Kong Island: Rise of Kong was released earlier this week to little fanfare or awareness. Unlike major franchise releases, this King Kong adaptation slipped onto the market with few even realizing it was coming. There was no hype build-up, no marketing push, and virtually no preview coverage leading up to launch. Both developer IguanaBee and publisher GameMill Entertainment seemed content putting minimal effort and investment into announcing the game’s existence. Certainly, no one is going bananas over it.
As a result, Rise of Kong failed to make any notable splash upon arrival. But worse than its quiet launch is the poor quality of the game itself. With lackluster graphics, poor animation, and uninspired design, Rise of Kong shows all the hallmarks of a rushed, low-budget movie tie-in game.
Kong Island: Rise of Kong Looks Terrible
Graphically, Rise of Kong looks straight out of the PS2 era, with simple textures, blocky character models, and environments that lack detail or nuance. The visuals seem dated even when compared to other games released years ago, much less cutting-edge titles of today. It’s as if the developers barely tried to make the game appealing to modern sensibilities. The animals and monsters inhabiting Skull Island move stiffly and unnaturally, with repetitive and limited animations that quickly become noticeable and off-putting. Mr. Kong himself looks awkward and unpolished as he traverses the island, immersion-breaking as he interacts with a world visually inferior to what gamers expect on current-gen consoles and PC.
These graphical missteps are even harder to ignore given the high standard set by recent monster movie games. Titles like the Godzilla games have shown it’s possible to create engrossing and beautiful kaiju experiences, making Rise of Kong’s shoddy presentation even less excusable. For a game centered around delivering an atmospheric and cinematic Kong adventure, such lackluster graphics undermine the core experience.
Gameplay does little to compensate for the visual shortcomings either. The action lacks impact and satisfaction, with Kong’s attacks carrying no sense of weight or power against the procession of generic dinosaur enemies. Traversal feels mundane and clumsy rather than capturing an apex predator’s speed and agility. Puzzles provide no challenge and side activities like collecting feel obligatory rather than rewarding. Across the board, Rise of Kong implements its gameplay elements without imagination or care for quality.
Perhaps this lack of polish stems from the developer’s inexperience. Chilean studio IguanaBee has primarily worked on minor ports and titles before now, lacking the credentials or talent to successfully tackle a higher-budget King Kong adaptation. But the blame also lays heavily on publisher GameMill Entertainment, known for churning out movie tie-in games on the cheap to make a quick buck. Throughout its history, GameMill has consistently prioritized deadline over quality, viewing its licensed games as products rather than meaningful titles.
Sadly, Rise of Kong falls victim to this same cynicism that has plagued movie tie-in games for decades. It follows the well-worn formula of acquiring a popular property, contracting an inexperienced dev team, and rushing to launch a minimum viable product in time for the movie’s release. Players are left with another disappointing cash-in, Rather than an enjoyable entry point into Kong’s cinematic universe. As long as publishers like GameMill are focused on meeting arbitrary release dates over crafting good games, these movie tie-in disappointments will continue.
Kong Island: Rise of Kong may offer some mindless monster bashing for diehard fans eager for any Kong content. But with its awful graphics, dull gameplay, and rushed unpolished feel, this first Kong game of the new console generation is one that most players will want to forget. Rather than rising, this King Kong adaptation lands with an unceremonious thud.