After a good amount of success in Japan, Sony’s somewhat eccentric post apocalyptic animal sim has finally made its way to our shores in the guise of a downloadable PlayStation Network title. We’ve been getting to grips with Tokyo’s wild animal infested future, so join us now as we attempt to take down a fully grown hippo with a Pomeranian dog and try to answer that timeless enigma – how exactly did those giraffes get on that skyscraper rooftop?
Game: Tokyo Jungle
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
The opening scenes of Tokyo Jungle neither prepares or educates you for what’s coming after pressing the start button and entering the tutorial. That is, until you’re greeted with a small fluffy dog bobbing its tail to a japanese pop beat, then everything suddenly becomes very clear. You’ll immediately sense the game’s quirkiness and downright strangeness at times, however, it’s the general look that might deter some from the start. Whilst the level design paints a quite interesting picture of a human abandoned Tokyo, the graphics disappoint and could even be mistaken for something last-gen. Animations don’t fair much better either, especially the jumping which looks, on the whole, completely unnatural and floaty at times. This all becomes slightly irrelevant though because Tokyo Jungle’s strengths lie in its gameplay and originality.
Essentially, in the small open areas of deserted Tokyo you’ll be given the basic premise of surviving the peril of the food chain with your chosen/nominated creature. This means partaking in hereditary animal instincts such as hunting, marking your territory and searching for a mate. Procreation is important because once initiated you’ll gain control of the next generation with improved stats handed down from your original animals. Finding a suitable ‘prime’ mate means better genes to pass down of course, as opposed to the aptly titled ‘desperate’ creatures that will leave you with very little apart from a serious batch of fleas.
Tokyo Jungle is made up of two main modes to delve into, Survival and Story. There’s a few decent moments in story mode that bring some life and even emotion to the game, although story mode missions are only unlocked as you complete objectives with different creatures in Survival. These objectives can range from marking territory to simply moving to a new area of the map, whilst other times will require hunting sprees to level your beast up in the attempt to become the dominant alpha-creature and allure that prime female to mate with (mating scenes fade out thankfully). Once the deed is done you’ll take control of your offspring who also act as extra lives and come with the increased bonuses to your stamina and health bars. Progression also unlocks more animals to start the mode with meaning there’s a ton of replay value as you vie to play with the bigger, stronger and faster of the beasts.
Gameplay style and approach will differ depending on what animal you are. For example, if you’re a herbivore then you might lack natural fighting abilities. This will mean you’ll have to use stealth in patches of overgrowth and sneak around to find plantlife as food, whilst if you’re high enough up the food chain and like your rump rare, then you’ll get to throw some paws around and take some names. The mechanics are basic but mainly revolve around timing and catching the opponent off guard. Both styles are quite enjoyable and manage to keep you on your toes throughout the game. Especially if you struggling to find food, because your hunger bar is always depleting and once gone your health starts dwindling too as you grow hungry.
Despite the whole premise sounding quite thin, there’s actually quite a bit of depth and risk/reward to be found throughout Tokyo Jungle. Knowing when to attack and when to hide provides a good learning curve which almost echoes a true-to-life nature of animal survival. Tokyo is also a fun place to explore and there’s secrets to be found, some of which help explain why humans have vanished and some others that contain little treats that you can tuck into your inventory for a rainy day – in the literal sense.
Rain is only one of the random elements that are also thrown into the mix to make life a little harder. Asides from that you’ll be tested by toxic gas, fog and even the Sun as conditions constantly shift randomly. Every game offers something new, albeit in familiar surroundings, performing familiar routines. With all the unlocks in both modes and the sheer intrigue developing your animal dynasty, there’s hours upon hours of stuff to do if you’re taken in by the game’s humour and for a game that feels so basic, it rarely feels dull.
It’s clear from the outset that Tokyo Jungle, in typical Japanese style, isn’t trying to take itself too seriously and that alone goes a long way to preserving some of its lasting appeal. The game’s poor visuals and presentation might leave you with very little to get excited about, but what Tokyo Jungle does have is a massive dose of originality, some interesting depth and the chance to fulfil everyone’s life-long ambition of seeing a lone chicken take on a pack of hyenas. For those reasons alone, it’s certainly worth a look.