Congo: The Movie - Descent into Zinj

aka: Congo the Movie: In die Tiefen von Zinj
Moby ID: 4790

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 62% (based on 14 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.2 out of 5 (based on 14 ratings with 1 reviews)

At least this game beats the book/movie it is based on.

The Good
Impressive visuals; some good puzzles; ties in with the original novel/film adaptation rather cleverly.

The Bad
Repetitive soundtrack; lack of direction; built-in hint system almost complete joke; poor icon design without text descriptions; maze to navigate with a raft; maze to navigate without a raft; yet another maze.

The Bottom Line
Congo: The Movie - Descent into Zinj is based on Michael Crichton's 1980 novel named Congo and its 1995 film adaptation directed by Frank Marshall.

The novel is hardly Crichton's best and falls completely flat once the suspension is lost following the unveiling of the ridiculous mystery about 2/3 in, while the film is a genuine B-movie with enough silliness to keep it entertaining for its length of 100+ minutes. The core story follows the joint effort of two individuals, Karen Ross and Peter Elliot, to reach the heart of Congo for reasons of their own (the movie adds a third motivated actor, Herkermer Homolka, played to maximum campyness by Tim Curry). One expedition has been lost previously and the surviving video footage shows something primate-like as responsible. The most memorable member of the second expedition is Amy, a gorilla who communicates either in ASL (American Sign Language; book) or through a silly gesture-to-voice apparatus (movie), and plays a key role in ensuring the survival of the expedition once they get closer to their destination, the legendary city of Zinj.

In a rather interesting twist, the game, designed and written by Joe Pinney, does not retell the story of the book/movie but puts the player into the shoes of yet another expedition sent after Ross and Elliot. The only member of this third attempt to reach the city of Zinj is called Jack (voiced by Robert Benton), and his solitary exploration borrows its core ideas from Myst. In other words, Congo: The Movie - Descent into Zinj is a 1st-person point-and-click adventure game with full motion video sections, gorgeous visuals and very little character interaction. Actors are not the same as in the film, but their performance retains the b-movie feel throughout and the eye-rolling ending of the novel, made even stupider in the movie, is surpassed in the game by introducing a worn-out cliche into the mix three minutes before the end. But don't take my word for it: since you have read this review this far, you could as well take a look at the game cinematics in Youtube.

Every Myst-inspired game has at least a few good puzzles in it. Congo: The Movie introduces a portable workstation complete with GPS navigation, satellite communication, and audio and image processing capabilities that are used constantly in the course of the game. Maps are used cleverly in navigation, and the best puzzle (or a series of puzzles) makes you take pictures of unknown writings, have them analyzed and translated by your workstation, and apply the information in getting certain pathways either opened or closed to get you where you want to be (a destination which you can deduct with the help of GPS navigation).

At other times, however, the narrative becomes a bit thin. Apart from the very beginning the game constantly lacks direction. You do have a limited goal set up most of the time, usually a point in the map to get to. But the visuals, though beautiful, are not very functional and many times you will end up staring at the screen and wondering what on Earth that collection of pixels is supposed to represent. The inventory items you can pick up along the way are the worst offenders. There are no textual descriptions for them available nor an option to look at them closely, and the fact that that lump of grey and red is supposed to be a remote infrared controller is rather hard to surmise on occasion. One could think that turning to the built-in hint system, nicely (in theory) integrated into the game as a satellite connection to your employer, would alleviate the problem somewhat. But here is a sample transcript of how much help you usually get:

Jack: I'm stuck.
Travis: exasperated sigh Well, Jack, you'd better explore some more, then! Houston out.

Fortunately, the manual has a dozen questions regarding tricky situations in the game with hints on how to solve them. Without those hints I would have never made it to the end.

Finally, the biggest issue, thinking back on my gaming experience, were the mazes. As mentioned above, the navigation in the game is usually quite pleasant due to your portable workstation and its satellite maps. The mazes start out innocently enough. At the beginning of the game you are required to navigate waterways in your inflatable raft, and it is possible to work out the correct turns by studying the map beforehand—the actual navigation is done in a lenient real-time action sequence. While the first one is only a boring exercise, the second real-time action navigation is a trial-and-error affair as the map is useless for preparing your way. And if that was irritating, there is also a third maze which is about thrice as long as the two others combined, AND you are chased by that lovely creature pictured in the cover. Every time you make an error, you die. At least you are instantly placed at the beginning of the maze to try (and die) again, and again and again until you memorize the dozen or so correct turns it requires to pass that particular maze.

Congo: The Movie - Descent into Zinj is a mixed bag of good and bad ideas. Given the relative rarity of this title it is hardly recommended to hunt it down just for the privilege of playing it, but the manner in which Pinney has turned his source material into an Myst-like adventure game could hold some interest for the scholar of the genre.

Windows 3.x · by Azif Kylander (45) · 2012

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Scaryfun, Sun King, Jeanne, chirinea, Patrick Bregger, Alsy, jean-louis, Parf.