Video Game Review: Tokyo Jungle (2012)

‘Jungle’ is absurd, yet fun

Nevin P. Jones | Collegio Writer

I stalked my prey from the high grass. Just me and a pack of five fierce Pomeranians. With the six of us against one animal, I had no fear. I believed my pack would succeed no matter what the cost, but that was my first groan-inducing mistake. I jumped from the grass and watched in horror as I found myself attacking a full grown panther. I imagined my teeth must have felt like a raindrop to such a massive creature. Within seconds I was dead and the panther feasted on my fluffy Pomeranians’ remains. Moments like this are not rare in “Tokyo Jungle,” and that is what makes this game so unique.
“Tokyo Jungle” takes place in post-apocalyptic Tokyo and all humans have become extinct. It is a game built around the question, “What if all humans died out and their cute, cuddly animals were left to fend for themselves?” This concept plays out tongue-in-cheek: The creators know the whole premise is crazy, and they completely embrace that. The end product is a truly, one-of-a-kind game.

Tokyo Jungle (2012, Sony)

Tokyo Jungle (2012, Sony)

The game begins with a tutorial to give you an understanding of the basic controls, which are simple and break down into the following actions: bite, dodge, claw, sneak and eat. These controls are all the same regardless of the animals you play, but herbivores will play far differently than carnivores. Playing as an herbivore will have you eating plants and avoiding predators at all costs, while playing as a carnivore will have you strategically picking your fights by order of the food chain. Choose your fights wisely. Never believe the silly notion that six tiny dogs can take on a puppy-killing panther like I did. This will save you numerous moments of embarrassment spread throughout the game’s two modes.
The two available modes are story and survival, but they are tied together (which becomes a giant hassle). The only way to unlock the 14 story mode levels is to play through survival mode, which is a cheap tactic used to pad the short nature of the game’s story. You unlock pieces of story mode by finding collectible articles in survival mode. The only way to find the articles is to play survival mode as different animals that you unlock by completing challenges in another animal’s survival mode. The challenges consist of defeating some animal boss, achieving a certain calorie intake, mating or a slew of other options. These must be completed while trying to stave off death by hunger, poison rain or some other predator. This gives the game a breakneck pace that never lets up. Having to play survival mode is a confusing venture when you want to be able to enjoy how the story plays out and find out why humans became extinct. However, this is a minor gripe when the game is fun.
Every moment of this game is hilarious to watch and I have a feeling this might have been Sony’s intention from the start. The game is laughably ugly and looks like it could have been an early PS2 title. Playing this game while friends are watching will induce curious conversations and big laughs, especially when the game conforms to silly video game elements at times. Say you are a pig running away from a beagle, the way to escape such an encounter is hiding in a tiny patch of tall grass. Yes, my assailant might be a beagle with a keen nose, but this five-foot high patch of weeds will dupe the hell out of that dog. While this is hilarious to watch, it brings about a sense of inconsistency to the world they are trying to make. Other fun elements are equipping power-up items to your animals. The first time you deck out a kitten in flirty shades, loafers, a guard dog vest and a baseball cap, your life will be changed.
“Tokyo Jungle” is a hilarious, albeit flawed, romp in a crazy sandbox of ideas. It is truly intriguing and I have never played anything like it. For about 15 hours of fun, pay $14.99 on the PSN and fight for your life in the jungle.

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