It's a dogs life. In fact it's a cats life too, and a deers, and just about any other animal you can think of. At least it is if you find yourself playing Sony Japan's latest release Tokyo Jungle. To say this game is bizarre would be the understatement of the year, perhaps even the century. Let's face it though, Sony Japan has always had a bit of flair for the unusual, and this game certainly falls under that category.
The story behind Toyko Jungle is that all Humans have become extinct, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. Dangerous creatures have escaped from the zoos and domestic pets have turned wild in a bit to survive this cut throat world of dog eats dog, chicken and elephant (or whatever else there is to eat).
In quite a clever twist, you start the game as either a hunter or a grazer. Hunters obviously patrol the streets, looking for food. This will see you hiding in grass waiting for your pray, before striking at the appropriate time. The grazers meanwhile, go about their business, looking for plants to eat and when trouble arises, use the grass for cover, until those looking for meat pass by.
It seems likely that most gamers will start off Tokyo Jungle as a hunter. So, beginning on the street of Shibuya, you'll take control of the only unlocked hunter, the Pomeranian - a small dog which looks like it belongs in Paris Hilton's handbag. The main aim to begin with is to find food, in a world which can only be described as a desolate, concrete jungle - a Tokyo Jungle if you will. As you take your small animal through the city you'll be looking to keep his hunger meter from depleting, which of course means eating. If you fail to keep your hunger at bay, then both this meter and your life gauge will drop, so there is no point being all moral about eating live animals; this is your life we are talking about here, so creep up on your prey, hit the right shoulder button and get munching.
To mix things up a little, you'll also have to mark your territory by finding the various flags around the level, and you'll also have to find a mate, so that you can breed. Generally you'll need to rank up by killing prey before your mate will be sufficiently impressed enough to roll around on the hay with you. Once you do manage to pull the hairy woman of your dreams though, she'll give birth to your children and you'll then take control of them, once again roaming the streets for food. It's all a bit like a violent version of the Lion King really.
There are some quite amusing aspects to Tokyo Jungle, for instance, some females can pass on fleas to you, forcing you to find somewhere to bathe. If there was any human in this video game it'd probably be one of the most controversial ever.
In addition to the main objectives, Tokyo Jungle provides you with a list of challenges, such as taking over certain areas, or killing a certain amount of wildlife. Mainly though it's all about surviving for as long as you can and using your high score to boast to friends that, if you were a dog in the deserted streets of Tokyo, you'd survive longer than them.
Tokyo Jungle is an addictive mix of violence, survival and humour. You'll enjoy roaming the streets of Japan, hunting down anything and everything. You'll also get a buzz of panic while trying to keep your hunger meter from falling as you discover there are no animals near your current area and the only animals which are around are capable of ripping you to bits. Eventually you will move on, unlocking bigger and better animals. At this point it'll be you the other animals fear, but until then it's all about survival, and Paris Hilton's handbag is nowhere in sight.
Sony is never scared to try something new and to be fair I've never seen anything quite like this game before. It's hard to see how Tokyo Jungle would sell at retail, but as a downloadable title it just may make a killing.
Words by Joe Anderson
Review Policy (Version tested: PS3/PSN)