Humans are extinct, domestic animals are feral, and the exotic species once held in the zoo now roam the deserted streets of Tokyo. You, an animal yourself, need to do everything you can survive. You must eat to stay alive, further your bloodline, and get by through either fight or flight in this downright bizarre PSN game.
You can either choose either a Pomeranian or a sika deer to start the game. The Pomeranian, while cute, is a carnivore and as such needs to hunt to survive. The Sika Deer, being a herbivore, needs to eat plants sprouting through the floor of the concrete jungle while avoiding the attention of hungry predators. The two play styles are very different experiences, and after a few runs you’ll find which is your favorite.
Carnivores have to spend time killing their prey to survive, making your time playing them more action-oriented. Herbivores spend more time hiding in the tall grass and sneaking. Generally it’s best to avoid conflict when playing as most herbivores as you are weaker than the predators trying to make you their next meal. As you complete certain challenges through your travels — the goals each animal must complete to obtain stat points and items — you will unlock more animals to play as. The lower tier animals are generally smaller or weaker, while animals you have to put a great deal into getting are larger, cooler, and more unique in play style. There is certainly a difference between playing a Pomeranian and a cheetah.
Wandering through the streets you see other animals going through the same struggles you are. A pack of hyenas chasing down a cat, a chimpanzee trying to defend itself from a lion cub, or a pack of feral Beagles duking it out with a pack of feral Labrador Retrievers. It brings the game to life and really amplifies that you aren’t the only one doing your best to survive.
The thing Tokyo Jungle is best at is really good at giving you a sense of urgency. You constantly need to seek out sources of food, otherwise you’ll starve to death. You need to mate before you reach 15 years of age if you don’t want to die of old age. You have to avoid pollution to keep your toxicity level low or you will die. All of this piled on top of trying to complete the game’s challenges and avoiding being killed keeps you on your toes playthrough after playthrough.
An actual game session isn’t that long. You’re given a short tutorial the first time you play, then you’re onto Survival Mode. Story Mode’s chapters need to be unlocked through Survival Mode and are not anywhere near the bulk of the game
Survival Mode gauges your progression in years. You spend most of your time trying to complete the aforementioned challenges, which usually task you with things as simple as marking your territory four times or going through a generation change through mating, but sometimes require you reach specified locations or animals. Each challenge rewards you with either stats for your current run, new animal unlocks, or cosmetic items for you to get eaten in. Your time in Survival Mode ends when you die, and then you rinse and repeat.
Tokyo Jungle does flow well. The challenges and the general struggle for survival keep you moving, and its wealth of unlocks and online leaderboards can keep you coming back for more.
PSN games aren’t known for being the most complex, but Tokyo Jungle packs a lot of punch for its dirt-cheap price of $15. It’s by no means perfect — the game doesn’t really explain things very well, the music isn’t great, and going through the same locations time and time again can get old — but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a ton of fun to run around as a hungry Pomeranian just trying to find his next meal and make babies.