or any character for that matter) swims through the water. The only impressive thing this engine manages to pull off is a few decent lighting effects, but this is negated by an unacceptably poor draw distance.

This is really next generation stuff here.

When you do get the rare opportunity to play as King Kong, the game feels even more restrictive and linear than it does when you’re playing as Jack. There are fewer moronic puzzles (which is a good thing) when you’re the big ape, but you have no freedom of movement at all. You can jump, but only when the game lets you. You can pick up stuff and throw it, but only if the game sets it up for you. You can climb up walls, but only if there are vines in specific places. When you’re controlling the big ape on the ground, every environment feels too small and the camera angle is often unhelpful. Even still, smashing around as Kong (while a pain in the ass at times) can be satisfying. There’s nothing like taking Kong’s giant fists and tossing villagers and dinosaurs all over in every direction.

There are even a few good levels when you play as Jack. One particular sequence sees Jack and his party floating on a raft through rough rapids as two dinosaurs close in on either side. This scene was intense, and involved no bush burning and lever hunting. The voice acting, though sparse, is also pretty good and right from the big-screen counterparts’ mouths. Even better than that, the game is short, and each level gets progressively shorter as the game goes on. This is easily the best feature of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. It’s over in a very short amount of time, and then you can get it out of your system and be done with it, unless you want to unlock extra content, a desire I certainly wasn’t left with.

I beat Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie that was a Remake of the Original Movie, then promptly returned it. This game would have been a lot better if it wasn’t plagued by so many poor design decisions. Imagine a free-roaming King Kong game, with a main plot line that you can ignore as you run through the jungle, beating the piss out of dinosaurs with tree trunks and rocks. That would have been awesome. Instead, we were given this six to eight hour snooze fest. Maybe I was a victim of my own expectations, but either way, I didn’t enjoy this game at all, and I suggest that you avoid it.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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