Giant Bomb News

62 Comments

We Bless the Rains Down in Afrika

Import impressions of Sony's wildlife photography game for the PlayStation 3.

Ever since it was first revealed in an incredibly unrevealing trailer at E3 years back, I have found myself fascinated by Afrika. At first I was simply amused at the astounding lack of information there was to be had about the game--this was a title that got E3 screen time alongside the infamous Killzone trailer, yet even several trailers later, all we really knew about Afrika was:

A. It would probably take place in Africa.

B. Sony doesn't know how to spell Africa.

Is that a Palkia I see off in the distance?
After years of speculation and anticipation, we got the Japanese version of Afrika in the office late last week. The language barrier can make for some slow-going and a good deal of bewilderment, but I think I've gotten a handle of the game. As I had initially suspected, it's quite a bit like Pokémon Snap, but with more safari and less track. It's also very peculiar in some very Japanese ways, from its apparent obsession with real-world photography minutiae to some of its structural weirdness.

You play as a National Geographic/Mutual of Omaha kind of freelance wildlife photographer in Afrika. You'll get assignments at your base camp via email, starting off with simple requests for pictures of different animals, though you're soon trying to capture shots of animals in specific poses or situations. Once you've got one or more assignments, you can hop in your little red safari jeep, where your driver will take you to one of a handful of zones where you can find meandering herds of giraffes, zebras, hippos, gazelles, and so on. Since you're usually not actually in control of the jeep, you can snap some shots as you move, but you'll need to hop out and sneak around to get the best shots. The animals are very sensitive to your presence, so to get up close takes patience and strategic use of cover. Some animals will charge, and if you don't get away fast enough, you'll end up passed out in your tent and without any of that day's photos.

The pacing can be incredibly slow, but there's a certain satisfaction to hiding behind a bush and waiting for a hippo to yawn to get the shot you're after. Still, I feel like I only scratched the surface of the photography part of Afrika. You start off with a pretty basic, off-brand point-and-shoot, though you're soon rocking some of Sony's finest photography equipment, which is ridiculously customizable. Frankly, it seems like you'll need to have a decent amount of real-world photography knowledge to wrangle some of the stuff Afrika serves up. It should be telling--about both myself and the game--that with all the F-stop and focus options presented, the feature I was most enamored with was the ability to tilt your camera sideways using the SIXAXIS motion controls.

These hippos are hungry!
The maddening thing about Afrika, at least for someone who cannot read Japanese, is that I very often had no clue what I needed to do to get more assignments and progress through the game. Though, even once I tracked down a decent FAQ for the game, there was still a lot of clunk--I found myself hopelessly stuck at one point because I was using my camera, rather than the provided binoculars, to scope out a cheetah, which prevented the game from triggering the next event. Predictably, Afrika doesn't quite live up to the visual promise of its original trailer, though I found the models and the animations for the wildlife to be a high point nonetheless. There's an appealing crispness to the visuals that really reinforces the sensation that you're in the middle of a wildlife documentary, but it also makes the game look kind of flat. It's got some crazy frame rate issues as well, even though the environments are pretty sparse.

Considering how many times Sony has trotted out some vague trailer for Afrika at some US press event, I've been of the mindset that they have to release the game here. Having spent a few hours with this profoundly quirky game, I now have my doubts that they will, or that they should.

PS: As much as I like the adventurous orchestral score in Afrika, I'd be exponentially more likely to recommend it if this were in it:

  
62 Comments
  • 62 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Ryan

Ever since it was first revealed in an incredibly unrevealing trailer at E3 years back, I have found myself fascinated by Afrika. At first I was simply amused at the astounding lack of information there was to be had about the game--this was a title that got E3 screen time alongside the infamous Killzone trailer, yet even several trailers later, all we really knew about Afrika was:

A. It would probably take place in Africa.

B. Sony doesn't know how to spell Africa.

Is that a Palkia I see off in the distance?
After years of speculation and anticipation, we got the Japanese version of Afrika in the office late last week. The language barrier can make for some slow-going and a good deal of bewilderment, but I think I've gotten a handle of the game. As I had initially suspected, it's quite a bit like Pokémon Snap, but with more safari and less track. It's also very peculiar in some very Japanese ways, from its apparent obsession with real-world photography minutiae to some of its structural weirdness.

