Tokyo Jungle review
Japan likes to keep a lot of "gems" to themselves, and as a result, we end up missing out on a lot of quirky titles that definitely have an audience here in the States. It was exciting news that Tokyo Jungle, the post apocalyptic animal survival game, was not only going to be available to download here in the US, but at a significantly discounted price, being a full priced retail game in Japan.
What is Tokyo Jungle exactly? Let me break it down in the most comprehensive way possible. Humans have vanished due to unknown circumstances, and animals, both big and small, now roam the streets and are fighting for their survival. This all consists of taking down various prey, occupying areas of Tokyo, and ultimately mating and starting new generations.
This all stems off from the somewhat repetitive yet addicting gameplay. Unlike other games that put the Story Mode in the forefront, Tokyo Jungle instead has you focusing on Survival Mode to progress the game, and gradually unlock story missions by finding various archives which slowly unravel the mystery of what caused the apocalypse.
In Survival Mode, you'll pick from dozens of various animals, such as the cute yet deadly Pomeranian, the fast deer, the predatory tiger, a tiny chick and even a hippo. The challenge stems from how differently predatory animals play from grazing animals. As predators, you'll primarily hunt other animals and eat their remains, while staying away from animals that are twice your size. As grazers, the game switches to an animal themed Metal Gear Solid where being stealthy and avoiding conflict with other predators can ensure survival.
However no matter what type of animal you're playing as, you have some primary goals in life; eat, occupy, mate and repeat to stay alive as long as you can. Eating other animals or plant life essentially keeps you alive, and your hunger meter full. Once this bar drops down to zero, your hit points decrease and you'll eventually die. Eating also increases your animal's 'level' from Rookie, Veteran, to eventually Boss. While there are no stat boosts per se for each rank, being a Boss for example allows you to mate with more favorable females, but more on that later. Each animal also has various personal goals, that consist of reaching an area, killing a certain amount of animals, etc. These require a sense of urgency as years fly by quite quickly, and you're required to finish these in a given time.
To continue your legacy, you must find a suitable mate. Before you can extend your legacy, you must first mark your territory and take over various locations in a given section of the map. Once you own a given territory, you can go seek out a suitable mate. The higher your rank, the better females you can attract, which means the more offspring you have. You then take over the game playing as the offspring, and each additional one you have counts as an extra life.
All of this is centered around a fairly simple control scheme, that doesn't require a lot of time to get used to. The square button is your simple attack button, while R1 is relegated to your pounce attack, which more often than not takes down unsuspecting enemies in a single leap. Sneaking with L1 will also become second nature as dangerous animals can be lurking anywhere, and avoiding conflict is absolutely necessary.
The formula can be repetitive for sure, but it's so insanely addictive. You want to push yourself each time and strive to live as long as you can. Plus. the better you do, the more points you earn which works for two things; leaderboard ranks and to unlock new animals to play as.
Story Mode is a bit different, as it only unlocks if you've found a certain number of newspaper archives in Survival. Sure, the story can be cheesy, it is of course focused around various household and wild animals trying to survive in a post apocalyptic Tokyo, but just when you're laughing at the absurdity of it all one minute, the game pulls on your heart strings the next.
Tokyo isn't the biggest city to explore, and you'll be finding yourself in the same areas far too often. Thankfully the game changes up placement of various animal life, making each playthrough slightly different from each other. The city might be 'open world' but you'll be traversing it as a sidescroller. This isn't that big of an issue, since movement is still relegated to a 3D axis, however the worst offense is trying to jump off a side of building, but an invisible wall demands you find a proper way to walk down instead.
The game doesn't look good by any means. You could easily mistake this for a last generation title. Textures are rather flat, the city of Tokyo isn't all that interesting either, and even the animals themselves don't have the graphical quality you'd come to expect out of your PS3. For a retail title in Japan, this was quite surprising. The soundtrack is made up of various techno tunes that normally wouldn't fit, but given the game's strange nature, I welcome their odd placement.
A game like Tokyo Jungle is exactly what the American PSN population needs. The sheer brilliance and uniqueness of the game is enough to get the attention of a lot of gamers, not to mention the cheap asking price given the large amount of content offered. However, if you cringe at the thought of small animals being killed and eaten by one another, you might want to give Tokyo Jungle a pass.