There are a great many reasons to fall in love with Tokyo Jungle, Crispy’s PSN game which presents a world in which humans have been wiped out and animals left to re-establish their own toothing/ clawing/ boning system of rule in Japan’s abandoned capital.
The unprecedented joy of opening a gift box to unlock two pairs of basketball pumps with which to dress your Beagle, for one. Or the fight/ flight thrill of stalking a hippopotamus through the tall grass, launching yourself savagely at its neck only to remember that you’re playing as a tiny feral cat, whose teeth couldn’t begin to puncture its leather-binding.
Or the gleeful pride of strutting through Shibuya as a flea-bitten Hyena in a turquoise bikini. Or the illicit wonder of making love in an abandoned JD Sports. Tokyo Jungle offers the chance to fulfill a bunch of wishes you’ve never consciously wished before, but now realise were always there, lurking in your first world subconscious mind.
Tokyo Jungle’s appeal isn’t limited to its scenario, although its scenario is likely all that you’ll want to talk about once its bitten. But this is also an interesting game at the structural design level. It’s play rhythm is far closer to the platform games of the 16-bit era than any contemporary comparison in that, when your chosen animal perishes you must start the game again from the beginning – no save states, no safety nets.
Tokyo Jungle is instead a game in which you see how far you can travel, and for how long you can survive before the final furry curtain (not a euphemism for JD Sports activities). In that sense it boasts an orthodox Game Over: any items you’ve accrued for your animal – the straw hats, leather jackets, tiaras and spatz – carry over to your new game, but otherwise you must begin from the beginning, hoping to make it that little bit farther into the game before the nature’s brutality gets the better of you.
It’s in stark contrast to the vast majority of other games released this autumn, which offer save states along the way to return to when you fail, helping you to inch your way forward through the story with giant stabilizers.
Recent fashion has seen a return of the score attack game, most clearly in Cave’s shoot ‘em ups and their ilk. In these games we expect death to be final, zeroing out the score for us to try again, the only take away that new twitch of muscle memory to aid the next attempt.
But it’s rare to find a game away from the shoot ‘em up or puzzler that tries the same. Tokyo Jungle’s rhythm is refreshing then, a return to an era when games focused on upgrading you, the player, rather than your on-screen character. Each streak across its scenes of urban decay (or should that be rural repair?) is injected with meaning and consequence. Death is permanent, a repercussion that makes life more valuable.