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Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Xbox 360) artwork

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Xbox 360) review

"Thereís brilliance included, and stand-out moments litter the game like pinpricks of inspiration, but they tend to get lost in the bog of over-championed ideas best explored in moderation but dished out mercilessly in servings of pure overkill."

Thereís a moment in Peter Jacksonís King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie where you control an angry fifty-foot gorilla on a rampage. Kong is pissed; Ann Darrow, an actress filming on location, had just caught his eye when some giant mutant bat insolently swooped down and pinched her from his grasp. He gives chase, bounding across sheer cliff faces and leaping from tree to tree as the bat makes its escape, sending its smaller minions towards the mammoth monkey in a bid to slow him down. They fail; theyíre effortlessly dispatched with a lazy swing of the great beastís arm. He feels every bit as powerful as the towering primate should, effortlessly tearing away trees to use as makeshift clubs and then, when he finally catches up to the winged rodent, tearing one of its huge leathery wings off with ease and slamming whatís left to the ground. Darrow is rightfully terrified of Kong, saviour or no, and a panicked game of cat and mouse is played as the girl darts over rickety wooden bridges and shelters in abandoned stone huts. Kong is always the eventual winner; he can hop over the ravines Ann has to traverse, or step over the huts that fail to shelter her. Struggling, but helpless in the huge paw of the ape, Ann screams in terror as Kong raises her level with his face. The ape moves her away again until the screaming subsides, then the scene replays.

Itís brilliant. Kong rolls his eyes at the screaming girl and sighs, lowering her a second time as she empties her lungs of sound. Itís here that Ann finally understands that sheís not lunch nor is she about to be pulled apart as effortlessly as her former assailant was; Kong was protecting her then as he is now. The third time eye contact is made, Ann is wary, but calmer. Showing subtle levels of intelligence, Kong nods slightly, content that his intentions are finally made clear, then lumbers away with Ann no longer a prisoner, but a passenger.

Other levels centred around Kong provide the gameís highlights. With Ann now a willing partner, the two work in tandem to move through some of the less hospitable areas of Skull Island. Kongís the brawn; mashing up small scavenger lizards as an afterthought and snapping dinosaurís necks for kicks and giggles. Ann provides the brain; sheíll burn down oppressive foliage blocking their route so long as nothing eats her while she starts the fire. It provides an interesting tandem between beauty and beast. It only accounts for maybe a sixth of the game.

Most of the game is played through the eyes of script writer, Jack Driscoll, as he and a small group of people get stranded on the unexplored island at the bequest of film maker, Carl Denham. This, too, has glancing moments of brilliance. The first person viewpoint certainly incorporates a lot of obligatory FPS construction, but it also thrusts you directly into the unknown belly of the island. The start is surreally chilling; the island really does feel like a lost world and Jack and his party are very much unwelcome. Giant millipedes skitter from holes burrowed into stone; twitching long grass signals the arrival of hulking scorpions. Jackís options are forever limited; he can never fully rely on the rationed firearms dropped from the sky in aid packages to get him out of every jam, stockpiles of steel spears are just as limited and shards of sharpened bone can only do so much damage. Most of the bigger battles are as much about thinking as they are killing. See off a few of the weaker foes, then sneak past the bigger ones as they eat your spoils. Impale bird-sized dragonfly or large reptilian fish on a spear then throw it into a hordeís midst as a distraction. Lure them into some deep grass, if you can, then set the whole thing ablaze and giggle sadistically as your quarry burn to death. Then repeat the process again and again.

Peter Jacksonís King Kong: The Official Game of the MovieĎs second biggest problem (the first is the absurd length of the title) is how it births a good idea, then goes about working it into the ground tirelessly. Thereís constant clues littered around the island at signs of intelligent life, be them small stockpiles of man-made spears, burning urns or large, spiked doors that require winching to open, that all cumulate in a dramatic meeting with the islandís savage occupants. The large doors almost always require a missing handle to operate, one that you need bypass pre-scripted danger to obtain. Never mind that itís little more than a sturdy piece of wood whoís job could be done by any of the other sturdy pieces of wood that can be generally found on a bloody tropical island full of foliage. Failing that, Jack and/or party are often carrying around a spear thatís sturdy enough to pierce the leathery skin of dinosaurs -- itĎs probably strong enough to turn something around. Failing that, after youíve searched for and found more cranks than the entire Resident Evil series combined, isnít it about time you just took one with you?

If youíre not searching for cranks, odds are, youíre looking for ways to set stuff on fire. King Kong has a few clever ways of making this hard for you, such as asking you to figure out a way to bring a lit spear into an underground cave, past the entrance which, inconveniently, has a waterfall running over it. This works, however more often then not, the solution is to grab a spear (even if itís a bone one. Bone is very flammable, apparently), backtrack to the nearest burning torch, light the spear, return, then hurl it at what you want barbeque and hope like hell you donít miss. The food chain trick stops being cerebral and starts being used at least one in every three of the bite-sized chapters, and even the island, once so mysterious and undiscovered, starts to become soÖ obligatory. Shining moments do peek out from the repetitive gloom, like having to snake in between the thunderous footsteps of a rampaging brontosaurus herd while velociraptors snap at your heels, or trying to escape on a primitive raft while two huge monsters chase you down either side of a narrow riverbank.

In a lot of ways, the gameís best asset is how it deviates from Jacksonís film -- it provides new set pieces, gives the cast it chooses to focus on a new lease of life and provides those that havenít already seen the film new ground to explore. But it also leaves a lot of dead space to fill. Ubisoft chose to fill this by rehashing elements already over abused, then hope nobody's noticed. Thereís brilliance included, and stand-out moments litter the game like pinpricks of inspiration, but they tend to get lost in the bog of over-championed ideas best explored in moderation but dished out mercilessly in servings of pure overkill.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 22, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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wolfqueen001 posted June 12, 2010:

This is a pretty good review. I liked the narrative style as it paints a clear picture of what you're talking about. Interestingly, before I read the review, I thought you'd liked the game better than you apparently did for some reason. Maybe I misunderstood/misread something.
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EmP posted June 13, 2010:

You probably thought I enjoyed it more than I did because you use the my XBL box in my blog to stalk me before I went offline and saw I beat Kong again recently. Kong's not an awful game; it just feels like Ubisoft felt their ideas were so brilliant they could be rehashed endlessly and the product would still be excellent at the end.

Thanks for the catches! Stop stalking me!
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wolfqueen001 posted June 13, 2010:

XD I'm not stalking you! Actually the only thing I noticed about that game was the amount of achievements and points you had with it. I'm completely unaware as to whether you've beaten a game or anything else about it.

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