SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the classic 1933 film starring Fay Wray or the 1976 remake starring Jessica Lange reading the conclusion of this Session Report will probably ruin the end of the movie. On the other hand, if you are a person of refined taste with an impeccable sense of propriety you might find this Session Report extremely silly.
Kong -- Skull Island Game was published in 2005 by Pressman when the completely unnecessary third King Kong film was released. It is designed to be enjoyed by 2 to 6 players ages seven and older. Like many Pressman products, the Kong -- Skull Island Game is loaded with three-dimensional goodies. I like that about Pressman games.
There is a small board representing Skull Island and another small board representing New York City. These playing surfaces are connected by a section representing a ship called the S.S. Venture. The island board features the huge wall depicted in the movie and the altar where gorilla meets girl. The city board features the stage where the ape makes his debut and a skyscraper for Kong to climb. Since the game also includes biplane tokens and a plastic King Kong figure these components make a nice display when they are assembled.
The leering King Kong figure is specifically designed to hang from the top of the cardboard building. This is a delightful addition to the panorama.
The first phase of the game on Skull Island uses a typical spin-and-move play mechanic with certain spaces on the pathway throwing obstacles in the path of the explorer tokens which represent the players. There are zero decisions to make and the contestants have no influence on the outcome of this phase.
When one (or more) of the players reaches the altar at the end of the pathway cards are drawn randomly from the deck as the intrepid adventurers try to rescue Ann Darrow from the clutches of her hairy new friend. One of the six cards represents a clash with a dinosaur and sends the players back a few spaces to the bridge. Four of the cards are represent insect swarms that, simply expressed, waste a player’s turn. The card everybody wants features a picture of Ann Darrow… it allows the player who drew the card to capture Kong and free the screaming blonde prisoner of love.
The artwork on the Ann Darrow card is quite risqué; I wonder how many pubescent boys had this hidden under the mattress? Getting this desperately required talisman can be time-consuming and dull; since the cards are reshuffled whenever the dinosaur appears the process could continue until the point of frustration is reached. When Kong is finally captured everybody heads for the ship.
I seem to remember some philosophical dialogue meandering through the film concerning the removal of Kong from his home on Skull Island. Thankfully, none of this maudlin drivel appears in the game. The beaches were great but Kong had to sleep in the woods. Like a typical suburbanite, he quarreled with a neighbor. Picking up a native girl at a party was the only time Kong got any action. Kong might actually say: “This ain’t paradise. Manhattan, here I come!”
So the big oaf falls for a pretty girl, then faces captivity and subjugation. Welcome to married life, brother. We now discover that the large 3-D ship assembly is simply a decorative holding area for the tokens while the action moves to the New York City section.
After arriving in the Big Apple the token representing the player who captured Kong (by randomly drawing the Ann Darrow card, remember) is placed in the stage area. Joining him in the spotlight are the lovely young starlet and the marauding monkey. The other players are forced to wait on the ship while the second phase of the game begins. Kong automatically escapes with Ann and places her on top of the skyscraper. Kong assumes his classic position and dangles from the rooftop.
At this point the spinner performs two functions. The brown numbers allow the player who twirled the device to move his token. The red numbers allow the player to move one of the biplane tokens. This is crucial because these biplane tokens block access to the building; they must be moved out of the way so a player can reach the structure and win the game.
This rule represents the only decision made by the players during a session of the Kong -- Skull Island Game. Everything else is random spin-and-move avenging ape anarchy or mindless card shuffling. The player who corralled Kong back on Skull Island gets to spin first and has a slight head start on the other explorers. The first player to get past the biplanes is declared the winner. Incredibly, the mighty King Kong has zero impact on these events and doesn’t commit any monkey mayhem.
This brings up a subtle but mildly interesting point. The narrative in the rules tells us we are trying to rescue Ann. However, the narrative on the box tells us we are trying to rescue “them” -- meaning Ann and Kong -- from the top of the skyscraper. Poor pitiful King Kong… did he really go from ferocious (but misunderstood) beast to helpless wimp after decades of conflict resolution seminars and the growth of political correctness?
Setting up the 3-D components was much more fun than playing the game. I may be ancient now but I was once a seven year old boy (my wife might dispute any claims of maturation) and the play experience with this game was dreary. I can’t imagine any kid wanting to play it twice. I know I won’t.