The Average Gamer

Tokyo Jungle Review (PSN)

Studio Japan’s crazy idea team comes up with a surprisingly addictive experience in one of the more crazy ideas you’ll see this year.

The beauty of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution lies in its simplicity. His world-changing concept managed to concisely explain how every single animal on this planet came to be. All creatures, great and small, evolved from a single entity, and by adapting to their environment through natural selection, produce offspring that has the best chance of survival in any given landscape.

What developer Crispy’s has done is take Darwinian Theory and go balls-out insane with it. Tokyo Jungle asks and answers the questions you asked friends in school: “Who would win in a fight: a crocodile or a panda? A tiger or a dinosaur?”

The basic premise of Tokyo Jungle is simple – the human race is suddenly extinct. We don’t know why. That mystery will start to unravel as you play the game. You choose one of the dozens of animals in the game and try to survive for as long as possible in Japan’s capital city. The lower down the food chain you are, the tougher it is.

You have to find food through hunting or foraging for plants, complete objectives and find a suitable mate. Don’t take too long to get busy; an ever-present timer in the upper-right corner counts the years you’ve survived, and your life expectancy is only around the 15-year mark. Once you give birth, you will take control of the next generation and continue your progress. Completing objectives earns survival points to spend on unlocking new animals. It also unlocks new costumes to dress up your survivor, which provide handy stat boosts.

There are two main game modes, Survival and Chapter (i.e. story). Playing Survival Mode unlocks new chapters to play through in story, and here is Tokyo Jungle’s first problem. Survival Mode is tough as nails, and leaves it up to you to work out how to play the game. Chapter Mode does a much better job of breaking down the basics, so it would have made sense to have Chapter Mode unlocked from the get-go.

There’s an introductory tutorial, but it doesn’t explain the more advanced tricks, like how to explore the map, or how to effectively use your pack. By the time you’ve unlocked the third chapter, you’ll be familiar with how post-apocalyptic Tokyo works, so chapters aren’t nearly as challenging as they should be.

Survival Mode is the main focus of Tokyo Jungle, and it’s a pretty unforgiving place. As well as dealing with the other animals across Tokyo, the environment is equally dangerous. Whether it’s blistering heat, smog or acid rain, it’s clear we left the world in a pretty poor state. This not only constantly affects you by increasing your level of toxicity, but also your food.

As a herbivore, certain areas will become useless to you as the plant life will be toxic, and carnivores must eat their prey quickly to avoid the meat rotting. Once your toxicity reaches 100% (and it will) your life will rapidly start to decrease. Taking advantage of the items you find littered throughout the city is essential, as there will be times where you’ll go years in the game without finding a single animal or drop of water.

Tokyo Jungle is as much a game of numbers as it is exploration. You must manage your health, stamina, toxicity and hunger bars constantly. Have you overfed just to complete an objective, leaving a place barren? You better find somewhere else quickly or you’ll be dead by year’s end.

No matter which animal you are, there will be times where you will need to run and hide. Learning when to pick your battles is key. Hiding in bushes and lunging at your prey for the all-important “Clean Kill” rather than getting into a brawl with a pack is the preferred option, as you’ll often be outnumbered. The more you play, the quicker you pick up little tricks. As a deer I managed to flee from a pack of hyenas and lead them into a fight with a lion, allowing me to sneak away entirely.

That’s one of the best things about Tokyo Jungle, the world feels alive. When you explore the city animals will be engaging with one another. As a pack of beagles, I was fleeing from an angry hippo I bit on the arse, mistakenly thinking it was a boar and ended up running into a fight between tigers and crocodiles. It’s David Attenborough’s wettest dream, and this can happen at any point.

The gameplay can begin to feel repetitive as you are, ultimately, doing the same handful of things no matter which animal you choose. But the gameplay is so addictive that you don’t care. What keeps you going is the fact you’re always fighting a losing battle, the constant struggle between your stomach, the environment, the clock and the other animals is almost impossible to balance.

There are certain things that hold this game back. The music is excruciating, coming from the very worst 90s dance halls. Plus, the game isn’t much of a looker, and at a whopping 4GB, I expected it to be prettier.

There are also a few puzzling design choices. As fictional a world as Tokyo Jungle is, the ability for certain animals to double jump, as opposed to jump greater distances, bugs me. Also, when animals mate the screen fades to black, and a dog howls, before showing your offspring and letting you carry on. The dog howling is fine when you’re a dog, but chicks don’t howl, nor do deer. Again, this is minor but irritating.

All-in-all, this is a surprisingly fun experience that offers a good level of depth. The map you get to run around in is huge, the objectives are fun, and you always feel active thanks to the in-game clock. The basic gameplay may feel repetitive, but it never gets boring thanks to the sheer volume of animals, collectibles and things to do in each playthrough. Tokyo Jungle definitely represents value-for-money.

Tokyo Jungle will be available from 26th September through the PSN store for £9.99.

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