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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: January 10, 2006
There has been a ton of ballyhoo surrounding Ubisoft’s recent release of Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, a combination of first-person shooter, third-person brawler, and action-advanture. Unlike many other game review sites, I purposely waited until I saw the movie, Peter Jackson’s King Kong before I played and reviewed the game. Part of the reason for this is that it would be hard to determine the innovativeness of the software release until I could compare it with the movie. Well, I loved the movie, but all of us have experienced the pattern where a movie can be excellent and a game poor, or (admittedly more rarely) the reverse. So how does this latest effort fare?
The story in this game is relatively close — though by no means identical in all respects — to that in the movie, which itself is relatively faithful to the original 1933 film classic. Filmmaker Carl Denham (played by the spunky Jack Black) is desperate to make a great film, and so drags a motley crew, including the attractive Amm Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) on a wild goose chase. You play the role of screenwriter Jack Driscoll, (played by the Oscar-award winning actor Adrien Brody). The action begins right as their ship reaches the mysterious Skull Island, a legendary locale filled with monsters of all varieties. You mission appears to be from the outset largely focused on figuring out how to survive.
The action is divided into a set of short juicy segments, most of which can be completed in less than fifteen minutes. Brief cut scenes that provide transitions for the plotline connect these segments, and often you see your progression on a map. The advantage here is that the gameplay never drags, and you do not have to worry about backtracking here if you are killed; the disadvantage is that you never have a sense of real depth in terms of subtle character or plot development. The pace is indeed a lot tighter and more streamlined than that in the rather long movie.
As in the movie, you do not go through this play experience alone. Your comrades surround you most of the time, and their realistic reactions contribute to the dramatic tension. As in the movie, Carl Denham’s singleminded obsession with capturing film footage during most of his time on Skull Island constantly gets him (and you) into trouble. Often you are trying to protect the others in your party, and occasionally they try to help you. More often than not, however, you (as Jack) are the one expected to undertake the most daring action. The others do help keep you on task, and the emotional impact on you of their terror is palpable.
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