Tokyo Jungle is a survival action game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, Japan. If that doesn’t sound too enticing, here’s the twist: you play as various animals ranging from adorable chicks to fearsome lions, roaming the streets of Tokyo. What was once a bustling city packed with people is now replaced by the animal kingdom.
The human race has mysteriously vanished from the face of Tokyo and your goal as the player is to survive as long as you can while finding out what exactly happened. You do this by discovering clues in various collectables, such as old newspaper scraps, piecing the story together as you play.
Almost everything in the game is out to get you as you try to complete your task. Tokyo’s department stores are now surrounded by packs of wolves, while prides of lions hang out by the abandoned train station. There are over 50 animals to choose from, ranging from household pets in cats and dogs to majestic animals such as tigers and lions. The gameplay can change a fair bit depending on which animal you pick. For example, a lion might need to hunt more than others while the Sika deer’s main focus would be to hide from various predators.
You can even play as a dinosaur later in the game. Yes, that doesn’t make any sense but Tokyo was weird before, and apparently will continue being weird once the human race goes extinct, so we’ll just leave it at that.
Upon starting the game, the first thing that really stood out on the menu screen was the locked Story Mode, and the only playable feature being Survival Mode.
This demonstrated to me that Tokyo Jungle is indeed a survival game to the core. In Survival Mode, you start out in a short tutorial showing you the basic ropes of the game, such as how to hide from tougher foes, sneaking up on your prey and all that good stuff. The controls, too, are pretty straightforward and only require you to use the directionals and three buttons. At this point, I thought everything seemed rather simple and the game would be a cakewalk.
Within the next few minutes, the game proved me wrong in so many ways.
The first thing you’ll notice are the three bars on top of the screen, which includes: Life, hunger and stamina. The life bar and stamina can replenish on their own while you’re away from danger, but the only way to fill up the hunger bar is by eating or using items, so you’ll always find yourself on the move as you explore the concrete jungle. Starting as a Pomeranian in the middle of the Tokyo streets, you find yourself facing some rabbits just asking to be food for the lapdog. If you perform the sneak attack as shown in the tutorials, you’ll get yourself an easy first meal. If not, that meal will take you for a ride all across the area as it runs for its life.
Once you get the hang of hunting, you’ll want to venture further beyond to find what else is out there. The further you go, the more dangers you’ll find along the way. When I first met a Beagle, for some odd reason, I thought they’d go easy on me, being from the same dog family and everything. Unfortunately, when I walked by it, foolishly expecting some sort of nod of acknowledgement, the Beagle didn’t hesitate to maul my poor Pomeranian, tear him to shreds and proceed to eat him down to the bones.
As I came to terms with my first death as a literal dog-eat-dog moment, I realized that there isn’t a middle ground in Tokyo Jungle. It’s eat or be eaten.
Additionally, there are random event challenges that appear as you advance through the game, many which require you to take on specific tasks such as killing bosses, eating a certain amount of calories, taking over areas and much more. After completing the challenge, you’re rewarded with points, which can then be used to unlock other animals and more. The score is also added up to appear in an online leaderboard.
(Note: screenshot from Japanese version)
Although most animals are either out to get you or are running from you, there’s a chance you can find a significant other for your animal to mate with in different areas of the game, too. When you find one, you’re required to completely clear the area out to make it safe for procreating in. When all the fun is done, your animal will retire and you continue the game as their offspring. An animal’s life span is about 15 years long, which can go by pretty quickly if you don’t find the proper mate.
Aside from finding your animal a suitable partner before it’s too late, there are other factors that can make things difficult for your animal such as the toxic rain found in certain areas. When you find yourself in a toxic zone, a number % appears on the screen, and once it hits 100% toxicity level, it will start taking life points away from your health bar until you leave the polluted area.
Several key items found in Tokyo Jungle’s Survival Mode will unlock Story Mode missions, which feature various animals as the main characters. One of these is a story revolving around the Pomeranian looking for its former owners as it searches the empty streets of Tokyo. Once they’re all collected and everything is said and done, together, they will form the complete puzzle and reveal what exactly happened to mankind in the city of Tokyo.
Food for thought:
1. While Tokyo Jungle isn’t exactly high-end PS3 graphics material, or anywhere near that, it doesn’t take away anything from this truly bizarre yet unique gaming experience. The soundtrack may seem non-existant for the most part but it really compliments the survival aspect of the game, where you’re playing in a world that no longer has any kind of remaining human civilization.
2. Getting through the game will definitely require a lot of trial and error to figure things out, but the rewarding feeling you get from completing the challenges and puzzles is something you don’t have in many games today. Tokyo Jungle is definitely a very strange yet wonderful game.