As the title would suggest, this is a game that takes place in Tokyo, and features a bevy of animals wandering alone after a disaster has ravaged the land. With no humans in sight, it's every beast for itself, aiming to survive and breed, furthering their bloodline and making sure that there is some sort of future for the species.
Broken up into two main gameplay modes – Survival and Story – the player assumes the role of an animal and attempts to survive as long as possible. In what is something of a very Japanese mechanic, Story Mode acts can only be unlocked by making progress in Survival mode, meaning that there is some effort and grinding required to find out what it was that has seen humans disappear, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. Survival mode starts out with an animal being chosen (only a lowly Pomeranian dog is available from the outset) and aiming to stay alive for as long as possible, indicated by an ever progressing bar along the top of the screen giving a visual display of how many years have passed. Three meters – Health, Hunger and Stamina are where the player will want to pay most attention though. Health is self-explanitory and Stamina will deplete (and automatically regenerate) when dodging is performed. The Hunger meter is the most interesting however. Slowly depleting over time, until empty when it starts to sap health, it has to be topped up from time to time by eating other animals or, in the case of the herbivores, seeking out leaves, grass and berries. It's a similar mechanic to that used in Metal Gear Solid 3, although a lot more than snakes will be eaten here.
Approaching another animal by sneaking up on it or hiding in grass will, once it is in range, see a red teeth icon appear over it. Pressing the R1 button as it appears causes the player controlled animal to lunge at its victim, killing it and providing food which in turn refills the Hunger meter. Eating other creatures also sees the overall calorie intake rise and once certain targets have been reached, essentially 'level up' the animal, increasing overall health, defence, attack and so on. Not all animals can be taken down and devoured with one fell swoop however – for example, dogs, cats and so on will want to stay away from anything larger such as crocodiles and even lions and tigers as a few swipes later the game over screen will quickly rear its head. It's a satisfying mechanic to perform and one that thankfully means the game doesn't rely on manic button-bashing in order to defeat enemies (although this tactic can be employed using the square combo should the player find themselves over run), instead favouring a more cautious approach. Hearing that innocent dog or cat cry in pain once
successfully hunted though may tug at the heartstrings more than might be expected.
Besides making sure that food is consumed regularly, there are a few other interesting mechanics to the gameplay. One of these is something that is just as essential as food if there is to be any hope of survival beyond the starting animal – breeding. Stopping to mark your teritory at a number of pre-marked red flags within an area will 'capture' it. In doing so, a mate will appear on the map which, should the player have consumed enough calories to raise their overall rank, will be impressed and when approached, follow behind them on screen. Locating one of the nesting areas marked on the map will allow mating to take place and, after the screen momentarily fading out, see offspring appear, now being the main animal being controlled retaining some of their parents stats. Given that after a certain amount of years have passed, the health of an animal will start to deteriorate, breeding is essential if any real progress is to be made and if a mate is of a high enough level, more young will be born, which essentially take on the role of extra lives, should the main animal in control be killed.
Items can be found scattered throughout the environment, in the form of gift wrapped boxes. These may contain items such as water, (needed not only to satisfy the Hunger meter but also help in reducing the toxic, health draining effects of poision that engulfs the land at nightfall) medicine and food, but, oddly enough, items that can be equipped to different parts of the animal, increasing health, defence, attack an so on, as well as providing a welcome bit of fashion. It's not all doom even in this apocalyptic scenario. Doubters will be convinced once they have equipped a cap, jacket and novelty over-sized feet on their cat, or rollerskates to their elephant. It lightens the mood in what can at times feel like quite a sad, depressing experience. Survival Points, earned by performing activites such as breeding, marking territory, killing other animals and so on, are awarded at the end of Survival mode and can be used to buy these items within the shop option on the main menu.
The same map is presented at the outset of Survival mode, regardless of which animal is chosen. In order to unlock acts in Story Mode, USB sticks (marked on the map) need to be gathered. These, however, are frequently in treacherous locations inhabited by stronger creatures, so it's not just a case of waltzing in with ease. Similarly, keeping a close eye on the map will see certain areas from time to time become highlighted, indicating that there is an event within. An animal lurks somewhere within the highlighted location, which takes the form of a boss. If successfully defeated, these unlock for use when playing through the Survival mode again. This is where the need to grind really comes into focus, as to unlock all animals on offer will require playing through the same areas repeatedly in order to locate and kill everything on offer. Some are also available as paid downloadable content via the Playstation Store. There is a real sense of progression however, whether it be from unlocking a new Story act, taking down and unlocking a new animal or simply exploring more of the overall map which is bigger than would appear at first glance, with rooftops to be explored, some buildings able to be entered and even a substantial underground area.
The Story mode itself is broken up into separate acts, most of which see a different animal take centre stage as it attempts to explain what has seen such a desolate environment materialise. The fact that most time with the game will be spent trodding a familiar path in Survival mode means that these acts feel like a nice change of pace once they have been unlocked. Not only do they put the player in different scenarios, but give the chance to play as some of the more exotic creatures which is very welcome when a deer is the most you have unlocked for use in Survival mode.
Whilst it's true that the game isn't a graphical showcase and there are some awkward animations from time to time, there is a charm and simplicity to the presentation that helps draw the player in. Played from a fixed camera angle in third person, the different areas on the map, although there aren't all that many of them, feel unique and having room to explore rooftops and underground is a nice addition. The music too is well used, with some nice – if slightly unexpected – uptempo beats for the main BGM, shifting to a more ominous tone once danger rears its head.
It's cliche, but Tokyo Jungle is very much one of those 'marmite games'. It would be naive to say that everyone will enjoy it as it is definitely an acquired taste, but taken in the context of it being a traditionally quirky Japanese release in a console cycle that has seen relatively few such experiences however, it will scratch the itch of those hungry for a unique experience. With the game coming to the US and Europe at some point as a digital release, hopefully the price is right to entice enough people to give it a go. Fall in love with Tokyo Jungle and its repetitiveness becomes a minor hassle, the experience and premise completely taking over.
- Unique concept.
- Plenty to unlock.
- Satisfying core mechanics.
- The repetitiveness may be off-putting to some.
Developer: Playstation C.A.M.P/Crispy's
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Other Versions: N/A
Version Reviewed: Asian