Matt Keller
17 Apr, 2006

King Kong Review

DS Review | Best left on Skull Island. If you could see it.
It’s been a couple of months since King Kong was released in theatres – the smoke has cleared and the results are in. The film didn’t quite live up to the very high expectations many had for it – the studio wasn’t happy that the film “only” brought in $US500 million worldwide (as opposed to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, which brought in between $US890M to $US1.2B on lower budgets), and movie-goers were generally dissatisfied with the long running time. The game that accompanied the movie did reasonably well with critics and had a good run on the sales charts. There were a couple of different versions of the game released; the main version for consoles and the PC, a chopped down version of that game for the PSP, a GBA game that was a bit like Jurassic Park on the SNES, and the DS version, which is the one we’ll be examining today.

The development of King Kong received a lot of attention from the press for its high level of input from Peter Jackson and WETA, and the integration of a lot of movie elements into the film. Lets not forget the attention Michel Ancel received for leading the project, which was bound to be a success after the disappointing performance of Beyond Good & Evil. Well, for the DS version of the game, ignore all of the above. King Kong for the Nintendo DS takes us back to the era of the 16-bit film licenses, dominated by Acclaim and Sony Imagesoft. Yes, the terrible ones that have forever scarred our memories. In fact, it is quite possible that the DS version of King Kong exceeds the Last Action Hero’s and Total Recall’s of the 90s in its outright awfulness.

From the outset, it is painfully obvious that Ubisoft set their DS development team a target that they just don’t have the talents to meet. King Kong tries to follow the same gameplay setup as the console versions with time spent as Jack Driscoll in the first person shooter segment, and levels where you play as Kong himself in the third person bits. It’s not as balanced as the console version; you only get to play as Kong in 3 of the game’s 17 levels. You’re stuck playing as Jack in the rest of the game – and Jack’s levels are quite possibly the most mind numbing, technically-challenged experiences on the DS to date.

How did King Kong get so many crabs? Ann?

The entire game takes place on Skull Island; there are no New York sections like the other versions. Despite being set in the jungle, Jack’s sections are almost like corridors – you can only go forwards or backwards. On top of that, you hardly ever encounter any enemies, and when you do, there’s absolutely no variety – the developers seem to think that everybody likes to shoot crabs, bugs and more crabs – all with a number of polygons you can count on your fingers. We had flashbacks to Daikatana early on in the piece; just substitute the crabs for frogs. King Kong does use the standardised DS first person shooter interface which at least makes playing the game easy – well, it would if the game ran faster than about 10 frames per second at any time. The other mechanics of the game just aren’t interesting; aiming is basically automatic, there’s no jumping and the puzzle solving mechanics are limited to double tapping the screen to get your sidekick (Ann, Carl or Hayes) to pull a lever. There are only four weapons in the game; a spear, handgun, tommy gun and shotgun, and for some reason, the spear and handgun are the most powerful – we don’t understand the logic that’s going on here.

Playing as the burly beast is a little better, but not much. Kong’s sections are heavily scripted, relying on a lot of context sensitive moves, which gives the player a feeling of being more of a spectator than an instigator. Kong’s moves are also very limited, with only a punch and slam button available. Most small enemies can be disposed of without much care with a punch and a slam, but bigger enemies need to be worn down and finished off with a special killing move. It’s a bit disappointing that you only play for Kong for such a short time, but it’s not exactly worth slaving through the rest of the package for – these sections are still crap, but they’re not outright offensive like Jack’s sections.

Ever wondered if King Kong has a problem with dingleberries?

Without a doubt, the worst part of King Kong is the visual presentation. Whereas the console version of the game was considered by many to be a step forward in terms of game presentation, the DS version of a game is quite possibly the ugliest 3D game ever produced. The games textures are woeful; not only are they low quality, but they jump around – in some cases there’s even small gaps between where textures are meant to join. The game’s environments are very drab, with lots of brown and grey, and not much else. The character models look like they’ve been used as suppositories for the big ape, with murky textures and low polygons ensuring the game’s main cast look absolutely nothing like their original actors, let alone human beings. The game’s special effects are hilarious – especially the alleged fire effects that look more like an orange cardboard box than a bunch of flames. Perhaps the worst thing about King Kong’s visuals is that nothing really gels together – the player can only see three feet in front of them thanks to a thick layer of fog, yet the character models appear as though they are sitting in front of the fog in the distance. The fact that the game runs at all of 10 frames per second at any one time is the final insult. King Kong does actually have reasonable sound, due to use of some tracks that sound like they’ve come from the movie, as well as a small number of voice clips from the cast. Sound effects are generally average, with the exception of the guns, which sound like party poppers.

After the unprecedented co-operative effort from Ubisoft and WETA that went into the console versions of King Kong, it’s amazing that Ubisoft would release a version of the game that is in this state. King Kong for the DS is borderline unplayable thanks to its horrid graphics, and the gameplay does nothing to inspire anyone to even attempt to persevere through its short yet inexplicably dull set pieces. Perhaps the only thing that King Kong does well is continuing the legacy of despicable titles based on popular licenses, particularly on handheld systems.
The Score
This King Kong deserves to be dropped off the top of the Empire State Building. 1
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Matt, you can be so cruel when you're sober.
8 years ago
Worst.DS.Game.Ever! That's terrible.
8 years ago
admeister wrote
Worst.DS.Game.Ever! That's terrible.

But still something I won't go near unless I got payed to.
8 years ago
worse than this?
8 years ago
OK, OK, I get the point, sorry I never saw that thread! That game reeks! King Kong is a close second for worst game though. Score of -3/10 from me.
8 years ago
It's good to see a game like this at the top of the DS sale charts one week icon_lol.gif
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