Ocean's original attempt at Kong brings back painful memories for some people. It wasn't really what you would call the definitive version. Some liked it a lot and others thought it was chronic. Well over the last year or so things have changed at Ocean and Kong Strikes Back isn't a rehash of Kong but an entirely original game. Oddly enough, Ocean's Hunchback II has more in common with the traditional 'Kong' format.
The idea of the game, however, hasn't changed and it is to rescue the damsel in distress. The damsel is distressed up at the top of a fairground roller coaster and you start at the bottom. The object is to climb to the top of the roller coaster ride by walking along the rails to achieve your goal but ... well as per usual it's not that easy.
Kong, from whom you are rescuing the damsel, sends roller coaster cars at you and if you are hit by one a life is lost. These can be avoided by climbing ladders or by destroying them with your limited stock of bombs. Upon reaching the top, the time left is added to your score and then onto the next sheet, of which there are four of increasing complexity. Bonuses are received by collecting objects like hearts from the tops of some ladders. When you have finished the four sheets you start all over again but with some new nasties added to the scenario.
Control keys: user definable, four directions and fire needed
Joystick: almost any via UDK and provided options
Keyboard play: responsive, although a bit finicky on positioning for the ladders
Use of colour: average
Graphics: different! Reasonable size, although characters are not very well drawn
Sound: not much
Skill levels: 1 but progressive difficulty
Lives: 4 to start, but bonus lives add
'I find it a bit confusing being a nameless blob. Nowhere in the cassette blurb does it give any identity to you or your damsel. The graphics are nice though not astounding. I particulary liked the New York backdrop in the first screen. There is one exception though, the girl you are trying to rescue. Boy is she UGLY! No offence intended (well only a little bit) but it has to be said she's an ugly little spritette. Movement is both fast and flicker free. The early screens are easy and the latter screens are hard. Surprising that. The whole program has a very professional feel to it and Kong Strikes Back owes a lot of its appeal to that. Addictive though not astounding seems a fair comment on Kong Strikes Back.'
'At last it's here, after seeing the title I thought it might have something to do with the original Kong theme with platforms, barrels, fireballs and whatever, out to get you, but no, strangely enough, it is on a totally different theme, with no connection whatsoever, other than a Kong, who doesn't really have to be Kong, throwing roller coasters at you. On the roller coaster theme the rails or tracks for the roller coaster weave all over the screen creating intricate patterns. The roller coaster cars move very neatly along the rails. You also walk along the rails well, when there's a downward slope, you slide down them like on a helter skelter. Perhaps this will be the main attractive feature, the way that he does this. The game seems to lack something - it wasn't the graphics although they were quite plain, and nothing extraordinary, and the sound wasn't too bad, although not up to scratch compared to what they said in the press release with synthesised sound. At first it seemed too easy, but it soon became apparent that there was more to this game than just rescuing the girl. On the higher levels of play, more objects are included to delay and impeded your progression through the game. With a title such as Kong Strikes Back it will possibly encourage people to buy it because of the original Kong game, this is totally unfair, and misleading because it's nothing like the original. Overall l'm not very enthusiastic about this game, it's not up to Ocean's usual high standards, and definitely not worth waiting for.'
'It's perhaps a bit unfair to complain about the look of the graphics because when you actually look closely there are some nice little details, but oddly, overall they add up to a rather old fashioned look. The game itself is original in feeling and by no means easy. On the first screens there doesn't seem to be all that much to do really, but as you progress it does pick up to become a medium addictive game, although I feel the real long lasting appeal isn't there.'
"After being turned down for a part in the Kong re-make in favour of an electronic toy, I moved into the arcades and used my brute strength to push Space Invaders and Pacman out of the top machines. But, now, two years on, Kong Strikes Back seems a poor follow-up.
"Things have certainly changed around here since I was captured in Kong.
In the original game, I dumped my victim at the top of some scaffolding, and ended up throwing barrels, fireballs and everything else I could find down at ol' 'stickman' (as I used to call him!) This time, I've lugged her, screaming, to the highest place I can find in a fairground - the roller coaster! I have this feeling that I should be looking around for my old stomping ground - the Empire State Building - where I've spent many an enchanted evening with Faye and Jessica, but the people at Ocean assure me that that's irrelevant!
Back to the fairground and the hero of the piece (which isn't me, heh heh!) is trying to climb the roller coaster. Hmm, he seems to have put some weight on since last time we met - which should make all the more difficult for him to avoid the four cars I'm setting in motion. Gnash, gnash -- he's only got those bombs again ... still, he's only got four of them, so he'll have to watch out on the next level.
Talking of putting on weight, I must say I look a little more substantial than did in Kong. Which is something I console myself with when I see how little imagination has gone into the four levels of play - OK, there are pies, springs and roller coasters cars ... but it does get a bit repetitive!
If Ocean can't do better than this, I'm back off to the jungle - maybe, me and my old big-screen chum, Faye Raye, can get a part of the latest Tarzan re-make!"
Kong Strikes Back is based on a very simple concept, which is surprisingly successful and addictive. Your aim is to travel along a curving and looping track in order to reach the other end. Moving in the opposite direction are roller coaster cars, which Kong pushes towards you. You can avoid the cars by climbing ladders, but you must be careful to position yourself near a ladder as a car approaches, and you must keep an eye open to check that no car is approaching on the track above.
Movement of cars is completely predictable, and you have a supply of bombs with which you can fend off on-coming cars at the last minute, but this remains a remarkably difficult game to perfect. Added complications are that if you pick up bonus points at the right time, you will be able to collect a bonus life and that, if you complete a screen quickly, you will gain more points. These distractions are enough to divert all but the most eagle-eyed players.
There are four screens, each with a different track layout. Once you have completed these four, you run through the same track layouts again, this time with the additional hazards of what appear to be rolling balls, and bouncing hour glasses, but which the cassette sleeve describe as pies and springs.
A well-thought out and immaculately constructed arcade game, Kong Strikes Back is produced by Ocean, 6 Central Street, Manchester.
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