It’s one of the inevitabilities in life. Whenever a big budget movie hits the theatres, gamers can always expect a flood of games based on the property. The latest example of this is the upcoming Kong flick by Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson. The movie hasn’t even hit the screen yet, and there are already Kong games out for every major system on the market, including this one for the Game Boy Advance. The question is, can this title live up to its name? Or is it just a chimp in Kong’s clothing?
The marketing slogan for the Kong games has been “Play as man. Play as Kong.” The GBA version doesn’t stray from this motto, as players will take on the role of the three lead human characters, as well as the big ape himself. The human portion of the game is a top-down adventure. Players control Jack, Carl, and Ann as they make their way though the jungles of Skull Island. Each character has his or her own special abilities. Jack is handy with weapons, and is your main line of defense. Carl, while no good with weapons, has the ability to push large objects out of the way, light the way with torches, and to blow his way through obstacles with a supply of grenades. Finally there’s Ann, who can heal up the rest of the party and use a grappling hook to get to those hard to reach areas. Ann also has her trademark scream, which can not only stun nearby enemies, but also call on the help of her not-so-secret admirer, Kong.
The human portion of Kong is reminiscent of the classic adventure/puzzle game Lost Vikings. In order to progress through the game, the player constantly needs to switch back and forth between characters to solve a series of puzzles integrated into the environment. Players can also combine various objects picked up along the way to create new more useful items, including spears, rafts, and bandages. As far as the action goes, there’s not a lot to find here. Occasionally the crew may run into a stray snake or bat, but this part of the game is more about brains than brawn. That all changes, though, once players jump into the King Kong portions of the game.
Throughout the game, the focus will shift away from the human adventure, giving players control of Kong as he battles his way through both the jungles of Skull Island and the streets of New York. These stages are simply your old school side scrolling beat ‘em ups, similar to games like Double Dragon or Final Fight. Kong has a set amount of time to fight his way through each stage, pummeling dinosaurs, tanks, and all of variety of foes with his massive fists. Each time Kong defeats an enemy, his Rage Meter fills slightly. Once full, Kong enters Rage Mode for a short time, becoming even faster and strong than he was before.
Graphically, there’s nothing here that stands out. The game looks like an early SNES game at its best, and an 8-bit release at its worst. The visuals get the job done, but don’t do any more than that. The only real visual treat comes from the occasional comic book themed cutscenes. The sounds in the game fare much better though, as the title sports some impressive music and effects. The music has that cool jungle rhythm one would expect from a King Kong game, and while it is a bit repetitive, it never quite reaches the point of getting old.
Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World is one of those games that, while not necessarily bad, never lives up to its potential. The mix of fast paced action and puzzle solving adventure is a good idea on paper, but the implementation just doesn’t feel quite right. Instead of delivering a total experience, Kong feels more like the developers decided to throw together two half-finished games and hope for the best. The end result is an average experience that simply never really measures up to its namesake.