It’s rare that the future ever looks hopeful through the lens of a video game. Call of Duty tells us that America’s wet dream of a Russian invasion is coming and that they’re plotting to plunge the world into war; Fallout has been painting a bleak picture of a nuclear holocaust since the early 90s, and Binary Domain showed us that a future of robots isn’t as ideal as it actually sounds. However all these titles have one thing in common, each disaster has come at the hands of humans – we’re going to be our own undoing. What happens when the world does end and all that’s left are the beasts found in zoos and pets left in homes? Tokyo Jungle gives you an insight into what survival of the fittest really means.
Taking place in a Tokyo where nature has run wild and the busy intersections of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ch?? lie empty – bar some vegetation and wondering animals - Tokyo Jungle takes the post-apocalyptic survival seen in Fallout, Deadlight and I Am Alive and spins it on it’s head. Now you’ll step into the shoes of wild animals and set about surviving in this bleak wasteland; the whole time exploring the districts of Tokyo and slowly unravelling what happened to the human population through remnants of the past.
Being dropped into the world as an animal could be daunting, and it is to a degree, but thanks to each species playing out in the same core fashion of managing your hunger levels, finding a mate to keep your genetic strain alive, and avoiding predators, the Survival mode really plays out much the same for each species – with only how you approach each situation changing. Starting off with only one of two creatures, you’ll progress and best challenges placed before you to unlock over fifty animals to play as – with a reasonable mix of herbivores and carnivores to mix up gameplay styles and approaches. With such a wide range of animas to play as, from pomeranians to hyenas or even saber-tooth tigers and dinosaurs, you’ll have plenty of chances to see what survival means through the eyes of another creature – and Sony are going to be offering more through DLC if you wanted to pick more up.
What really makes Tokyo Jungle stand out is it’s sense of exploration. Being given lose objectives to move onto a new area and seize it from its current occupants is vague enough, but couple this with having to set out on the journey and look for food to sustain you so you don’t starve and you’ve got a real tale of survival. You’ll start wondering if your alley cat can take down a hyena with ease or not, and then you’ll realise that you might not even make the journey due to your creeping age – therefore it’s time to claim a territory and find a mate.
With every new generation your abilities and skills transfer across, so each newborn will be stronger than before – meaning it’s very much in your interests to settle down and do the dirty. Interestingly, in this crazy post-apocalyptic animal world no cross breeding is permitted by the perimeters of the elusive Sony God that dictates the world, so it’s not quite the accurate simulation of animal survival you may hope it is – even if you hadn’t already realised that due to the presence of extinct animals like dinosaurs.
Alongside the Survival mode is a Story mode that places you in the shoes of a particular animal and tells you of their plight and requires you to take them through adventures in Tokyo. It’s a neat addition and breaks away as a separate chunk to the more arcade oriented Survival mode. However, not wishing to detract from the main element of Tokyo Jungle, you can only unlock new Story modes as you progress through the Survival section first. It may seem restrictive, but it means you keep plunging back into the life of a cat in the quiet streets of Tokyo – and that’s never a bad thing.
Visually it might not be the most impressive around, but it achieves so much and you’ll become hooked onto playing it over and over again. It had what I like to call the Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 effect on me, meaning that as soon as I died I just had to jump right back in and survive for longer, mark more territories and hunt more and more. Bringing in challenges for you to complete, that unlock as you progress or age, means you keep on going and seeing as you mature through hunting and eating calories you’ll always be on the prowl for prey or foliage to munch upon – although you’ll have to be careful you don’t eat some rotting meat and get poisoned.
Ultimately, Sony showed quite a risk by taking this incredibly Japanese title out of Japan and unleashing it onto the world. The fact that they’ve actually only brought it to PSN and not to Blu-Ray like they have in Japan shows that they aren’t confident it’ll do well at retail, but know it’ll cause a storm on PSN. You should be thankful that Sony have had the balls to bring it westward though as this is both the freshest and most enjoyable title to arrive on a console in what seems like a long time.
Audio/Visual – 3/5: It won’t blow you away with its looks but it’s enough to keep you immersed and the quiet of a deserted city really adds to the experience of exploring unknown areas.
Gameplay – 5/5: You’ll have tonnes of fun and thanks to incredibly simple controls you wont feel swamped in remembering what you need to do when you switch between species. Survival at its finest.
Value – 5/5: Being a reasonably priced £9.99/$14.99 you’ll find hours of gameplay and near infinite levels of replayability. It also features a co-op multiplayer if you want to survive with a friend.
Innovation – 4/5: It’s something that has definitely not been done before, but in the quest to make it an enjoyable experience it compromises on full simulatory survival.
Final Score: 4.5/5