[GAME MASTER]Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie

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[GAME MASTER]Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie

Who hasn’t wanted to behave like a 25-foot tall gorilla every now and then? Now, thanks to the most burdensomely named game of the year, you can live out those urges electronically instead of on your loved ones.
In “Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie,” you steer playwright Jack Driscoll and, eventually, Kong, through a slightly longer version of the terrifically excessive film. All the characters are back, looking reasonably like their film counterparts.
The game starts at the lost island. Almost immediately Ann gets kidnapped by Kong, and you’ll spend most of the game hacking through jungle after her while fighting the sometimes prehistoric, sometimes just plain creepy monsters that inhabit the island.
From the movie, one would think that this could never possibly get old, but it does.
Jack can only carry one gun and one spear at a time, and the health system is as rudimentary as possible ― when Jack takes a hit, the screen flashes, and one more hit takes him down. Playing as Kong it’s even worse. Since it takes more than one hit to down Kong, there must be a health bar somewhere. But Ubisoft didn’t feel that it was important enough to share with the player. Little perverse pleasures players are used to are gone too ― you can’t shoot or throw a spear at a fellow main character, for example.
Although the spear-throwing physics are surprisingly good, the game’s strict linear path combined with other limitations makes gameplay tedious. At least the levels have some variety, with everything from river rapids to dinosaur chases ― even if they do unsubtly restrict you to one set path.
But this is just a prelude to a chance to get inside the head of the giant gorilla. The iconic battles of the film are here (bats, dinosaurs, etc.) and you play them all out as Kong. My only question is: Why is Kong such a wimp? A couple of taps on the shoulder by a puny Tyrannosaur and he’s down. If the Kong in the movie died this easily, Ann would’ve been eaten and Peter Jackson would’ve had to do something else with his three hours.
The game does do a few things right. The mountain vistas and the rampaging dinosaurs are beautifully executed ― the sheer number of moving elements in this game is mind-boggling, and it can’t have been easy to get it running so beautifully.
Also, the limited controls, visceral graphics and sound design are enough to really pull the player into the jungle. The game even gives you a disconcerting look at your own limbs when they’re caught in the sharp jaws of some deadly beast ― although a bug in this feature caused me to apparently leave my legs behind every once in a while. And of course it’s good to see the “King Kong” story again, this time interactively rendered.
Game adaptations of films always suffer from a nearly impossible mission: to make a fun interactive game without screwing up what made the movie good. By tweaking the story slightly but retaining the linear progression of all the major action set pieces, “Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie” tries to strike this balance, but sacrifices any semblance of complexity. It wasn’t the graphics, it was overcaution that killed this beast.

by Ben Applegate
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