Plot: Ambitious film-maker, Carl Denham, takes a film crew to the enigmatic Skull Island, endangering them and getting lead actress, Ann Darrow, kidnapped by the great King Kong.
Video game tie-ins to movies rarely do any good. They are the scourge of the video game business in my opinion. In order to match the film’s release date, they rush through the game, with a vague knowledge of the movie’s actual script. They often release mediocre games with levels worked around the scenes we see in the film, often making little to no sense and showing no originality as a game. This is why I was surprised when I played the Official King Kong game, as it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with a PS2 game.
You begin as Jack Driscoll washed up on Skull Island. The game’s story is basically you trying to escape the island, occasionally veering off-course to rescue whichever character as succumbed to the monsters of the island, predominantly Ann, who is kidnapped early on by the iconic figure of King Kong. While this seems like a straight-forward story, typical of a movie game, it is actually a clever little game. The style of the levels are always switching themselves up. Each monster has a different technique to take on. The bugs are best dealt with before they’ve spotted you. The raptors are best killed when you are hiding in a tight cave system. The bats are all about timing your shots wisely. And the big T. Rex (or V.Rex, as I believe it is called), is best dealt with by running as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
This game also encourages you to use that brain of yours. Each level often has a tricky, little knack to solving the obstacle. It starts off simple enough. Find the lever to activate the draw-bridge. Find a fire to burn the weeds. However, those puzzles are played around with and this creates an enjoyable brain-teaser feel to the game. Nothing strenuous, just a little riddle that challenges you. It is nice to know that this game is treating you with some intelligence, rather than being a simple action shoot-em-up, which it easily could have been. However, on top of that, we are given some fun levels to work our way through. There is something for everyone with this game.
It also switches the action by letting you control Kong at certain points of the game. This shows that the developers know exactly what we want from this game. We are the bitches of the island for a large chunk of the game, struggling to take on the weakest foe, especially the ones the game doesn’t even let us kill, like the savages. So, as Kong, it is nice to smash these annoying opponents into the ground for a change. Smashing up the natives’ outpost feels like the sweetest revenge you could even inflict on them. The Kong gameplay also happens to be the low point of the game though. You are given limited buttons: punch and run. The fights between Kong and the V. Rexes could have been the highlight of the game, but it feels more like a mini-game, based on Tekken. The trickiest thing about the Kong sequences are the annoying camera angles it gives you, during the fight.
The graphics are amazing. The scenery might not look it these days, but at the time, Kong was the first game to really amaze us with graphics. For the first time, we actually wanted to stop the action, just to stare lovingly at the backdrop of the game. It further proves that someone put a lot of time and effort into this game, rather than rushing to meet a deadline. If we cannot rid the world of tie-in games completely (although, they are definitely a dying species), then, at the very least, I would like them to follow in the vein of King Kong and try to do something original with it. In fact, I wouldn’t mind a sequel of this game. I know that Kong doesn’t lend itself to a sequel, but a spin-off on Skull Island would be appreciated. At the very least, a game that featured cool maps, brain-teasers and the odd dinosaur.
Also, you end up having so much fun on the island, the game kind of feels hollow, when you hit the city. The level designers seem to know this as well, as they end up quickly wrapping the game to a close. It ends up with a feel that, after you hit the midway point in the game, it’s all downhill from there. The game ends on a whimper, rather than an awesome finale.
Final verdict: Much better than anyone thought it would be. It remains a solid gaming experiences even in 2013.