Giant Bomb Review

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Tokyo Jungle Review

4
  • PS3N

For a game that sounds like the setup for a bad SyFy film, Tokyo Jungle is a well-designed, supremely funny video game well worth your time.

Animals have challenges in varying spots, ensuring you'll see the whole, surprisingly big map.

Tokyo Jungle is so much more than a “wacky game from Japan.” It would be easy to enjoy Tokyo Jungle ironically, but the reason I’ve sunk more than 15 hours into a dog-on-cat-on-dinosaur-on-hippo world where humanity no longer exists is because Tokyo Jungle also happens to be a good game.

Though traditional roguelike fans may bristle at the comparison, it’s the easiest shorthand to explain the game’s central gameplay loop, the survival mode. Players are dropped in, and do as the mode suggests: stay alive. Besides just living longer, there are various challenges to keep you motivated, from consuming a set amount of calories to taking over a location by marking various spots. These sessions last anywhere from 15-to-30 minutes, since the game will inevitably spawn a supremely powerful beast into the world, who will totally wreck you. Plus, since the challenges aren't that varied, I often found myself playing only as far as unlocking the next animal before purposely dying. You can, however, save instead of mating and come back if you're having a good run.

Unlocking the animals is the real hook here, since so many of ‘em play differently. An enormous list of animals greets you at the start, though most are locked away, requiring completion of animal-specific challenges. The animals are divided into two types--herbivore, carnivore--and require two different playstyles for success. Carnivores are stronger, combat-reliant animals, and you’ll need to become intimately familiar with the elegant counterattack system to survive. Herbivores want to avoid combat all costs, and must use their double jump ability to reach out-of-place environmental structures to slink around. The differing styles helps keep the gameplay fresh, a feeling compounded by random events that trigger each time you play. Sometimes a location will become poisoned, sometimes food will disappear, sometimes rain will obscure your vision, and sometimes all of those will happen at once, and turn a great run into an utter disaster. You’re balancing these random elements against other competing factors, including the 15-year lifespan of your animal, which forces you to mate and produce offspring, and having to constantly eat to avoid starving.

Can't blame these felines for wanting to protect themselves.

One advantage you do have is loot. Yeah, loot. Boxes will randomly appear in the world with items helpful for the moment (flea shampoo to remove fleas, which slow you down, or pet medicine to restore your life), and gear to boost various stats (my favorite is the hip-hop shirt that improves attack) or provide unique benefits (a headlamp to see further in the dark). The name, look, and description of items are hysterical, but the big problem is that loot doesn’t show up nearly enough. I’d sometimes go two or three runs without a new piece of gear, and there’s a ton of gear in this game, according to the in-game store. And since most of my time in Tokyo Jungle was simply spent playing just long enough to unlock the next animal, the gear didn’t really provide much of an advantage. Players looking to survive for 50 or 75 years, a requirement for some of the harder trophies, will probably get much more out of it.

There is also a story mode in Tokyo Jungle, and it’s where the game gets even weirder, if you can believe it. Collecting three story drops in the survival mode will unlock diary entries that help explain what happened to mankind. The story mode begins as a series of short tales about the various animal factions interacting with one another, while eventually coughing up a direct explanation for Tokyo Jungle’s whole premise. By the end of the story, you will have a pretty cool, totally insane narrative justification for why there are dinosaurs running around Shinjuku. That Tokyo Jungle even has an explanation for itself is impressive enough, and for it to make enough sense to go “oh, yeah, sure” is even better. It’s too bad the rad creatures that unlock as a consequence of finishing the story are so damn expensive, and there’s no way to earn enough points to unlock them without seriously grinding.

I also take issue with the game locking some of its animals, like the sabertooth and alligator, as downloadable content on PlayStation Network. It’s one thing if Sony wants players to purchase crazy, one-off creatures as additional purchases, but part of the Tokyo Jungle addiction is coming across something crazy on a run, and knowing you’ll eventually be able to patrol the streets as that bad ass. Granted, Tokyo Jungle was a retail product in Japan and it’s just $15 over here as a download, but it’s still poor form, and there are better ways of teasing the player to pay a little more. That said, there are plenty of animals for you to unlock, and 15 hours later, I still don't have access to the dinosaurs.

A touching moment in the story mode, a bond across clans.

