Review: Tokyo Jungle

Platform: PlayStation Network
Developer: C.A.M.P, Crispy’s
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: September 25, 2012

With the amount of games that are trying to push a sense of realism because of all the detail HD graphics can provide, its refreshing to see Tokyo Jungle avoid that mindset and priorities on just trying to be a fun game. Its bizarre, ludicrous and makes little sense, and I love it for that.

Its the dystopian future of 2027, and it seems humans have mysteriously been phased out in the city of Tokyo by all manner of animals. Every type and breed is competing for survival to avoid complete extinction. That’s about all the storyline you need before jumping in for some ridiculous fun!

The main mode of Tokyo Jungle is Survival Mode. Animals you select to play as are divided into two groups: predators and grazers. Predators must hunt for their food – you can do this by either sneaking up on prey and performing a “clean kill” (which feel incredibly satisfying on larger animals) or, if it is alerted to your presence and tries to escape, chip away at their health bar by attacking. While hunters, the playable predators at the start must still hide from the bigger beasts. Grazers are herbivores, and must be played with stealth gameplay in mind. You don’t have to hunt because you can simply feed on plantlife, but you must constantly be on alert for animals looking to eat you.

Eating regularly is imperative, as you must maintain a hunger gauge. If the meter goes to zero, your health with start to decline. Your main objective in Survival Mode is to help your chosen animal type survive for as many years as possible. You must mark specific points on your map in order to claim a territory, which in turn means you can gain a female’s interest. You can then take her to a nest to mate. Your rank depends on what female you can interest, from desperate to prime. The greater the female, the more offspring you will create, increasing your chances of survival when you take control of the little pups.

Strangely enough, the game often feels not only like a stealth game but also a survival horror. It can be extremely tense hiding in tall grass from prowling wolves, leading your army of baby chicks without being seen. Being spotted and chased knowing you could be killed in matter of deadly swipes and bites can be terrifying, and when wandering through the darkness at night you can easily bump into a bloodthirsty creature. The further you travel, the deeper you go into the dangerous rural areas, where lions, cheetahs and velociraptors (yep, there’s dinosaurs in this too!) await.

The mini-map is a handy survival tool that will show you all animals on the map as green dots, but though you can see where an animal is, you won’t know what type of animal it is. You could be walking into a harmless pack of porcupines, or a terrifying troop of Tosas, cleverly urging you to tread carefully at all times. I had no issues with the static camera, but there are some moments that feel a little unfair due to the inability to control it. Primarily you are moving left and right through streets, but to change lane you also move up and down. When traversing south you can hardly see what’s in front of you, and sometimes have no choice but to walk into the sights of a predator.

Most importantly, the game is just hilarious. Watching a Pomeranian dog kill and eat a lion, a chicken double-jump ridiculous heights across rooftops and a gazelle booting a pig in the face and sending it flying are just a handful of highlights you’ll experience in Tokyo Jungle.

The silliness extends to the Story Mode, wherein chapters are unlocked by finding archives in Survival. Each animal is given a little backstory – the Pomeranian must learn to fend for itself now it has no owner pampering it and the deer is searching for its lost mother. There’s funny moments, such as the beagle reclaiming territory from a Tosa leader donning a robe, though these are pretty much the same as the Survival mode but with specific conditions.

I’ve devoted many hours into Tokyo Jungle, and while the thrill of the hunt remains exciting for a good while, you eventually see the game becoming a little repetitive. Its great that there are 80 different animals to unlock and choose from, but they all control the same albeit with different running speeds. Still, its fun to finally play as a lion or bear after being hunted by them for so long. The game is still ultimately addictive, but after a certain period of time it seems better in short bursts. The replay value and amount of content is very generous considering the price.

It took a long time for this game to make it out of Japan, but I’m eternally grateful that it did and late is better than never. The game is well worth a look just for the laughs, enthralling gameplay and unique premise. There’s nothing else quite like Tokyo Jungle, and the idea is not only ridiculously fantastic but executed extremely well. So go on – take your pack of puppies, rule your new kingdom and have some stupid fun.

[xrr rating=9/10]

9 out of 10

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