Roll out the barrel - Kong games

CHRIS PASSEY & MATTHEW UFFINDELL revisit some old favourites (and some new versions) in our second Game Type comparisons

Ever since Mario lost his girl to the clutches of King Kong, there’s been trouble up at t’Empire State Building! Quite how the particular story line for the original game emerged is now lost in the mythology of what the arcades called Donkey Kong or Krazy Kong. Their popularity in the arcades was probably due to their non-violence and perhaps because people had become fed up with shoot the invaders games.

The simple object of the game is to reach the top of the screen and ‘rescue’ your girl from Kong’s clutches. To do this you must run along several levels of platforms and climb ladders while Kong rolls barrels and fireballs down on top of you. This recipe should ideally continue for several screens of increasing difficulty. There are several versions for the Spectrum ranging from bad to very good, and the selection here (which is very representative) contains two titles which masquerade as something else, but are still Kong type games really.

KONG - Ocean, KILLER KING - Blaby, GODZILLA & THE MARTIANS - Temptation, KONG - Anirog, KILER KNIGHT - Phipps Associates, KRAZY KONG - PSS

KONG (Ocean)

Ocean’s Kong is a close copy to the original. It starts off well with Kong making his entry, climbing to the top, then stomping and causing the girders to slope. Now the ape starts the barrels rolling. They go sideways down the ladders (Killer Kong’s seemed to favour falling through holes). There are a total of four screens, featuring fireballs and elevators as well. The graphics in this game are the best of all, and are large (terrifyingly large barrels), well animated and fast. The man jumps well, in fact he goes so high his head passes through the next floor up. The keys are well laid out, it’s Kempston compatible and there’s a training mode.

It takes a long time to load but it’s worth the wait. A screen appears with five options, keyboard, Kempston joystick, Quickshot and Protek interfaces, demo mode and training mode. All four screens are identical to the arcade original — even the detail of the ape smashing down the girders into different angles at the start. Graphics are big, bright and smooth with just the right amount of ladders. Even the hammer on the second platform is there, to enable you to smash the barrels for bonus points. None of the other games has this feature. Tunes are played at the start and end of a screen, and at the start it says, ‘How high can you get?’ — just like the original. I think this Kong is the best one.


I thought this was a good version. Here there are five screens to complete — all are difficult. It requires the most skill in timing because the last bit of the top section is too low for jumping barrels. The game has good graphics on the whole, but they aren’t super-smooth due to ‘character position movement’ being used as opposed to pixel type. This game, however, has the best sound. Keyboard play could be improved — the keys are all along the top row. There are bonuses for getting green burgers and also a time bonus. I would recommend this version.

Killer Kong is a version with many ladders and is not at all like the original really. It is just a miss-the-fireball game, though I found it very playable. The jumps need to be timed right (like Anirog’s version) because the graphics aren’t smooth. I can say the sound is great and the colour is well used. It’s much more addictive than Anirog’s version and has more joystick options.


This one has the most original title and also the classiest packaging, but it is also the worst of the bunch, primarily because it’s written in BASIC, which immediately limits the program’s capabilities (it’s also the only 16K version). The idea is to run along and jump over the martians (resembling invading barrels) which move from side to side. There are also ladders to climb on your way to the top and holes to jump. (Godzilla, meanwhile, is protecting your girl — not ‘holding’ her). Only one screen and only one life. The graphics are jerky, and jumping is a hit-and-miss affair. On the whole, very unaddictive.

This version barely resembles the original at all except in the ladders, platforms and rescuing ‘the girl of your dreams’. Jump control is very bad, unresponsive — just up, over and down — terrible. The graphics are limited and the keys poorly positioned. Sound and colour are also poor (all in BASIC), no joystick options and generally well below today’s standards.

KONG (Anirog)

A different story here — this is more of a Kong copy and quite reasonable. It contains quite good graphics and is possibly the most colourful. The keys are well laid out, making it very playable. Four screens featuring barrels, fireballs, lifts etc. Bonuses are available in the form of umbrellas and handbags, and there’s a time limit to deter waiting around. The jumping is rather quick and needs careful timing though.

This version doesn’t start off too well — no screen page, and the inlay says nothing about joystick options although once loaded it informs you that it’s Kempston compatible (sigh — unplug computer, fit interface and reload). A demo autoruns after 30 seconds. Screen 1 looks like screen 2 of the arcade original except there are no conveyor belts. Screen 2 is very much like screen 1 but with more ladders leading up to the next platform. There are lifts on the third screen, but only the fourth screen looks like the original, where you must pull blocks out of the floor and watch Kong fall. The demo had nice smooth graphics, but the game didn’t. I found the jump disappointing — you must jump when a fireball is right against you, or you’ll land on top of it. The colour and sound is well used, and a fair game can be played on this version, although I think Anirog have overdone it on the ladders.


Apart from Krazy Kong, this is the only version with a loading screen picture. The game itself is a variation on the Kong theme — rescue your girl from the clutches of the evil black knight. There’s the usual barrels and holes to jump and ladders to climb. Also a handy umbrella to break an accidental fall (once). The game is very fast, probably the fastest of the lot, but the graphics are rather small and colourless. Jumping is sudden and control generally is difficult due to speed and poor keyboard layout. Ladder climbing is automatic, so there’s no going back! This is a difficult game to play (not a bad thing), but with its uninspiring graphics and lack of playability, I didn’t really enjoy it.

I found Killer Knight very difficult to play because jump control is very difficult. I know I’ve said the same about the Anirog Kong and Killer Kong, but here there seems to be no ‘feel’ to the jump, perhaps because it happens so quickly. Poor sound and even worse colour drops this game’s value. I also get the feeling this is compiled m/c — the poor block graphics with uninteresting UDGs make it not worth considering if you are after a real Kong game.


This is quite a close copy of the arcade Krazy Kong and includes barrels, fireballs, conveyor belts and lifts. The barrels drop through the platforms randomly as well as descending the ladders on top of you. The man is well animated and jumps very generously (which doesn’t mean it’s easy)! I didn’t like the key positions — all on the top row. There is a time limit for a bonus and water buckets for bonuses. Nice loading screen which matches the cassette inlay. Four screens in this version with well combined hazards.

P.S.S.’s version, which has only just come out, is very like the arcade original. Your man is well animated and walks smoothly on his way to rescue the girl. All the characters are a bit small but nothing to complain about, and the man jumps very well. The game is colourful, tuneful and very playable — second to Ocean’s Kong in fact. All the keys are well positioned — could be used with Sinclair Interface 2 but not stated anywhere (Kempston compatible). Ocean’s version comes out with flying colours, closely followed by this one.


We asked our two reviewers to rate the games compared on a scale from 0 to 100.

A — Use of computer
B — Graphics
C — Playability
D — Addictive qualities
E — Value for money
F — Retail Price (in £)

KILLER KNIGHT CP23501930405.95
KONG (Anirog) CP60785070755.95
KILLER KONG CP809890100905.50
KONG (Ocean) CP92100100971005.90
KRAZY KONG (P.S.S.) CP75909595905.95

Next month: Missile Command

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