Developer: Japan Studio
As a game reviewer you live for games like Tokyo Jungle. You can play games for so long that things start to blur. Medal of Honor blurs into Call of Duty blurs into Battlefield blurs back into Medal of Honor. It’s not just FPS games either. Pick any genre and you start to see similarities in the games. So when a game that is unique appears, you take notice. Tokyo Jungle is such a game.
Humanity has vanished, leaving the pets they kept behind to fend for themselves in the city of Tokyo, where our story takes place. There are two primary gameplay modes, Survival and Story. Survival is random and unscripted, and it’s in Survival where you will unlock all of the available animals. It’s also in Survival where you unlock Story levels and the pieces of back story that the developers have left for you. Story mode is a series of short missions that give you an idea of what life is like for the different animals struggling to make their way without humanity to aide them.
Of the two modes, I think Survival is the more interesting because you can take your own path. Whatever animal you chose you must survive long enough to bring forth the next generation into the world. Each generation has a lifespan of about 12 years in order to level themselves up two times, from Rookie to Veteran to Boss. Once they level up they must find a mate, which can be Desperate Average or Prime. Naturally you want Prime mates, as they will help you pass along genes to your offspring, but Prime mates will only be excited by Boss animals.
To succeed at gaining a mate you must level up your animal and also mark your territory. Each neighborhood has its own marking points which will unlock that section’s nest. You work your way towards each spot, do your thing to mark it (the animal just sorta sniffs, nothing graphic) and then move on to the next one until all are yours. While you are marking you are vulnerable to attack, so be cautious of when you do so.
Your animals will level up by eating calories. For herbivores like Deer, that will mean finding plants scattered all over Tokyo. For predators like dogs, that will mean finding and killing other animals. The game does an excellent job of letting you figure out early on how to sneak up on prey and kill them with one attack. It also does a great job of not allowing a tiny dog to be able to one shot kill a bull or a horse. You CAN kill such beasts, but it will not be easy.
No matter what “team” you pick, predator or prey, there is always danger lurking around the next corner. Your eyesight is limited – in fact, it’s not even the full length of the screen – and it can be affected by weather conditions. So you may be feeling like the king of the jungle until you round a bend and find yourself running from a pride of lions.
The game switches every few years between daytime and night, and you may think to yourself as you are running across half the map during the night without any predators in sight that the whole game should be at night. Then you round a corner and boom, my what pretty teeth you have Mr Crocodile.
The weather affects the game in other ways as well. During the summer months it gets really hot, and any animals you may have killed and left behind to eat later will go bad much more quickly. The heat can also produce smog. Smog causes visibility to be reduced. You also have to worry about areas of the city that become polluted. This pollution causes your blood toxicity to rise. If your toxicity rises to 100% you will start to die, as your life bar decreases.
There is a large variety of animals you can unlock in the game, and still more that you will run into while playing it: dogs, cats, lions, tigers, crocodiles, horses, zebras, monkeys, and so on. Any manner of animal you might have kept as a pet or looked at in a zoo you can probably expect to find at some point while running around the game.
The sound in the game is limited. Each animal has one or two sounds dedicated to them, but for the most part the only way to distinguish between one dog and the next is what pitch they bark at. The game is a PSN download game, so I’m guessing this is where they tried to limit the file size. The music is short as well, and there isn’t much of it.
While the game is unique and I am happy it came out, it’s not without flaws. Every time the game boots up you have to agree to the online terms of service for some reason. You would think someone would have caught that. Yes you can sign out from PSN before launching the game, but why make me hassle myself to do that?
Additionally, every game starts at the very same place on the map, and while you are free to go where you like from there, it does get a little tiresome. Why not vary things a bit and have some animals start in different sections of the city?
Finally, the game is a roguelike, meaning once you die there’s no reloading the game. You get one chance with your animal to complete the game. This isn’t exactly a flaw so much as it’s a choice by the developers to bring home that element of nature to the gamer, but it’s still a little bit annoying to have your best game end 50 years in because all of your pack mates are dead, the air is polluted, and there is no food for miles. It’s neat, but it’s also annoying.
The game also contains a cooperative mode for you and a friend to play through while sitting side by side. This mode presents some unique challenges, as when mating only one friend can mate at a time. As well, player one is the alpha male who gets to control where the screen moves, and player two just has to live with that.
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Poor
FINAL SCORE: Above Average
Short Attention Span Summary
A very unique experience, even though it did make me think of Metal Gear Solid at times. I’m glad it came out and I’m glad I played it. If you are up for something new, you could do a lot worse.