There are so many other little details that make Tokyo Jungle such a humorous, surprising delight, too. When a set of animals are about to mate, the game fades to black...and the controller rumbles. When you play as a baby chick, there’s no way to mate, because you need to fall asleep...and wake up as a chicken. When the Tosa clan has been battered, beaten, and removed from their home, only to be saved by a compassionate bear who...talks to you. Talks! When you’re presented with a stark morality choice at the end that, no matter what you choose, ends the game on a supremely dark note, you can't help but applaud the game's sheer audacity.

Tokyo Jungle is bold, well-designed, and very funny. One can’t imagine Tokyo Jungle coming from anywhere but Japan, and it’s a case where such a statement is an enormous compliment.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
84 Comments
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Posted by Jolt92

Great review. I probably need to get this actually.

Posted by mrcraggle

I saw this at Eurogamer and was completely taken a back by it. I saw these little poms fighting away and was hooked by its weird premise. I ended up buying the game yesterday and this game is no joke, especially if you go after the challenges. I'm currently playing as a Beagle and the game is just trying to fuck with me. I'm on B challenges and I need to mark 8 places (A level requires 10) but the marking seems really strange as it doesn't stack and trying to mark more and more places each time is a huge challenge especially now as I'm getting spawn in entire packs of lions, elephants and alligators. The problem I ran into was just trying to get places and my entire pack was wiped out buy a lab :/

The random elements are what keeps getting me. I was having a very good early run with the Beagle and had a set list of easily accomplishable tasks which didn't involve marking 20 places or travelling too far out but I was holding out on my first life for quite some time so I thought I should go back to the starting area, find a prime and mate. So getting to the mating area, there were 2 cows and my dog was rather hungry so I attacked the cow, it barely had any health left after I got some good attacks in, it hit me twice in quick succession and game over.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

For how ridiculously overpowered the Story unlocks are I don't think the price is unreasonable; the only animals that are "better" are the absolute top of the food chain and it takes a while to get there as well.

Posted by s10129107
...since so many of ‘em...
Posted by MithrilMojo

Had my first run in with a golden retriever. My Pom pack never stood a chance.

Posted by RedRocketWestie

Maybe the loot drops get more abundant in the later generations/after more challenges are finished? I'm thinking I'll pick this one up, so I can see for myself, but it seems like "I only played until the next animal unlocked" and "I didn't find much loot" could be related.

Posted by BlackSymbiote

Just finished a run with a beagle. 81 years and 8 generations. Got quite a lot of loot which I haven't seen much of previously. I really didn't have much of a chance once the gators, lions, bears, and raptors started living everywhere. Although I did one shot "Clean Kill" a cheetah with my beagle.

Posted by MOAB

don't underestimate the kangaroos...

Posted by ProfessorEss

I couldn't help but assume this game was going to be another gimmick wrapped in bizarreness. Very cool that it turned out to be so much more.

I really wanna try it but I'm having a hard time convincing myself to update my PS3 and go out to buy a PSN card to do so.

...all the talk of beagles is really wearing me down though.

Posted by Curufinwe

I decided to save my money after reading the 5/10 Gamespot review and nothing in this review changed my mind. I'm glad a lot of people seem to be enjoying it though.

Posted by mrangryface

Solid review- good job balancing your enthusiasm for the concept with the identification of the game's shortcomings.

Posted by Aleryn

Wow. Surprised it was reviewed this fast considering it's a smaller game. Awesome.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

It's all about the follow through

Posted by fluxbit
@Rabid619

This game is such a surprising experience to me. After seeing the quick look I told myself I needed to buy it because of how damn weird it was, but after playing it I realized that I was sticking around because of how fun it is.

It may not look great, but it has an undeniable charm in every area. The unlocking of bigger, better, badder enemies that Patrick mentioned is also incredibly addicting, giving you a reason to want to go back again and again. I personally just unlocked my first Horse, and running around at the speed that he is capable of is exhilarating and incredibly rewarding because of the fact that I have been playing as such slow, weak animals up to this point. Now the animals that I feared I can just outrun... until I unlock the next animal, and then I will start the cycle all over again.

One of the most surprising things about Tokyo Jungle has to be the story, though. The last thing I expected was something so engaging, and it is more bizarre than you could ever imagine. At this point in the story, things are unfolding in very much the same way they would in an old school mob movie. Except instead of brooding, emotive men, you have silent, yet still incredibly emotive animals. All who don't speak a word... yet.

