Peter Jackson's King Kong

Peter Jackson's King Kong

Above-average graphics aside, the beginning of Peter Jackson's King Kong—the requisite adventure game based on the blockbuster remake—screams promotional tie-in. A clip from the movie sets up the story; it's followed by a rescue-boat trip to Skull Island, during which your only option is to scan the first-person camera around while your crewmates row you gently to the rocks. After that, a few creepy-crawlies emerge wanly from the darkness to get you used to the shooting system, which can seem like firing a gun with your right eye closed until your sights are straight. But any worries that King Kong will be some run-of-the-mill cash-in are alleviated the moment one of the island's giant creatures comes springing at you from the shadows. Then the game begins to offer one thing that the movie, for all its eye-popping thrills, doesn't: sheer, white-knuckle terror.

Dispensing with the film's opening act—a smart choice, since the task of signing a film's leading lady is difficult to express via button-mashing—the game spends most of its time on Skull Island, and it adds significantly to the film's prehistoric wonderland. In a clever innovation, you either play first-person as Jack Driscoll, the heroic screenwriter, or third-person as Kong himself, though the big ape doesn't come into play until the 11th chapter, and is only in a few sequences thereafter. The bulk of the adventure is behind Jack's sights, which is just as well, since Kong's movements are disappointingly labored and Jack's limited ground-level perspective enhances the creatures' size and intensity.

Beyond the game: A trailer! Artwork! Credits! And if you finish the game and earn more than 200,000 points, the sweetest unlockable of all: An interview with King Kong screenwriter Philippa Boyens!

Worth playing for: Though it's more fun to play as Jack, Kong has some serious finishing moves, none better than tearing a dinosaur's jaw apart after a bruising confrontation.

Frustration sets in when: Wooden gates operated on a pulley system separate most of the levels, yet you can spend the bulk of many chapters searching fruitlessly for a missing lever or two. Oh, the excitement.

Final judgment: By movie-to-game standards, King Kong is an instant classic. Just don't hold it to any greater standard.

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