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Joystiq presents

Bury the Shovelware: Peter Jackson's King Kong

They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but who'd expect it to plummet far away from its source, carried far by strong winds and subsequently rolled down a series of steep hills, and later to be picked up by a curious passer-by who takes it home as a souvenir ... overseas. Well, that might be a bit strong. While some felt that Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong was too long or used too many distracting CGI effects, it was generally well-received. The critical reception of the home console games based on the film were also fairly positive. I personally didn't play any of the other versions of the game, all of which looked to have that big-budget feel. Lacking access to the DS version's development financial reports, I'm not sure about the amount of resources that went into creating it. But whether it was an honest effort that encountered flaws along the way or it was simply lacking from the start, there's no denying that it's shovelware once you've gotten your hands on it.
00:00:13 - Ahh, Ubisoft, we meet again.

00:00:20 - Ohh, mysterious operatic song being sung in a foreign language. Consider the mood set! The game is called "Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie." Thank goodness, I thought I was suffering through a cheap and unauthorized Game of the Movie.

00:00:28 - The incredibly intricate "File Select" system is described for me. Thanks!

00:01:18 - A cutscene roughly outlining the events of the film unfolds. Haa ... Jack Black's in-game representation is funny looking. Perhaps this speaks more to the actor than this game, but I almost expect a series of Banjo-Kazooie-esque farting sound effects as he talks.

00:02:35 - Gameplay begins abruptly. The graphics aren't too bad. It's got that next-gen brown and grey thing going, though. I'm under the impression that such darkness helps cover ugliness (see: nightclubs). But I guess I can't hold that against the game, as it does fit the foggy and mysterious island feel of the film.

00:03:40 - So ... I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be doing. The game just began and I'm walking around, getting accustomed to the controls. My character was not made clear, either ... I could be playing as King Kong right now, or even Donkey Kong or Don King for that matter.

00:04:12 - After walking all the way down a path, I discover that there's NOTHING THERE. Coupled with the fact that I'm currently playing as the slowest-walking person on earth makes this game not much fun. I finally find a path and make my way up to a cave of some sort.

00:05:00 - Well, I'm staring straight at a 3D Naomi Watts, so I guess you can cross her off the list of possible avatars.

00:05:10 - Oh! My first weapon: a spear. The controls are lacking. They really should have just ripped off Metroid Prime Hunters' control method. Wow, off-topic, whatever happened to the thumb-strap?

00:06:43 - Hrmm ... remember when I said the graphics weren't so bad? Well, that was just the environments. My doubts were raised when I first laid eyes on the in-game Ann, and they sky-rocketed upon my first encounter with an enemy. It's like the object of the game is to kill the bad graphics and keep the visuals presentable. That's not entirely true -- the acceptable-outdoors fog is very present indoors as well. Understanding that the DS doesn't have the visual pizzazz of most other systems, come on.

00:07:20 - Pardon me while I devour my earlier statement. After playing video games for approximately two decades, I can't recall a graphical experience like this: graphics that didn't appear to be too awful at first, but then slowly and steadily become completely detrimental to gameplay. DONE!

It's not quite accurate to say that King Kong is ugly. Rather, the graphics are best described as misleading. At first, the large, bare foggy island fits the theme of the movie well. But once you begin to interact with the environment, you can see what a huge detriment the graphics are. Now, I wouldn't want to sound like a graphics snob. Both DS and Wii owners have been shouting the praises of gameplay over graphics. However, the graphics of a game need to be competent and unobtrusive. Pong's graphics are prehistoric compared to the likes of the latest Madden title, yet it gets the job done.

Perhaps the exact same King Kong with less murky and distracting graphics could have elevated this title above "shovelware" and into the sweet horizons of "mediocrity." We haven't quite nailed a distinct correlation between graphics and shovelware: while it is common for graphics to suffer, the two are not perfectly synchronized.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.

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