You play as a National Geographic/Mutual of Omaha kind of freelance wildlife photographer in Afrika. You'll get assignments at your base camp via email, starting off with simple requests for pictures of different animals, though you're soon trying to capture shots of animals in specific poses or situations. Once you've got one or more assignments, you can hop in your little red safari jeep, where your driver will take you to one of a handful of zones where you can find meandering herds of giraffes, zebras, hippos, gazelles, and so on. Since you're usually not actually in control of the jeep, you can snap some shots as you move, but you'll need to hop out and sneak around to get the best shots. The animals are very sensitive to your presence, so to get up close takes patience and strategic use of cover. Some animals will charge, and if you don't get away fast enough, you'll end up passed out in your tent and without any of that day's photos.

The pacing can be incredibly slow, but there's a certain satisfaction to hiding behind a bush and waiting for a hippo to yawn to get the shot you're after. Still, I feel like I only scratched the surface of the photography part of Afrika. You start off with a pretty basic, off-brand point-and-shoot, though you're soon rocking some of Sony's finest photography equipment, which is ridiculously customizable. Frankly, it seems like you'll need to have a decent amount of real-world photography knowledge to wrangle some of the stuff Afrika serves up. It should be telling--about both myself and the game--that with all the F-stop and focus options presented, the feature I was most enamored with was the ability to tilt your camera sideways using the SIXAXIS motion controls.

These hippos are hungry!
The maddening thing about Afrika, at least for someone who cannot read Japanese, is that I very often had no clue what I needed to do to get more assignments and progress through the game. Though, even once I tracked down a decent FAQ for the game, there was still a lot of clunk--I found myself hopelessly stuck at one point because I was using my camera, rather than the provided binoculars, to scope out a cheetah, which prevented the game from triggering the next event. Predictably, Afrika doesn't quite live up to the visual promise of its original trailer, though I found the models and the animations for the wildlife to be a high point nonetheless. There's an appealing crispness to the visuals that really reinforces the sensation that you're in the middle of a wildlife documentary, but it also makes the game look kind of flat. It's got some crazy frame rate issues as well, even though the environments are pretty sparse.

Considering how many times Sony has trotted out some vague trailer for Afrika at some US press event, I've been of the mindset that they have to release the game here. Having spent a few hours with this profoundly quirky game, I now have my doubts that they will, or that they should.

PS: As much as I like the adventurous orchestral score in Afrika, I'd be exponentially more likely to recommend it if this were in it:

  
Staff
Posted by DECA555

im borderline on this game

it looks amazing but i jus tdont know if i want a nice looking version of pokemon snap

Posted by ddensel

I want the Giant Bomb staff to do their own version of this song and put it up as a Video Thing!

IT WOULD BE THE BEST SONG EVER RECORDED!

Posted by Gunner612

"I want the Giant Bomb staff to do their own version of this song and put it up as Video Thing!"

i second that.

Posted by AquaGeneral

Don't really care about the game but Toto are awesome!

Posted by jakob187

Is there an assignment to take pictures of their poop?  If so, I'll skip it...unless the cave paintings left behind look like Jesus' face.  then it's a must buy for everyone.

Posted by Torb

Haha, looks like it could be fun, When you said it had some Japanese quirks I was hoping you would say something to the effect of a giant katamari appeared and rolled up a few animals on its way through, and you could photo that for extra points or something :D

Posted by Dude_What

I hope the "quality" of Sony cameras is accurately modeled.

Posted by imayellowfellow

TOTO

Posted by MrKlorox

The jerks should release it in the States just because we've seen the game in teaser form at various trade shows. Afrika not coming to America is like GTA4 shipping without fingerless gloves.

Posted by ChrisTilton

I sat next to Toto's on/off lead singer, Bobby Kimball's daughter on a plane several years back. She was fricken weird. She kept trying to get me hooked on some dietary cult she was a part of.

Posted by SDHero

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.

Posted by Materialize

I agree that GiantBomb needs to do a video thing to this song! That would be awesome.

Posted by ep_driver

Excellent video choice, hahaha. good work giant bomb.

Posted by TheGreatGuero

TOTO! Haha, I like that song. Just another one of the great songs featured in Vice City. Now that you've made it clear Afrika is more safari and less track, I'm kind of interested in it.

Posted by Oni

Man I love that song.

