It was imitation, killed the beast.
Every so often a game comes along that is so bad that it defies description. A game that makes one wistfully recall when the Nintendo Seal of Quality meant something. Oh sure, a lot of the old NES titles were sub-par, but even Bible Adventures was campy fun.
Kong: King of Atlantis is no Bible Adventures.
This Game Boy Advance title was licensed by the people who brought you Kong: The Animated Series, a short-lived cartoon that has nothing more to do with Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong than Donkey Kong does.
First a quick recap. The 2001 cartoon took place more-or-less in the present with a teen boy, a jungle girl, and a clone of Kong. They were tasked with protecting the secrets of Atlantis from evil scientists and the like. The series was cancelled after half a season, but was brought back as a direct-to-DVD animated movie which was meant to capitalize on Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
To further cash in on the name (Kong or Jackson, you choose), Majesco produced a game based on the DVD based on the cartoon based on the film.
Obviously, there are several other games bearing the great ape’s likeness already on the market. Namely Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Like its better-selling cousin, Kong: King of Atlantis lets you play as both human and gorilla, although, for the life of me I can’t imagine why. Who honestly wants to play as a wimpy little human in a King Kong video game? Heck, even letting you play a queen of the jungle, as the Atlantis game allows, pales in comparison to tearing up the forest as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This shouldn’t be hard for game makers to understand. Sure he dies at the end (sorry, spoiler warning on what you just read), but they could make everything leading up to his death fun. God of War was fun and the opening scene shows the titular hero’s imminent suicide, so it’s not impossible.
Regardless, you play as a human first. In this game you go through two agonizingly mind-numbing levels fighting snakes and bouncing lava before controlling Kong. And I mean “control” in every sense of the word: with the “cyber link” he finds, Jason can mentally control the otherwise docile Kong. (Yeah, you read that right. Kong isn’t even in his right mind; he stands around waiting to be controlled by a teenage boy.)
Afterwards the player gets to jump into the fur bikini of Lua, the “exotic, slender young woman” (according to the instruction booklet). As fun as this might sound, it’s no different from playing as Kong or Jason: while the lizard-men look tough, one hit from the teen’s sneakers or the girl’s bare foot kills each reptilian warrior instantly.
That of course brings me to the gameplay. You can jump or hit. Sure there are punches, upper cuts (that look like punches with an extra motion line), kicks, attack angle kicks (that look like kicks with an extra motion line), and a few other attacks, but all do about the same damage—and Kong’s special ground punch is useless in most situations.
Graphics-wise, the game is passable. It matches the style of the cartoon it’s modeled after, but adds nothing to it. Then it just repeats the same animation sprites again and again and again. Each level has one, two, or at most three enemies, repeated ad nauseam. Background blocks are likewise repeated. Water is shown only by a line, falling into what might look like a canyon.
It could just be that the game was hastily constructed to catch some of the cinematic blockbuster’s coattails, but let’s not fool ourselves; a cheap knockoff is a cheap knockoff.