Book, movie, video game: Congo

I’m a fan of Michael Crichton. I like his books. I also somewhat enjoy the movies that are based on his books. His books make good movie material. Generally speaking. Congo is the exception to this rule. Congo was a decent book, but it’s far from a good movie. Congo

The basic storyline, for those unfamilar, is as follows. A telecommunications company, wanting to get an edge on its rivals, seeks the mystical blue diamonds of the mines of King Solomon, which have been located in the lost city of Zinj, in the Congo, Africa. In order to properly locate the city, they enlist the aid of a gorilla, Amy, who has been taught American Sign Language by her keeper, Peter. Amy was born near the city of Zinj, and has had dreams and drawn pictures of symbology from the area. And that’s about it.

Congo: The Movie

Here are a few of the subtle changes made between Congo, the book, and Congo, the movie.


A telecommunications company wants blue diamonds because of their superconductive properties, so they can build better silicon chips and destroy their competitors.


A telecommunications company wants blue diamonds so they can BUILD LASERS THAT WILL CUT APES IN HALF.


Karen Ross is a career-driven psychopathic super-bitch who wants to find the diamonds because her career depends on it, goshdurnit. She’s also blonde, tall, and in her early ’20s.


Karen Ross is a spectacularly benign individual who wants to locate her ex-boyfriend (played by Bruce Campbell, no less), who was on an earlier expedition to the jungle. She’s still blonde, but she’s now in her ’30s and is played by Laura Linney, who’s only claim to fame to date has been Melrose Place.


Amy, the gorilla, speaks American Sign Language, and is entirely believeable.


Amy, the gorilla, speaks American Sign Language, which is translated by a Nintendo Power Glove into the gorilla equivalent of Stephen Hawking. Except retarded. Very, very retarded. Somehow, in the translation from novel to film, Amy also became entirely made out of rubber and acquired a neck that would make Godzilla jealous. I’d like to include a picture of this, but Google Image Search turned up squat. Sorry.




For no apparent reason, Tim Curry exists. As a Romanian philanthropist with an utterly ridiculous accent. His character literally serves no purpose. There is no reason for him to be there, whatsoever. Ostensibly, his character is there to fund the expedition to the congo. However, once they reach the airport, he explains in his stupidly stupid accent that he cannot afford the fuel for the plane, so Laura Linney pays for it, instead. Curry then tags along, occasionally providing a snippet of exposition that could have just as easily been spoken by one of the African porters. Or a tree.

Tim Curry


A great deal of narrative is reserved for the investigation of the city of Zinj, and for the discovery and explanation of the mystery behind the grey gorillas.

“Holy bejeezus, grey gorillas!”

“Look, convenient heiroglyphics, they must be the guardians of the diamond mine!”

“Look they’re eating Tim Curry!”


“Now let’s dice them with the laser.”

So there. Congo, the movie, sucks. It’s enjoyable, if you like turning your brain off, though.


I found “Congo: The Movie - The Secret Of Zinj” for Super Nintendo. It’s….far from the best piece of video game programming I’ve yet to encouter.

Congo: The Game

Here’s the title screen, resplendant with rubber ape. So far, it’s not too scary.

Interactive cut scenes.

A nice touch: Interactive cut-scenes. In both film and novel, there’s a part where the first expedition’s campsite is remotely surveyed by a rotating video camera on a tripod. As the team back in the US watch the footage and rotate the camera around, they see grey gorillas and a whole bunch of dead bodies. In this lil interactive cut scene, the camera rotates randomly and wildly and you can shoot at the gorillas. Evidently if you don’t shoot them, nothing significant happens. Boo.

Congo: Boat level

And this is the point at which I stopped playing, because it became totally and unbearably shit. You play the part of Munro Kelly, the “great white hunter”. Apparently the rest of the Congo cast couldn’t make it, perhaps they all went to Devonshire Tea in Mombasa. Alone in his inflatable dinghy, you must steer Munro through the rapids of the Congo river, collecting floating diamonds.

Various obstacles block your way, most of them kill you. Sticks and sharp rocks puncture your dinghy causing you to lose one of your three lives. Ramps are required to jump over some obstacles and require ridiculously precise aim and impossibly correct speed. The river currents are seemingly random, and often pull you backwards at the time you should be moving forwards, sending Munro to his seething death atop a rock pinnacle.

As if it’s not bad enough already, half-way through this horrible level the water turns piss yellow and the sticks and obstacles become virtually invisible because they’re the SAME COLOUR. The game also speeds up to a blistering speed and your avoidance of obstacles becomes more of an exercise in repeating the level over and over, memorising the directions to press.

It’s worth noting that the graphics here are quite nice. Munro’s boat is pre-rendered CG and has loads of animation frames in its rotation. The water surface is a texture that’s warped around using Mode-7 and is quite effective when the level is moving slowly. Once it speeds up, though, it becomes epileptically nauseating and suffers from an irritating strobe effect once the speed of horizontal movement catches up with the speed of pattern repeat, kind of like the illusion of car rims spinning backward under strobing street lights.

I gave up after this level, the flaws in the game are too unbearable to continue. Looks good, sounds average, plays like a meatloaf.