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Skull Island: Rise of Kong Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch & PC)

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In case you haven’t heard, IguanaBee recently released Skull Island: Rise of Kong—a third-person action-adventure game that, quite frankly, nobody had even heard of prior to its untimely arrival on consoles and PC. But alas, in spite of its next to non-existent PR campaign, the game is actually here, and I’d be lying if I said first impressions of the game via its initial pre-launch previews were enough to lure me deeper into its sticky web. Sadly for me, though, I felt the need to put on a cape and go ape for a short while — if only to help sway potential consumers to either join the pack, or flee for the hills with their monies still stashed firmly away in their pockets.

The good news is, I have indeed seen enough of the latest beat ‘em up brawler to chalk up a final verdict. Question is, is Skull Island: Rise of Kong worth playing, or is it just another piece of garbage for the burn pile? Well, I sincerely hope you packed your grubbiest hand-me-downs — because sure enough, we’re about to go dumpster diving.

King to Jester

To give you a clearer idea of what it’s all about, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is an action-adventure game—an origin story, of sorts, in which players are invited to live through the preliminary phases of Kong’s adolescence before he assumed control over the warring island and its many, many inhabitants. True to the literature and lore, the game revolves around an epic feud between Kong and the legendary Deathrunner known as Gaw, as well as the great ape’s desperate quest to avenge his fallen parents in the aftermath of a mindless slaughter.

Okay, so that’s all well and good — but let’s get down to the breadth of the experience. To make it abundantly clear, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is not, in any way shape, or form, like 2005’s Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game. Shame, because if it was to take a couple of pages out of that book, then IguanaBee probably could’ve delivered a slightly better result. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To cut to the chase, Skull Island is a third-person beat ‘em up action-adventure game, and one that entails several of Kong’s “epic” battles during his ascension to the throne. However, this just isn’t the case, as the vast majority of said battles often take place on the exact same terrain or playing field, and are often drowning in shoddy visuals and mindless button-mashing events with no real action to speak of. And to confirm, this is a fighting game, so it certainly begs the question: what were you thinking, IguanaBee?

Well, It’s Certainly Nostalgic

Visually, Skull Island: Rise of Kong isn’t anything to write home about. That is, unless, of course, you’re writing a love letter to the late-90s and its casket of timeless arcade brawlers, anyway. If that’s what IguanaBee wanted to achieve, then touché — mission accomplished. But given the fact that this is a $40 game, it’s hard to pass it up as just nostalgia fodder, and not, you know, straight-up clutter.

I’d like to give IguanaBee the benefit of the doubt and say, fair enough, you tried, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the final product just isn’t up to the same standard as a lot of B-list games of this console generation. Sadly though, I can’t bring myself to do that, as it’s quite clear that there just wasn’t any heart or soul poured into the product, but more quick-fire nodes and hand-me-down mechanics. And again, this is a $40 game we’re talking about — so it’s definitely a bit of an insult to the memory of Kong’s creator, Merian C. Cooper.

While on the subject of visuals, there is a major problem that needs to be addressed — and that’s the size of King Kong himself. As it turns out, the enormous beast of Skull Island isn’t quite as large as its literature suggests. Rather, the great ape is more or less the same size as a common monkey, and by no means the colossal kingpin that we’ve come to expect from the franchise. For this reason alone, it was hard for me to believe that I was the future warlord of the archipelago, and not just a chimpanzee with an attitude problem.

Shovelware, Shovelware, Shovelware

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to realize that, mechanically, Skull Island: Rise of Kong is about as close to completion as a sloth is from seeing the outer layers of Jupiter. Rather annoyingly, the game itself just isn’t hot out of the oven — but more or less a great big pile of lukewarm dough that’s both sticky and incoherently wet to the touch. It’s so bad, even, that half of the cutscenes haven’t even been finalized—to the point of half of the game appearing as nothing more than a half-baked bombshell with one too many screws loose to boot. And that’s a shame, because honestly, it’s 2023 — and yet I find myself thinking back to how Ubisoft managed to do it better nearly twenty years ago. It’s a poor effort all around, and it frustrates me to say it, but seriously, IguanaBee — is this the best you can do?

To add insult to injury, IguanaBee not only carved out a poorly designed and woefully mundane combat system, but also crammed its cutscenes to the brim with pixelated images, mismatched dialogue and music — and even the odd .JPEG image, for crying out loud. Simply put, this game is not complete, nor is it anywhere within a hundred miles of being complete. Poor time management on IguanaBee’s part, or just carelessness at its finest? You decide on that one.

Don’t get me wrong, I could, in theory, learn to like Skull Island—love it, even. That is, of course, providing I look at it from a comical standpoint, and not from anything else. But that’s really as far as I’m willing to go, as the product in its current state, at least, is a bit of an embarrassment, and oddly enough, a stain on the franchise. Tut tut.

The Downfall of Kong

As far as length goes, Skull Island lands somewhere between the two and three hour mark, which means you can mop up just about everything there is to see an do in a single sitting. Not that you’d want to come back to it, mind you, what with there being little to no replay value whatsoever. There are a few fights, a whole bunch of poorly edited cutaways, and an ending that, quite frankly, makes even the likes of Gollum look like a top-shelf masterpiece. Not good.

Gameplay-wise, you don’t have a lot of breathing room to flex the muscles of the great antagonist. Sure enough, you can swing your massive fists around, and you can jump. But that’s about it, which means you can essentially master the entire control system in a matter of minutes, thus making the bulk of the combat encounters not only tediously easy, but almost laughable.


From its shoddy half-baked visuals to its low-effort combat mechanics, Skull Island: Rise of Kong marks the beginning of the end for an otherwise well-loved and respectable franchise. To call it a video game, at least in a traditional sense, wouldn’t be right, nor would it even be worth entertaining given what it actually is. And that’s just it — this is not, in any way shape, or form, a video game; on the contrary, it’s shovelware, clear as day, and it pains me to admit it, but honestly, IguanaBee took it too far with this one.

It’s a sad day for King Kong fans, truly, as the IP itself hasn’t exactly seen a new extension in its gaming portfolio for a good decade or so now. But alas, die-hards will have to hang fire for a little while longer, as Skull Island: Rise of Kong isn’t the love letter to Peter Jackson that we thought it would be. No, it’s something else, and in its current state, it’d be hard to label it as something it’s not — and that’s a product that’s worthy of bearing the torch for the King and its subjects.

So, to answer the initial question, is Skull Island: Rise of Kong worth playing in 2023? No, it isn’t, and it probably won’t be in 2024, either. Truth is, if The Game Awards has any intention of giving out a Raspberry for worst game of the year this holiday season, then you can count on it being given to IguanaBee’s god-awful train wreck of an adaptation. Sorry, Merian C. Cooper — we didn’t mean to have you rolling in your grave.

Skull Island: Rise of Kong Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch & PC)

Sit Down, Kong — You’re Drunk

Due to its indescribably poor animations, soundtrack, and combat, it’s almost impossible to recommend Skull Island: Rise of Kong to anyone who’s after a solid beat ‘em up brawler. There’s a lot missing here, and it pains me to admit it, but honestly, this just isn’t worth writing home about.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.