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Completionist Features Video Games

Completionist – King Kong

[This post is part of the Completionist series. Check out the other entries here.]

In the achievement community, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie is commonly thought of as a kind of hazing ritual for wannabe point whores; something to be endured to prove your commitment to the cause. I’ve never understood this. When the game was released in 2005 it was reasonably well-received by critics and audiences, and in the darkened piss-stained swamplands of movie adaptations it’s practically a masterpiece. I’m not sure when exactly the game developed this reputation. Maybe it’s just people passing on second-hand information, maybe its hyperbole, or maybe nobody can remember far enough back to say for certain. Maybe I’m just an idiot. But what I’m trying to say is that I really think King Kong is alright.

Not great, obviously. It’s let down by repetition and poor pacing, and it doesn’t have enough ideas to sustain its (admittedly short) running time. You’ll be checking your watch before the end, almost certainly. But of the five or so hours it lasts, I’d say at least three of them are pretty decent. That’s not a bad ratio.

The game’s divvied up into two distinct portions: in the first you’ll steer the rolled-up sleeves of Jack Driscoll through first-person spear-chucking and lever-pulling as you track down a damsel in distress; in the second you’ll pilot the distress itself, the eponymous Kong, through third-person brawling sections as he batters dinosaurs and crashes at high speed through the prehistoric jungles of Skull Island. It’s all fairly straightforward stuff (especially the Kong bits) but the setting keeps it feeling fresh for longer than you’d think, with some clever set-pieces and the potential for dicking about with both the island’s food chain and its grass-skirted local tribe.

Again, this isn’t groundbreaking, but the central illusion of being a tiny morsel on an island full of hungry predators is maintained almost all the way through. Whether you’re weaving through the legs of stampeding brontosauruses or cowering from a rampaging T. rex, you always get the welcome sense that you’re probably fucked. And this is by design. The game keeps a tight stranglehold on ammunition. Every opportunity you get to fire off a few shotgun shells is countered with three or four situations in which you have to improvise, usually by hurling chunks of splintered bone that you’ve desperately scooped off the ground. There’s a chance this is me looking favourably on an experience to try and balance out the fact I’ll never get those five hours of my life back, but for almost as long as it lasts King Kong does enough to at least be enjoyable.

Is this another example, like NHL 2K6, of easy achievements retroactively sullying a game’s reputation? Or is it just a bad game that I, for some reason, didn’t mind so much? I have no idea. But what I do know is that I’d rather play King Kong ten times over than some of the shit that’ll be showing up later in this series, so take that as you will.

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