Sitting at the dog park, watching my 22-pound mutt roll around with all the other lovable little idiots, I occasionally wonder what would happen if my fellow humans and I suddenly disappeared. Would he ever escape this chain-link arena? Would he try to make it back home? When hunger gnawed at his belly, would he be the first to turn on his fellow canines?
Developer: Sony/PlayStation C.A.M.P.
Release date: Sept. 25
To be honest, I imagine he'd simply whine pathetically until he keeled over from exposure. But the Sony and PlayStation C.A.M.P. developers behind Tokyo Jungle, a downloadable PS3 title that seemingly came out of nowhere, have a different idea of what would go down.
I first wrote about Tokyo Jungle in July, when I had to double check that the trailer I saw wasn't a joke. It's set in Tokyo after some kind of apocalypse, when humans have disappeared and animals are running amok on the streets. It's a "new natural order," as the game reminds you frequently, and you'll have to do everything and anything you can to survive while taking control of an increasingly powerful parade of animals.
If starting out as a Pomeranian or a tiny deer lulls you into a false sense of security—like Tokyo Jungle's going to be some kind of gimmicky casual game—you'll to be in for a rude awakening. At least, that's what happened to me. I barely lasted five minutes on my first go, and it took hours for me to get the hang of it.
At its core, Tokyo Jungle is a simplistic but engaging brawler. The Pomeranian is quicker than some but weaker than most; the bear has monster defense and fantastic attack; and the cheetah can outrun most anything. Sneak up on unaware prey and you can launch a surprise "clean kill" attack, as long as that prey isn't too much bigger than you. Otherwise, you'll engage targets in a duel of swipes, dodging their lunge attacks and seeking openings to launch your own.
Tokyo Jungle is about survival, and the sheer number of factors waiting to kill you can feel oppressive at times. A hunger meter ticks incessantly toward your death, and for carnivores, killing and eating other animals is the only way to fill your belly. For pacifists, there are as many herbivores, which eat plants and avoid predators whenever possible (more challenging, but less fun). Either way, hunting for food will be a constant priority, although hunger isn't the only thing that's out to get you.
Age is a factor, and if you haven't found a mate after 15 years (about 15 minutes), your creature's hunger will become insatiable and it will die. Finding mates requires marking out territories, and finding a quality mate has to do with how much hunting you've done. A quality mate begets more offspring when you bed her down in a pile of hay, and more offspring means a larger pack for the next generation. Trust me, running around with five vicious, full-grown hyenas is even more awesome than it sounds. And if the pack leader dies, the game doesn't end, as your control transfers to another one.