Congo the Movie: Descent into Zinj

Review by Orb
January 2003

Congo is a film tie-in adventure game that has largely been forgotten by collectors and players. This is unfortunate because the game is very entertaining and well put together, the antithesis of the usual crappy tie-in game foisted off onto the public. Who knows why there's never been more made of this title by collectors? It certainly meets all of the criteria: entertaining, well-written story, nice graphics, really fun puzzles and (gasp) some competent acting! What more could a girl ask for?

The game is played in the first person from the perspective of Jack, who has been sent by a large corporation to look for diamonds that will give it the ability to dominate communications. Jack must save a female technician that he once trained, who has gone missing after being sent to the Congo on a mission to find the diamonds in the lost city of Zinj. Indiana Jones fans will love this game—it has the same sort of adventuring air as the LucasArts Indy adventure games, as well as some humor of the action hero variety. And there are nice movement animations.

Puzzles are inventory-based and very entertaining. Inventory is very malleable—it can be organized in whatever way you care to have it. It is stowed in a lower-screen dock that is easily accessible. There also is no inventory scrolling within the dock, which has plenty of room on the main page. The problem with all this is that the inventory items are small and not well-defined or -described, so there is a bit of "try this with that" that will go on when it is not immediately apparent what an item is. There are also a number of fun little doohickeys to play with to get information and keep things moving during gameplay. These include some VR goggles, a laser, a radiation scanner, an audio scanner and an image scanner.

The player can die, but the game will just restart itself. This is a great thing, because there's just no more fun to be had in the universe than being ripped apart by giant wild monkeys multiple times, a fat, drooling, foul-mouthed monster the last thing you see before bidding the world adieu.

Congo's cursor is a hand, which gives enough info without adding any complexity to the gameplay. The cursor/hand highlights blue on inventory and red on an inventory-friendly location, virtually guaranteeing there will be no click-thrashing for the player.

Saves in the game do not return you to your exact location in the game but rather to a nearby "hub."

There is an in-game mapping system that is supposed to mimic "satellite mapping." Once a map area is found and captured, you can use this to aid in exploration, and it does come in handy. There is also an in-game image library that defines ancient writing found while exploring and provides clues to forward the game as well.

There is also, I am sorry to say, a maze. Not only that, but there are some incorrect paths within the maze that cause the player to be intercepted by a killer gorilla, who kindly sends you back to the beginning of the maze to try again. The nice thing about the "die and restart" feature is just how fast it makes gameplay go—this occurrence actually served to reorient me, and I found it got me through the maze much faster than I am accustomed to.

Music is of the old MIDI variety, done in short loops, and it can get pretty redundant. Despite this, the music has a nice African texture to it, adding to rather than detracting from the game despite the tinny loops.

I said earlier that there is some competent acting. This is true, but there is also some uneven acting, making this a mixed blessing. FMV sequences appear in a smallish window, which was usual for games made during this time period—probably a two-inch-square movie screen was all some of the older CPUs of the time could grind out. The character actor of Karen is first-rate.

I didn't run into any bugs. Not a one. Pretty surprising for such an old game. Congo ran and played through nice and smooth and never even made a hiccup. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Illumina Productions
Publisher: Viacom New Media
Release Date: 1995

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

486/66 MHz PC
Win 3.1
SoundBlaster or 100% compatible sound board
2X CD-ROM drive
Local bus video card

Where to Find It

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No reproduction in whole or in part without express written permission.