Leave it to film
director Peter Jackson to bring to life on the big screen the adventures of a
couple of Hobbits in not one cinematically perfect film but three of them (the
last one winning a number of Academy Awards). How do you top that? Well, how
about remaking a classic 1930s film based on a giant gorilla that falls for a
beautiful woman only to meet his fate atop the Empire State building in New York
City. Peter Jackson’s King Kong was not only a visual masterpiece but it
has also inspired Ubisoft to bring a great game on all consoles. What about the
PSP, you say? Well, let’s just say that we get the best portable version
I won’t fill
this review with spoilers and I won’t tell you what happens in the end (although
there’s not much to spoil since, by now, you’ve all probably already seen the
movie or its black and white original or have played the console version). This
story, though, follows Peter Jackson’s movie faithfully while straying from it
to give us another perspective of the situation the characters go through. While
it’s not explained in the PSP version, you start off as screenwriter Jack
Driscoll, a man who follows a gung-ho director Carl Denham to the uncharted
locale that is Skull Island. Having picked a leading lady who needs the money,
Denham leads an expedition to Skull Island only to find the natives very
restless and serving up actress Ann Darrow up as a sacrificial lamb to Kong, a
giant gorilla. Jack isn’t about to let the giant beast carry off with Ann,
though, and goes on a hunt for Kong. Yet Kong isn’t a mindless beast, he
develops feelings for Ann and protects her from the monsters that lurk within
the island. Then things get more hairy to the point that Kong is captured and
taken to New York City where Kong manages to escape.
You start the
game off as Jack, looking through his eyes in a first-person view as he gets on
the boats that take them all to Skull Island. From there, though, you’re on your
own. Unlike the console version you won’t have Denham by your side nor Ann
lending you a helping hand. That was the beauty of the console game, the
interaction between each characters. There’s no
rescue-Denham-from-the-giant-winged-monster mission nor Ann tagging along as she
throws spears to lend a hand or help you open a closed gate. Jack is on his own
and it feels really lonely. The same can be said about the Kong levels, which
are one of the best segments in the console game. Kong’s bond with Ann isn’t
touched on and you won’t find any tender moments of the beauty finally realizing
that the massive beast will never harm her. Where’s the emotional connection
between Ann and Kong or Jack and Ann? Well, it’s not in this version of the
game, that’s for sure.
What the PSP
game does offer, though, is a respectable version of the game that offers short
bursts of what really worked in the console games. The action, whether you’re
playing as Jack or Kong, is very much intact. Jack will discover that ammo is
sparse on the island but with so many monsters that spring out you won’t help
but want to bring them down with your Lugar or the handy shotgun or Tommy gun.
When you’re out of ammo there are always spears to pick up or sharp bone
fragments. You can stab a larva and throw it far enough to draw deadly dinosaurs
away from you. You can light a spear on fire to burn dry foliage blocking your
path or to double the damage by chucking it at a monster. As Kong, played in
third-person, you make use of the beast’s massive strength. Kong can grab
monsters and slam them into other opponents or throw them against hard surfaces.
When he goes up against the huge V-Rex (which is what they call a T-Rex on Skull
Island, I guess), he can break their jaws to finish them off.
controls will feel awkward and you’ll start wishing that the PSP included a
second analog stick. Like Coded Arms and Star Wars Battlefield II,
the analog stick controls movement while the four face buttons are used to look
up and down and left and right. The shoulder buttons are for aiming and firing
so it takes time to get use to playing as Jack. Kong, on the other hand, doesn’t
have this trouble, which makes his missions really fun … although too short for
my liking. There’s multiplayer but it’s hardly worth noting here since it
doesn’t really mean you’ll have a buddy playing with you side by side.
speaking, King Kong looks downright gorgeous on the PSP’s small screen.
It’s as close to the PS2 version as it possibly can be and that’s no small feat.
The jungle environment of Skull Island is pretty much intact, taking us from the
beach where you face off against the giant crab creature to the island mainland
where there’s a cascading waterfall. The few characters you do see look good,
although you’ll see much of Jack’s hands and weapons and a lot of Kong in the
third-person perspective. The monsters look amazing, though, but when it comes
to beauty nothing beats the V-Rexes you’ll face as well as the city of New York
in the game’s finale.
The game’s sound
is just as amazing as the game’s graphics. For starters, the game’s score is
wonderfully rich, brining to mind Howard Shore’s amazing score from the Lord of
the Rings trilogy. It plays throughout the game, rising in tempo during intense
encounters or strangely mellow when Jack or Kong are being beaten, bitten or
near death. The sound effects are equally effective, adding great gun sounds as
well as distinct monster sounds. The Venatosaurus, for example, hiss while the
millipedes make loud insect noises. You’ll find the voices of the actors that
portray each character in the film yet because Jack’s on his own you’ll hear
more Adrien Brody than Jack Black or Naomi Watts.
Jackson’s King Kong
might feel a bit on the awkward side on the PSP but once you get
comfortable with the controls you’ll discover that this is a genuinely
satisfying portable version of a game that’s just as amazing as the movie
itself. Its bite-sized action-packed moments lose the emotional beauty of the
console version but game’s many best parts are well represented in this portable
version. If it’s a unique PSP experience you crave then this is the game you
will want to own.
Review Scoring Details for
Peter Jackson’s King Kong
the PSP had a second analog stick but once you keep playing you’ll use to the
awkwardness of using both the analog stick and triangle, square, circle and X
buttons. The first-person shooter elements are handled beautifully but it’s
playing as the lovelorn Kong that will make the third-person action so
unforgettable. This is just a brilliantly designed game even as a portable
The game looks
absolutely gorgeous on the PSP. The characters, monsters and Kong look amazingly
like the PS2 version and they move naturally in the lush and heavily detailed
environments. If you played the console version Skull Island will look very
familiar and that in itself is pretty darn impressive.
You’ll want to
play this game with earphones on because the game masterfully blends detailed
sound effects, great voice acting and an even better original score. You’ll hear
from most of the movie’s cast, especially a lot of Adrien Brody since you’ll be
on your own most of the time. The score is beautifully cinematic.
aid of some of the key characters you will have to go up against the enemies on
your own. The dinos are fast and they’re certainly vicious but you’ll have
enough guns and other weapons to fight them off as Jack. As Kong it’s all about
mad ape brawling action.
being a handheld version of a great console game, this King Kong manages
to surprisingly bring out the best moments found in the big boys. Some levels
might feel empty without your companions but there are some great moments that
are downright fun and memorable. The Kong levels are short but boy, are they
play means you’ll be playing against a friend you won’t even see on screen. Even
the game’s co-op mode is a lonely experience that should have been left out of
the game altogether.
for the PSP
might lack the emotional impact of the console version but it does not fail to
bring us all the visual beauty and brilliant blend of playing as either man or
King of the savage jungle. The game’s controls leave much to be desired but with
a very imaginative game filled to the brim with great levels, this is still the
best portable game based on a hit movie.