Posted by jangofett88

Dude_What said: "I hope the 'quality of Sony cameras is accurately modeled."

I bet the prices are accurately modeled.

Posted by KensterFox

Is it just me, or does the guy singing at 2:20 in the video look just like Ryan without his beard?

Naturally, Toto for the win. Oh, game looks kinda interesting, too.

Posted by TripSkyway

You can drive the Jeep yourself after you clear the first area of five which adds some freedom to explore and more enjoyable. The cameras also improve as you go on, the initial one is terrible, but the image sizes seem to stay pretty small which is a disappointment. From then on you have to find the animals requested yourself, though they do let you know which area they're likely to be in most of the time.

Posted by plumeria

I love the song but am at the same time having a really hard time not letting myself abstract by the looks of that drummer. What, and I repeat, what is up with that?

Posted by Hef

More safari, less track

Posted by Osiris

Hehe afrika, nice. Might worth checking out with the kids.. Otherwise not for me really other then the graphics.

Posted by Shimakaze

"B. Sony doesn't know how to spell Africa."
That's assuming they were intending to spell it in English spesifically. ;-) There are plenty of languages that spell it with a K. (and this is a Japanese game...)
Either way, neither is more or less correct then the other.

Posted by AndrewB

So when is the Africa music video going to be made? (This song played with scenes from the game in the background.)

Posted by IMD1

The game looks really sudo-realistic. I still don't think it will be a game with replayibility but it still is a nice tech demo for my ps3

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

That 2nd Image totally has a watermark on it, WTF Ryan? Rules man JEEZ!

Posted by ItalianHammerUS
plumeria   those were the days when the looks were much less  important  then you being a great musician that is why you kids have Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson...i feel for you
Posted by taco484

HAHA, I love the TOTO video.  I think about that song every time I hear anything about Afrika.

Online
Posted by rohanspear345

win

Posted by p0tet

"I want the Giant Bomb staff to do their own version of this song and put it up as a Video Thing!"

Do it! pleaase

Posted by breton

I like that song, and I'm wary that you may not actually be presenting it out of fanfare, but rather with the intention to mock it. I'm upset.

Posted by CarolynP

Wow, and to think that all these years I've been *missing* the rains down in Africa. I feel so foolish.

Posted by optic

Boy, that PS3 sure renders a nice Hippo.

Posted by Afroman269

Damn it Ryan! Now I have that song stuck in my head.

Posted by Irishjohn

They're playing instruments on a giant book.  I never noticed that before.  Also, 'Afrika' looks ridiculous, but I'm kind of disappointed.  I just wish it was crazy stupid bad and not just boring bad.

Posted by SuperJoe

Midway doesn't know how to spell "combat" either.

Posted by Dryker

This write up, I'm sure, is way more interesting than the game.

Posted by Driadon

"I want the Giant Bomb staff to do their own version of this song and put it up as a Video Thing!"
That or get the guys from Mega64 to do a parody on the game.

Posted by Player1
Posted by FoolInjection

Dude... Toto - Africa brings back a ton of memories of my Dad's old record collection.  He had a Toto album in there, used to love the track Africa.  'Tis catchy.  If they ever released this in the UK and US... that should totally be on the soundtrack.

Posted by Pibo47

This game looks like a turd....

Posted by EshLad

lovin toto

Posted by sloppyjoe

Afrika is being promoted so much in Japan right now, it's crazy.  Commercials and giant display isles full of Afrika boxes.  I was so confused.

Posted by HairyToeKnuckles

Cue all the ADHD kids blasting the game because they have to have shit blowing up on the screen to enjoy it.

Thanks for the Toto video. Brings back memories. Rosanna next!

Posted by Buscemi

It's spelled "Afrika" in Sweden... The only language to be serious about.

Posted by Destroyeron

Why is it spelled with a K anyways?

Posted by Aaron_G

Will Afrika finally come?

Posted by Joey2683

I love this song. I've really started enjoing 80's since I played Vice City back in the day. Toto, White Snake, Tears For Fears, all of them, awesome.

Posted by Krelle

Its called "AFRIKA" in swedish, Ryan. Every game doesn not need to have an english titel, right? Especially not when the game is made in japan..

Roll on Ignorant Americans, woo!
Posted by skrutop

More Toto, less photo!

And to all the Swedes out there, you're spelling it wrong!

  • 62 results
  • 1
  • 2