Things are looking bad for the Retriever. He's past his prime, starving, and his system is growing toxic from the lack of clean food and water. The overgrown cityscape is inhospitably warm. Most of the small creatures he kills rot in the oppressive heat before he can eat his fill.
His little Rabbit friend is faring better. Some of the fruits and grasses are still nutritious, but it's only a matter of time before pollution takes hold of Shibuya Woods and forces them into a new savage area of the wild Tokyo Jungle. The little grazer has even found a mate. She's been following him everywhere since meeting up in Shibuya Station.
The Retriever could try to claim the Yamanote Line by marking territory. This would provide a safe nest for the rabbits to go about doing what rabbits do best. Unfortunately, a large Tosa is roaming the north, and his pack is fierce and strong. An old, solitary house dog would have no chance against such numbers, even with the assistance of the small, but determined, Rabbit. He moves south to Dogenzaka, the long eared couple in tow, hopeful for better food, clean air, and maybe even a mate.
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You begin story mode as a Pomeranian and end it as... something else.
Another day passes in the quirky, fun, and insanely addictive Tokyo Jungle. This is easily one of my favorite titles of the year. It's not without its issues, and it's definitely not for everyone. But gamers who are captivated by the simple premise will find dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of gameplay. Humanity has disappeared and animals have returned to power. Play as over 50 different creatures, both as predators and grazers. Struggle to not only survive, but thrive in the new world.
Tokyo Jungle is a hard beast to define. It plays like a brawler, includes satisfying stealth elements, encourages exploration, and has a unique RPG-style stat system. The single player Story Mode is unlocked by playing the co-op supported Survival Mode. The story itself is nice but the missions lack animal variety. I think there's only one grazer class mission and the rest revolve around a power struggle between the Beagles, Tosas, Hyenas, and Lions. The last two missions are something special and are most definitely worth the time (and they reward you with some sweet overpowered animal unlocks).
Local co-op play is supported via a shared screen. Any unlocked animals can be paired with each other.
As they approach the shops of Dogenzaka the Retriever can sense a large number of animals. He crouches in the tall grass, concealing himself from view. A few plump pigs are grazing just beyond his striking distance. He creeps out of cover slowly. He charges. His hunger has made him desperate. His timing is off. The pigs are alerted to his presence and shake off his attack. He gives chase, but they are too fast. The rabbit and his mate scour the streets for food, avoiding the tall grasses that may conceal other predators.
The Retriever begins to quickly mark territory. He drinks from a small puddle which helps with his hunger and diminishes some of the poison in his system. The group stumbles upon a few sleeping chickens. This time the Retriever is patient. His prey is unaware. His timing is perfect. He strikes quickly, scoring a clean kill. He devours the chicken out in the open.
Big mistake. Two Jackals were lying in wait. The old dog senses their attack and springs away at the last possible second. Using his newfound energy, he rips the throat from the unbalanced Jackal. Before he can recover he's immediately set upon by the other beast. He's mauled horribly. The animals brutally snarl, rip, and tear at each other. The Retriever can feel his life fading.
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There is a wide variety of animals to unlock.
The real meat of Tokyo Jungle lies in Survival Mode. Here's where players will be challenged to claim territory, hunt, graze, and breed, all while trying not to starve to death, or be eaten themselves. Gameplay in Tokyo Jungle hinges on environmental factors. An animal's hunger meter is always dropping. Predators need to hunt and grazer's must continuously forage. When all of an area's food supplies have been exhausted they must move on. . Rain, pollution and other unique events can change the environment. The game does a great job of forcing players to stay on the move.
An animal can claim a new territory by marking several different areas. Once the territory is theirs potential mates will appear. If an animal mates with a prime companion, positive traits will be permanently passed onto future generations, effectively leveling up that animal. Player control will switch to the new animal. There will usually be more than one offspring. This will create a pack, making you a much more formidable creature. You'll control the leader of the pack and the other animals will follow you. Predator packs can attack en masse while grazers can cast off pack members to ensure a quick escape.
On top of the environmental factors there are several challenges embedded in the gameplay. Players will earn "Survival Points" by consuming a certain number of calories, mating, or reaching particular areas. These survival points can be used to unlock new animals and purchase stat boosting apparel. New animals only become available if certain requirements are met in Survival Mode.
A red haze clouds the Retriever's vision. There's not much life left in the old dog, but he continues to fight. From the grasses the Rabbit strikes. The Jackal is caught unaware. The Rabbit is no predator, but he's not defenseless. A well placed kick distracts the Jackal, which is the opening the Retriever needs. It's over. But the old dog's hunger can no longer be sated. He's dying.
He continues on with the Rabbit, marking the last of the Dogenzaka territory, claiming it for the unlikely trio. There's a nest to the east. The group travels there quickly, time is short. Suddenly, the Retriever senses something. A female. A possible mate. He runs through the broken streets with the little energy he has. She appears before him, looking haggard and old, desperate, like he is. There's still time. They struggle back to the nest. The Rabbit graciously steps aside. He's not too old, yet. There will be other nests.
Come morning there are three Retriever pups. Rookies to this new world. The young canine can sense that food has moved on. His sire will live out his final hours in Dogenzaka. The young Retriever will have to find a new area to call his home. He knows there's an old Tosa still roaming in the north. An impossibility for an old, solitary dog, but three young Retrievers, with enough skill and cunning, might be able to claim that land. The young pack heads north, followed by an aging Rabbit and his mate. Life goes on in Tokyo Jungle.
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You can also wear stat boosting outfits. Cute.
The co-op play in Tokyo Jungle is fun, but it's a lesser experience for the second player. In typical PlayStation 3 fashion, the second player piggybacks on the first player's profile. The shared screen focuses on Player One. Combat can be hectic in single player, and it's even more difficult to find your character in the tornado of biting and clawing when two full packs do battle. Both players can breed and level up their particular animals, but only one breeding pair can use a territory. You'll need to move on and claim another area for the second player to pass on their genes. Also, only Player One's unlockable animal will be available through the Survival Mode challenges. Both players can work to complete these challenges, but if both players are the same animal type, (grazers or predators) they'll be splitting calories. This will make it harder to rank up and find a good mate.
Tokyo Jungle is one of this year's most intriguing titles. The co-op could be better. This game would have benefited greatly from split screen play, and dare I say, and adversarial mode. At times some of the core concepts seem like they could have been fleshed out a little more. Still, it's a very entertaining and addictive game. There's a lot of content here for $15 PlayStation Network title ($12 for PS Plus members). The world itself, while teeming with life, could have used a little more size. Some players may not enjoy the repetitive grind, but I found the struggle for survival compelling. Besides, stealth killing a sleeping tiger with a pack of beagles is just plain fun.