Tokyo Jungle is a game that I wouldn't have played without first seeing it on Giant Bomb, so I've gotta thank you guys and especially for that. Tokyo Jungle is a hell of a game, and one of those games that I think I will remember long after I'm done with it. Anyone who is on the fence about it, hop off and buy it, I highly doubt that you will regret it.

Plus if you keep sitting there someone might just push you off.

Well written; you should turn that into a review.
Posted by MrSlapHappy

I am glad to know that it gets even a deeper later on. I bought the game based on the TNT footage and after own two 40 (or so) minute sessions I already feel like I have gotten my money's worth and based on this review, it sounds like I have plenty more to look forward to.

Edited by beard_of_zeus

Other than the last couple chapters (which are super crazy), the story moment mentioned and pictured in the review with Chief Bear was probably my favorite part.

@mrangryface said:

Solid review- good job balancing your enthusiasm for the concept with the identification of the game's shortcomings.

After being obsessed with this game for the last week, my heart would want to give it 25 stars, but I agree with your assessment of Patrick's review. I think it's excellently written, and the same score I would give if I was being objective about it. There are definitely some camera issues, invisible walls while platforming are occasionally a pain, and it can be a bit grind-y.

But the game is so funny and well-designed, and the core gameplay loop of eating, fighting, mating, exploring is oh-so-satisfying (at least to me) that I'm still playing and trying to unlock the rest of the animals. It's just a breath of fresh air that's a lot of fun to play. Tokyo Jungle will definitely be on my top ten list at the end of the year.

Edited by Retnex

I would love to see a bad Syfy film based on this game. Just finished the story today, it would work.

Posted by redgonzo

more like a discovery channel special but yea

Posted by BBQBram

@Dogma said:

Patrick needs his cartoon avatar beside his score! it feel so emty without it.

First thing I noticed too.

Posted by DS23

Between this and the Musou exclusives I kind of want a PS3.

Posted by peritus

This review convinced me i should play story mode, so far i only did survival runs.

Thank you Patrick! Great review!

Posted by fargofallout

I hate to be dissenting here, and I'm not putting down anyone that's digging the game, but it sounds like the hooks are a crazy story/premise and grinding. That doesn't equate to fun for me, but hey, I'm glad other people are enjoying it.

Posted by daedelus

I feel like you have to grind too much to unlock stuff. And with so much grinding, the graphics started to wear on me. Unreal Tournament 2004 called, they want their graphics back.

Posted by Rabid619

@fluxbit: Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. I probably will once I've played some more, seems like I have barely scratched the surface of the game so far. Gotta get my hands on those dinos!

Posted by KamasamaK

@Dogma said:

Patrick needs his cartoon avatar beside his score! it feel so emty without it.

Here you go

Posted by RVonE

@daedelus said:

I feel like you have to grind too much to unlock stuff. And with so much grinding, the graphics started to wear on me. Unreal Tournament 2004 called, they want their graphics back.

UT2K4 still looks fantastic.

Posted by Cramsy

I'm going to get this now. Awesome review Patrick, I wouldn't have expected this after the quick look

Posted by VintAge68

Great review making me even more wanting to play the game ASAP!

Posted by ValiantGoat

Been really interested in this game since I started hearing about it, hopefully there will be a Steam release sometime since I don't own a PS3.

Posted by dropabombonit

Great review, been loving it myself. Sold a copy to my mate by playing it co-op at the weekend

Posted by KamasamaK

@cthomer5000:Thanks for the link! I couldn't find it through the forum search function, and actually spent time cropping and resizing the big hot dog pictures instead for my userscript but these are much more appropriate.

Posted by Mezmero

Very cool review Tricky. I bought this game on launch after seeing it on the quick look and TNT. I can only play it in fits and starts because as goofy as it is it's hard to get a real sense of progression when you don't manage to finish an animal unlock mission. I think 4 stars is a bit generous for a retail game but for $15 it's an appropriate score. I think I got sick of the music the first time I played the game so that's a knock against it. Seems like a game that you need a custom soundtrack for. Some Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion might be more appropriate than the bland electronica track that you get stuck with.

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Posted by Supercancer

It's games like these that make me wish I had the money to buy a PS3. At least I have me some Earth Defense Force!

Posted by djhicks1

This game sounds great.