It’s a miracle that Tokyo Jungle was even localized. The bizarre post-apocalyptic roguelike was developed by Crispy’s!, a studio whose previous credits include Japan-only fare like MyStylist and Earth Excavator. Luckily for us, Sony Computer Entertainment recognized the potential of the project and brought it westward for our perverse enjoyment.
The premise is simple: humanity is gone and animals rule the ruins of Japan. It’s up to you to survive in this harsh new environment, whether you play as a ferocious lion or a meek little rabbit. Half of the game’s charm is in its huge roster of playable critters, which you unlock through alternating rounds of Story and Survival mode. This feedback look is surprisingly effective. “One More Turn Syndrome” transforms the simple hunt-hide-breed routine into an addictive journey through the brutality of the animal kingdom. You can even unlock some truly outlandish creatures, such as a Deinonychus.
Primitive visuals and a simple control scheme belie the game’s surprising value to the PS3 library. Unforgiving roguelike experiences such as FTL: Faster Than Light and Rogue Legacy are relatively common in the PC space, but finding that kind of satisfaction is much more difficult on consoles. Dark Souls managed to scratch a similar itch and was hailed as one of this generation’s crowning achievements. Tokyo Jungle is Sony’s own private little slice of that niche market.
If nothing else, the game is worth it just for the stories you’ll be able to tell. Surprise pig attacks, desperate flights from irradiated deathtraps, and that triumphant kill mere seconds from the brink of starvation are the type of emergent gameplay moments that make scripted set-pieces seem quaint. Tokyo Jungle is a one-of-a-kind gem that exemplifies the second half of the PlayStation 3′s life cycle, which should be remembered as a turning point for indie experimentation in the console industry.
You can find more articles in our 25-in-25 series over here, and stayed tuned tomorrow for another look at a great PS3 title!