VITA Tokyo Jungle

Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Christian

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Tokyo Jungle Mobile – Slumming It

 

I didn’t know what Play Station Mobile was before Tokyo Jungle Mobile came out, and to be honest, I still really don’t know what it is.  Apparently it’s a platform for Sony games on tablets and phones, of which a list of certified devices can be found here.  I guess it’s cool that Sony is getting into smaller games suitable for mobile devices, but this is a video game website, and although I’m aware there are some great games on mobile devices and tablets, I don’t care about them. I care about regular-assed video games on traditional home consoles and handheld platforms, which is where I played TJM.  Specifically, I played it on the Vita, and although I think the game is a good fit for the platform and a decent value, it’s existence as a $3 Play Station Mobile game proved more interesting to me than the gameplay did, though it did have its amusing quirks.

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Hiding in the tall grass to keep from getting eaten by hyenas.

People familiar with the original PSN release of Tokyo Jungle shouldn’t need any explanation as to what this game is about. It is the same basic setup: animals of all shapes and sizes are roaming the abandoned streets of Tokyo struggling to survive in a bizarre and at times comically nonsensical battle royale that can pit pomeranians against velociraptors.  The whole game played on an isometric grid which is well suited to the Vita’s excellent d-pad.  Visuals are simple and clearly communicate what’s going on, and the music is an endless electronic beat progression that switches up every 10 in-game years, and winds up being an oddly good fit for this game.

The goal of TJM is to survive on the mean streets of abandoned future Tokyo as your animal of choice for as many years as possible.  There is no narrative or progression, each game is self contained with a rogue-like quality to it, though there is some persistent leveling that comes from siring subsequent generations  and passing on stat bonuses to them.  There are dozens of different animals to choose from, but they all fall into one of two categories: grazers or predators.   Grazers want to avoid predators and eat plants, while predators tend to want to eat everything they can, hopefully sneaking up on their prey to score a clean kill.  Every few minutes you’ll get a goal like “eat 2 mushrooms” for grazers or “defeat 10 animals” for predators, and these goals help to give  some direction to what would otherwise be a pretty mindless game.

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The map and starting stats for a rabbit. I made it 39 years on this one.

Each year survived and goal completed awards you with points to spend on unlocking stronger animals, which tend to have a better chance of surviving the later years of the game.   Though it seems possible to make it pretty far with the weaker animals, the basic predator (pomeranian) and grazer (sika deer) aren’t very tough, and even after multiple genrations start having a rough time around 40 years into the game as more dangerous predators start showing up.  Unlocking all the animals and in-game achievements ensures there is a lot to do for completionists, though many animals are extremely similar so depending on your voracity for stealthily maneuvering cows past crocodiles in Yoyogi Park, you might get your fill after just a few plays of this game, which is more or less what happened to me.

In spite of my waning interest, it’s hard not to recommend TJM because at $3 the cost is as insignificant as a cup coffee.  At that price, you can and probably should play this game just to see the hilarious “Press X to Copulate” message when you approach a nest with a mate in tow.  A house cat scoring a one-shot clean kill on a golden retriever is just something that doesn’t happen in any other game aside from the original Tokyo Jungle, so if you think you might get a few chuckles out of something like that then do yourself a favor and download this game immediately.  The $3 price is not in and of itself a selling point, however, considering the insanity of the current Steam Summer Sale where you can get games like Dark Souls for $7.50, or even the PSN summer sale which recently had a ton of Atlus PSP RPGs on sale for about $3.50 each.

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The results of a pretty good run with the SIka Deer.

Game prices are so crazy these days that the real question for an aging population of core gamers with more money than time is how much time they can spare to enjoy their mountainous backlogs of unplayed games.  TJM finds for itself a decent niche in this environment by being unique and enjoyable while requiring a very small time commitment, a rarity in this day and age where beloved epic games of years past can be had for a similar price. On top of that, availability on the VIta means that TJM avoids the common pitfalls of mobile games like spotty performance on varying hardware and next to worthless on-screen controls.  If you’re in the mood for a change of pace from what is no doubt a regular diet of top shelf polished gaming experiences, slum it a little bit and take the weekend to romp around with the animals of TJM.

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