Licensed games aren’t as common as they used to be. Thanks to games taking longer to make now, they’re either high budget narrative blockbusters like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, smaller efforts like Telltale’s The Expanse, or total garbage like Skull Island: Rise of Kong. There is far less shovelware in the market in the modern era, and instead we’re all about live-service titles and sequels, rarely ever dipping into bargain bins at your local store in search of a hidden gem or some total rubbish.
Times have changed, but that doesn’t mean licensed games made for corporate clients by a studio you’ve never heard of for a handful of pennies don’t exist. They’re still coming out, lurking in the shadows and hoping to claw back a profit from those unfortunate enough to buy them. Skull Island: Rise of Kong is one such game, but seems to be attracting attention and criticism that isn’t exactly deserved, because we all knew it was going to suck. Let’s not waste our breath pretending we’re doing something worthwhile.
People have been dragging awful gameplay clips of Rise of Kong on Twitter, laughing at a combat sequence featuring a purple dinosaur whose character model is replaced with what seems to be a static image when you first encounter it. It is laughably cheap, making this already grotesque looking game somehow look even worse.
As a consequence, a bunch of outlets and influencers have been picking up the game and digging deep into criticism of it, despite the fact that garbage like this is unleashed on every platform all the time. Rise of Kong is no exception, but happens to holster up a popular property and bastardise it in a way that is feels briefly worthy of our attention. We fancied a punching bag, and now here it is.
Folks have been comparing it to The Lords of the Rings: Gollum, but that feels like another kettle of fish entirely. Gollum eats fish, so I’ll take that expression and run with it. Fun fact – it was actually the very first PS5 game to be announced. Before specs, a box, and pretty much anything was announced, we knew Daedalic Entertainment had a Gollum game on the way for the console.
This set expectations higher, especially considering the Lord of the Rings license has been used in a relatively decent selection of games in recent years, including Shadow of Mordor and its sequel. Many believed that we were escaping licensed game hell and were finally getting the Tolkien games we deserved.
Nope, it was terrible. Catastrophic in how bad it looked, played, and disrespected the source material it played with. Many were floored that a game like this could even get made nowadays, especially by a studio with an otherwise good track record like Daedalic. But this one just happened to barrel through the perfect set of circumstances to land at our feet. A game like this, which came promising something worthwhile complete with pre-order bonuses and a marketing cycle that rivalled much better games, needed to be knocked down a peg.
Games like Gollum must be taken to task. Marketing can’t be used to trick fans of major properties into eating up mediocrity. Rise of Kong isn’t the same, and made its hand abundantly clear from the very beginning. It was always going to suck, it always looked terrible, and even a cursory glance at the studio behind it should have told us everything we needed to know about the final product.
This is the same studio that made Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing, after all. Some were calling Rise of Kong a scam, despite us all knowing how this was going to turn out from the first second of its first trailer. It’s not a scam when the shittiness is telegraphed.
But it still went viral on Twitter and the criticism took on a mind of its own, because we love to bash on terrible things instead of holding up hidden gems actually worth checking out. It’s almost like the game needed to be punished for daring to touch our dear King Kong. Our attention is better spent elsewhere without irony purely expressed for internet brownie points. Breaking news: Bad looking game is bad.
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