Tokyo Jungle was released in Japan last week and while I was tempted to import the retail version thanks to its amazing box art, I bought the downloadable version instead from the Japanese PSN as it was much more convenient. I've now put a few hours into the game so I thought I would share some of my initial thoughts and explain a wee bit about what is going on.
It's a weird and wonderful game where you initially control either the cover mascot - a Pomeranian dog - or a deer and make your way through the post-apocalyptic streets of Shibuya, trying to survive in the crumbling city.
Although there are three modes: Survival, Story and Multiplayer, most of my time over the last few days has been in Survival.
Here, you not only have to fend for yourself on the mean streets of Toyko - which are filled with dogs, cats, chickens, tigers, warthogs, rhinos and a large assortment of other wild animals - but you also have to keep an eye on your hunger meter, which is constantly draining.
Killing other animals and feasting on their remains keeps hunger at bay, although there are stretches of the wrecked city which are devoid of life, which creates panic as you desperately try and find something to eat. Of course, this only applies to carnivores - herbivores have to find plants to survive - not easy, as toxic clouds hang heavily over the land from time-to-time, poisoning you and the city's plant life.
No matter what animal you choose - there are 52, although 50 of them have to be unlocked - you can defend yourself with bites, kicks and swipes. There are plenty of peaceful enemies who will scamper away from you as you approach but it is possible to sneak up on them and take them down. Even if you find yourself chased by a vicious pack of wolves, you can hide in patches of long grass which pepper the city streets. These grassy areas are also useful for sneaking up on - or around -other animals.
The goal in Survival is to stay out of harm's way for as many years as possible but with so many creatures out to get you, death is inevitable. Thankfully, you can mate with a female member of your chosen species, which gives your bloodline a much better chance of survival. Die, and the next animal who loyally follows behind your character, takes over.
Finding a mate takes a bit of work, though. First you have to mark your territory which brings females into the area. But to impress them, you have to rank up to "boss" status before she'll have anything to do with you.
While you pad about the crumbling metropolis, you'll find a variety of objects and items to help you on your way. Medical supplies can be pilfered, while a mind-boggling assortment of clothes can be found and worn - each item giving your character stat boosts. Hats, jackets and shoes can be found but once you die, these items are gone forever.
You'll also find SD cards on your travels and snaffling these unlocks new chapters in the story mode. I've not put much time into the story but from what I've played, it's pretty simple stuff.
All the menus are in English, although the rest of the text is in Japanese. As a result, I'm still not sure how to unlock other animals but I'm sure I'll figure it out. That said, the gameplay is straightforward and the language barrier really doesn't pose much of a problem.
Tokyo Jungle has already thrown up some moments which made me laugh. Watching a pack of domestic cats attacking a bear was one highlight, as was the sight of a Godzilla-sized fish slumped against the side of a building in central Tokyo.
It's certainly not the best game I've played this year, although it is definitely the weirdest and I'm very much enjoying my time with it. With so much to unlock and the promise of dinosaurs prowling the streets in the future, I'll be putting plenty more time into Tokyo Jungle.
A Western release was confirmed at E3 last week, although no release date has been mentioned. Toyko Jungle costs 3900 yen from the PSN, while the retail version weighs in at around 4200 yen.