Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie hit just about every platform known to man back in November. On the consoles and PC, it was a hit, with its unique one-two combination of immersive and enjoyable first-person action and totally excellent third-person Kong levels--its only major flaw being its brevity. On the Nintendo DS, however, Kong was an out-and-out failure, failing to grasp even the tiniest inkling of what made the console and PC games so much fun, and it also included a shameful number of bugs and glitches. Now, the lone holdout platform, the PlayStation Portable, has its own version of Kong. It sits somewhere between the greatness of the console and PC Kong and the awfulness of the DS Kong. It delivers many of the same key levels, combat sequences, and Kong platforming sections as the console games, but not all of them. In fact, this version of Kong seems to be about half the game it once was, with fewer enemies, no interaction with other characters, and a complete lack of story exposition. Nobody would reasonably expect Kong on the PSP to be identical to its console counterparts, but in this case, too much has been cut from an already short game, and even if you've never played Kong on any other platform, you'll get the sneaking suspicion that something is missing from the equation.
King Kong makes a rather inauspicious debut on the PSP.
The PSP version of King Kong follows the plot of the other versions, which in turn were following approximately the same plot as Peter Jackson's film. In the game, you play as both Jack (a struggling screenwriter sent to the horrific Skull Island to shoot a new picture) and King Kong (the giant gorilla to end all other giant gorillas). But whereas other versions of the game included a reasonable amount of story exposition and interaction with various other characters, like Jack Black's Carl Denham and Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow, you get next to none of that here. The interactive cutscenes from the original game have been turned into noninteractive scenes here, and pretty much every sequence involving multiple characters during gameplay has been altered to require only Jack's presence or has been cut out altogether. What this leads to is a copious number of leaps over key story points, which makes the flow of the game completely disjointed, not to mention that it makes many of the remaining levels and missions seem largely pointless.
The result of all this truncation and gutting of the original game is an even shorter product than the already brief console and PC game. You could get through Kong on consoles in about six or seven hours the first time through. The PSP game is roughly half as long, yet for some bizarre reason, it's still $50. That full retail price can't possibly be because of the perfunctory multiplayer mode that's been tacked on, either. In this complete waste of a mode, you and a friend can play through any level of the game competitively or cooperatively. When we say competitively, we don't mean you can try to kill each other. Rather, you're both trying to shoot the same monsters, and the game keeps score. Even more bizarre, you never actually see the person you're playing with while you play. Cooperative mode is the exact same thing, but without the competitive score-keeping component. The whole mode smacks of effortlessness, and it definitely isn't much fun to play.
On the more positive side of things, the core action of the game feels very much as it did on consoles. When playing as Jack, you'll be treated to a visual experience unfettered by any sort of heads-up display. You gauge how much health you have via a screen effect that flashes the screen red when you're injured. When in such a state, you need to get away from the action briefly to heal up. If you take another major blow while things are still flashing, you'll die. Ammo is kept track of via verbal cues from Jack. Every time you reload, he says out loud if he's got enough ammo, or if he's starting to run dry. It's a great system, really. You won't ever feel like you're missing a HUD, since these subtle methods of information really keep you in the loop.
Sure, there are still T-rexes in this version of the game--just a lot less of them.
You can only hold one gun at a time, though you can pocket weapons in favor of pointier instruments of death, like discarded bones of fallen creatures and spears that have been left lying about. You will need to toss said weapon before you can pull your gun again, however (which does make sense, given the limited carrying ability of Jack). The game goes out of its way to make its ammo pickups seem completely sensible, too. The captain of the ship flies around the island in a seaplane, dropping crates full of guns for you to pick up here and there (although unlike in the previous versions, you never see the seaplane--you just hear it in the background from time to time, and the crates magically appear). Spears and bones are left in areas that seem to make perfect sense for the scenery. And apart from bones, ammo isn't unlimited. If you find a cache of three spears, then that's all you get to use (though you can reuse spears over and over again if you need to). You also only get a certain amount of ammo per gun, and once you're dry, you'll need to improvise. It's great though, because the game always seems to leave enough other weapons around to give you just enough to beat off whatever threats are coming your way. If you're cautious and jump between spears and guns on a measured basis, you'll never feel like you're hopelessly outgunned.
Part of that might also be because you aren't ever going to be up against more than a couple of enemies at once. The monsters still have that "bigger, significantly mutated version of an animal that was highly dangerous and unpleasantly tempered to begin with" thing going on, but there are fewer of them to contend with, so you rarely get much of a sensation of panic or tension. That also makes the rather simplistic aiming system all the more easy, since all you need to do is aim in the general direction of an enemy and you'll probably hit it without any need for precision. Granted, the somewhat unwieldy controls do make that slightly more of a chore than in the past. Similar to the PSP's original first-person shooter, Coded Arms, King Kong includes a few different control schemes, and like that game, Kong is easiest to control when you set the look functionality to the analog stick and the movement controls to the four face buttons. Since these are essentially left-handed first-person shooter controls, it does take some getting used to for righties.