|Dev: SCE Japan Studio|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Release: September 25, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Crude Humor, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Typically, when a game developed by Sony's exclusive Japan Studio comes Stateside, we expect it to be a little bit off the beaten path. Tokyo Jungle does so without going completely out in left field, and has many charms that are well worth the modest price. It does suffer from a technical standpoint, but the action is undeniably addictive, and there's plenty of replayability that will keep you going feral for Tokyo Jungle.
The story opens with a very brief montage of a Tokyo bereft of people and being reclaimed by encroaching florae. Humans have mysteriously vanished. After ten years of this, the animals (who were apparently spared this apocalypse) are fighting for control of the urban jungle. Pets have receded from domestication, zoo creatures have sprung loose, and even a few prehistoric creatures have made a return. It's an odd introduction that leaves you with some big questions, but no humans to answer them.
So you simply accept the premise and move into the tutorial, starting as a cute and cuddly Pomeranian dog. Learning the basics though, you quickly find a commonality with other post-apocalyptic scenarios—it's a dog eat dog world, literally. Being shown the ropes, you learn how to move stealthily between patches of tall grass to avoid detection from animals higher up on the food chain. From there you can perform sneak attacks for critical hits or even "Clean Kills" on weaker creatures. Swiping and dodging against similarly skilled animals round out the simple combat. Though there are many different species to unlock throughout the game, they are all categorized into two classes: predators and grazers. Predators—like dogs, hyenas, and lions—strip the bones off of killed creatures for sustenance, while grazers must forage for edible plant life to survive.
Everything seems a simple process in design, but you'll quickly discover that strategy is key to survival, and several factors increase the sense of urgency. The most important bar in the HUD is the hunger meter. It gradually decreases until you find food or water to replenish it. However, plants and animals do not respawn, so if you wipe a zone clean by feeding on every source you pass, your hunger gauge will dwindle. Once in a famished state, your health is the bar that begins depleting, until you feed again or die. Other random events, such as smog and acid rain, will increase the toxicity, and after breaching the hundred-point threshold, the contamination will decrease your health.
You must also watch the years as they pass (which is relatively quick in Tokyo Jungle). Animals don't live much beyond fifteen years, and if you have not found a mate and procreated, old age will claim you and end the game. Reproducing is no easy feat either. First you must mark your territory. The map is sectioned off into zones, and each zone has specifically located points that must be marked. Once all the locations have been checked, you have secured the territory and a mate will enter the perimeter. Your potential spouse could be fickle, however, and you may need to raise your standing by hunting and feeding before they will oblige to coitus. After finding the nesting spot and doing the deed, a group of offspring are born, and a new generation begins.
Turning over a new generation has many benefits. The offspring will inherit some statistical bonuses the parents acquired before copulating. Also, though you only control one animal of the new troupe, the others can attack creatures if you are playing a predator, or cause a diversion if playing a grazer. Also, should you die, you will take the spot of a remaining family member, which basically acts as an extra life. Finally, the stat improvements through changing generations are saved, so you will begin new games with superior animals.
You earn Survival Points for hunting, ranking up, taking territories, changing generations, and simply for surviving. Also, each species has challenges that award you points. These challenges act as a guide throughout the journey, such as killing a certain number of animals, claiming specific territories, and reaching new generations. There's even a special challenge that will unlock a new animal for purchase in the creation screen. You can then use your pooled Survival Points to permanently access these new beasts, and spend a little more for extra customizations. The only issue I had with the challenge system is that sometimes the next one on the list would not complete retroactively. Therefore if I marked all locations in a zone before the appropriate challenge was activated, I needed to move to a new (and more difficult) area to capture new territory spots. It forces you to plan ahead, which is fine, but when some challenges clear retroactively and others do not, it just seems like a technical error in the development.
Besides killing, feeding, and procreating, you'll also stumble upon clothing and accessories wrapped up in pretty little bowed boxes. Donning them may feel a bit like playing Nintendogs, but the duds in Tokyo Jungle increase your stats, making them silly looking but useful upgrades. If you keep a sharp eye on the map, you'll also notice archives scattered about. These collectibles reveal e-mail, letters, and other communications left behind by humans. Collecting them all may even reveal the cause of mankind's disappearance.