The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Trailers for Tokyo Jungle have excited a niche audience of
gamers with their absurdity, showing Japan's capital city overrun by virtually
every species of animal imaginable. While the struggle to survive in this
hellish city-turned-zoo is more repetitive and boring than you might hope, the
PSN-exclusive title delivers enough quirky fun to keep you going.
Unlike virtually every other game on the market, Tokyo
Jungle's story mode is more of a side attraction than a destination. It offers
a few peripheral narratives for select animals, including a once-coddled
Pomeranian who must now fend for himself and a young deer in search of its
mother. These stories are unlocked in the narrative-free survival mode, which
makes up the vast majority of your playtime.
Survival mode contains some annoying eccentricities (for
instance, the game doesn't track your progress towards completing challenges
until they're activated, and the initial tier doesn't unlock until after the
first in-game year has passed), but once you figure out the poorly explained mechanics,
it offers a fun grind. You pick your animal, prioritize the randomly generated
challenges, and start working towards them with the larger goal of unlocking
the next playable species. These include everything from baby chicks to lions,
and (somehow) even dinosaurs. In a disappointing cash grab, a few of the cooler
species like pandas and crocodiles can only be purchased separately via the
PlayStation Store. Once I unlocked the next species, however, I found little
reason to continue playing. You can complete more objectives and spawn
additional generations of offspring for a higher score, but you've already
unlocked the best reward you're going to get.
Tokyo Jungle's biggest drawback is repetition. A handful of
environments are chained together in a linear order, and while it's technically
an open world, most areas are narrow avenues, making it feel as though you're
running through shallow dioramas. An actual open world (not to mention varied
starting locations) would have gone a long way towards staving off the
Gameplay also lacks variety. Goals, while randomly
generated, conform to a select few archetypes, and aside from the different
eating habits of carnivores and herbivores, your routine is the same regardless
of what animal you choose; search for food, prey on animals smaller than you,
hide from animals bigger than you, mark your territory, and find a mate. Just
make sure you pick a good one: Hooking up with a "prime" female results in
more, healthier offspring, whereas a "desperate" mate will only give you one or
two children and probably a bad case of fleas.
Don't let adorable Pomeranian puppies and baby chicks fool
you. Beneath the cutesy veneer are the dark realities of survival. Tokyo Jungle
is literally a dog-eat-dog world; I cringed when I had to strike down and eat a
golden retriever in order to prevent my beagle from starving to death. Combat
is bloody and favors the strong. The best that weaker animals, like a deer, can
do is sacrifice a littermate to increase their chances of escaping. Don't play
this game around children unless you're aiming to traumatize them.
Luckily, surviving is easier (and more fun) with a friend.
Tokyo Jungle's same screen co-op mode allows two players to team up and work
towards the same objectives together. Resources are scarcer if your animals
share the same food source, but you're still better off than going alone, and
having a co-op partner delays the inevitable onset of boredom.
I sank plenty of hours into Tokyo Jungle, and still want to
play more. I'm just not sure why, as the repetitious gameplay limits the amount
of fun I've had with it. Still, if you're looking for something off the beaten
path – or just want to see a bunch of animals doing it – Tokyo Jungle provides
a modest amount of entertainment.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.