If you own a PS3 and enjoy games that are just plain odd, do yourself a favour and drop £10 on a copy of Tokyo Jungle right now. While it may not be the deepest, best or most polished game in the world, it’s super-interesting, super-weird and super-fun.
If you own a PS3, it’s entirely possible that you’re already familiar with this strange little game, but in case you aren’t, here’s the pitch.
The bulk of your time will be spent in Survival mode. Here, you are cast in the role of one of the game’s many, many unlockable animals (beginning as either a Pomeranian dog or a deer) and tasked with surviving as long as possible. As soon as you’re thrown into the post-apocalyptic Tokyo streets, time starts passing, and you only have 15 years in which to secure your animal’s legacy. By hunting for food (other creatures if you’re a carnivore, plants if you’re a herbivore) to keep your hunger bar at bay, marking territory and finding a suitable mate, you’ll ensure your species’ survival into the future. By completing various objectives that appear at regular intervals, you’ll earn “Survival Points” which act as your score and as a form of currency with which you’ll unlock additional content as you play through the game.
As you play through Survival mode, you’ll come across scattered data items hinting at the game’s backstory — the reason the humans disappeared. Collect enough and you’ll unlock a “story mission” in which the game flow is much more directed. Progress through the story to learn the truth while playing Survival to unlock additional content.
To describe Tokyo Jungle in such simple terms is to do it an injustice, though. It’s a game about crazy emergent stories. Like that time your army of gazelles successfully took down a gigantic pig by unleashing a kick so devastating it practically launched said pig into orbit. Or the time your lone alley cat, near death by starvation, launched a kamikaze attack on a zebra and won. Or the time your dog bit a cow on the arse and was then trampled to death.
Things only get more bizarre and surreal when you start finding various items of equipment for your animals. Your stories start to become like the rantings of a madman. Remember that time that the beagle in a poker visor and green wellies chased a rabbit back and forth across Shibuya Station for five years before getting eaten by a crocodile? Remember that time the army of hippopotami in bikinis successfully fended off an attack from an army of chickens? What about that time your pig in a straw hat snuck through the bushes while the cats were fighting the chimpanzees and joyfully eviscerated all of them?
In many ways, Tokyo Jungle is a bit like a roguelike. While its levels aren’t randomly generated, there is a degree of randomisation to the objectives you’re expected to complete, and starting a new game with a new kind of animal tends to put an interesting twist on how your dynasty will unfold. The relentless pursuit of longer and longer survival periods and high scores — that’s what the game is all about. Simple. Effective. Addictive. And batshit crazy. It’s hard not to love it.