Review: Tokyo Jungle (PSN)
Title: Tokyo Jungle
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.6 GB)
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Tokyo Jungle is exclusive to the PlayStation Network.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 286 of the podcast.
For months, gamers have been flooding the Twitter accounts of everyone and anyone at Sony that might have a hand in bringing it to North America. As many know, there a good number of games that only ever come out in Japan, since many are believed to be geared specifically for that culture. A few games though have successfully traversed the Pacific Ocean and have succeeded in other territories. If nothing else, you have to admit that there’s not a game like this anywhere else.
Humans have suddenly disappeared from Tokyo, and the city has become overrun with animals. Some have escaped from Zoos, while many are domesticated animals that have to learn the laws of the jungle to survive. There are two modes available for gameplay, Survival and Story.
The Story mode is just that, chapters of a story based around specific goals. What’s disappointing though is that the chapters have to be unlocked by spending a good amount of time in the Survival mode. Each chapter takes completing specific goals per animal in Survival, and for me makes the story mode relatively moot for the most part. For me, the Story Mode should be fully available so that you can get a bit involved “emotionally.” To take me away from the story so much makes me not care.
Survival mode though, is huge. You choose from 50 different animals, with a few having different breeds available. When you start, only two animals are available, requiring you to unlock the rest. One animal that you’ll unlock pretty early is a common house cat, but with in-game currency, you can purchase different breeds and any of those become usable as well. Some animals however, must be purchased via the PSN Store. None of that is available yet, so I’m not sure what the pricing will be. These animals include some of the more exotic like an alligator and a kangaroo.
There are two types of animal, and therefore two distinct gameplay styles, Herbivores and Carnivores. Herbivores fall into the Stealthy style, while the Carnivores are all about Hunting. The basic gameplay elements are present for both types, but how you play the game is pretty different between the two. There are patches of tall grass throughout the landscape, and when you’re being tracked, these patches are essential from attempting to lose whatever is preying on you.
Herbivores, like the small deer that you start with, primarily look for plants to eat, but can actually attack in certain situations, normally when an animal is asleep or not aware that you’re close. Unlike the carnivores though, you won’t be eating what you killed. You have to be methodical and stealthy when using an animal in this class, especially since most of the time, it’s pretty easy to get killed by anything with teeth and/or claws.
Carnivores are primarily hunters, and include a small pekinese that you’ll start with. In both classes, your primary goal in Survival Mode is to do just that, survive for as long as possible. You’ll do this by staying fed, completing specific challenges, and ranking-up enough to find a mate and start a new generation. Once the new generation is born, you’ll take control of the younger ones, usually being able to form a pack, and begin ranking them up as you dig deeper into the city. Along the way, you’ll encounter sections completely devoid of food, packs of bigger and more powerful species, areas controlled by a specific species, and the perils of toxicity that can kill you if you’re not careful.
I mentioned leveling-up before. There’s actually an RPG-ish system in here that requires you to eat so many calories, and to complete challenges. The cool thing is that you’re not leveling one character up like in a traditional RPG, but instead you do so per generation. Some of the traits from the preceding generation do carry-over though. It’s a pretty simplified system, but it works really well.
One thing that you’ll learn quickly is that this is a huge game in terms of how much time that you can invest. The only time that you’ll be able to save your progress is when you’ve found a mate and a nest becomes available. Not only that, but each time that you start a new game, the placement of other animals throughout the game is random. The map itself stays the same, but it’s huge, and takes hours to get through it all. Even still, the map opens in sections, and the game itself is free-roaming at its core. It definitely gives you the feel that the city has just been overtaken by these wild animals, especially when you turn a corner and a lion is laying right in front you. As a beagle, no matter how leveled-up that you are, you would probably want to find cover quick.
The game looks great, with a huge environment available, and a good amount of depth when you start finding rooftops and sewers. Animals are animated well, and the use of color plays a key role in knowing when an animal or pool of water is contaminated or not. When the toxicity levels begins to rise, you’ll need to either use an item that you’ve attained such as bottled water or a raincoat, or to find a clean source of water or something to eat that’s still clean. If an animal or plant is contaminated, it’ll look dirty. If the water source is bad, it’ll have a purple hue. Find something “clean”, and it can lower your toxicity level. Trust me, pay attention to this as it gets pretty hairy in spots.
The camera is primarily static, sometimes changing its height in certain areas. When a building would be in your view, it becomes transparent quickly. So, you don’t have to fight with the camera like in many other games.
The audio in Tokyo Jungle is music-free, but the atmosphere is extremely well-done. Thunderstorms surround your room, and the animals sound pretty authentic. Well mostly. When you mate, no matter what animal your are, the crescendo is always the sound of a howling dog, yeah, even when you’re a cat. It’s a small thing, and actually makes me laugh every time, so I let it slide.
The servers for any of the online features are not available yet, so I can’t speak to any of these features. I’m pretty sure there are leaderboards of some type, and there is a multiplayer option in Survival Mode, but beyond that, I know nothing.
This is a game that I was very excited to get my hands on, I think partly because of the fevered excitement that many PlayStation sites had for it. I’m impressed with what’s being done in this game, as they’ve definitely portrayed a city overrun by wild animals. Through pickups throughout the game, such as SD cards and Newspapers, you get to see what possibly happened to all of the people. Of course, there’s the question of how an animal can see what’s on an SD Card, or for that matter how it can read a newspaper….
Tokyo Jungle is very unique, and it works for the most part. My biggest complaint is the fact that I have to unlock chapters in the story mode instead of just being able to go through it. You won’t finish this game in any time soon, and for those completionists out there, you’ll have more than enough to keep your curiosity satisfied. The game is compelling, and is different with every Session. It can be funny and brutal at the same time, and at times, can definitely affect the emotions of the player. I mean, who wants their beagle to get mauled by a tiger? Poor puppy…