Tokyo Jungle: Hidden Rogue-like

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This is obviously not a new release, as you can see right there in the screen shot, Sony’s Japan Studio released the game in 2012. I vaguely remember seeing the release when it was new, and to be frank, it wasn’t a game that interested me whatsoever. I still wouldn’t have given the game another thought had it not been part of last weekend’s Flash Sale on PSN. Some games I will try. Some games I will buy. Some games I will never try/buy. Some games are on sale for so cheap that I say “sure, why not?”  This has been the case with many games in the past, so why should the pattern change now?

What I wasn’t suspecting was a hidden rogue-like beneath the surface. The game was never advertised as such, and through many reviews I read in preparation for this article, I never once saw anyone point out this fact. Most of you are familiar with rogue-likes; if nothing else I have described them before. For posterity, I will describe the general mechanics again, and then point out why I think this game falls under the same category.

Roguelike is a sub-genre of role-playing video games, characterized by procedural level generation, tile-based graphics and permanent death, and typically based on a high fantasy narrative setting

Purists will argue that this game isn’t a true Roguelike, mainly because it doesn’t strictly adhere to the above definition. This is why other terms such as Roguelike-like or Rogue-lite have been derived, to describe games that are mechanically similar but lacking one or more features of traditional Roguelikes.

With computers and video game consoles capable of more advanced graphics and gameplay, numerous games have emerged that are loosely based on the classic roguelike design but diverge in one or more features. The term “roguelike-like” or “rogue-lite” has been used to distinguish these games that possess some, but not all, of the Berlin Interpretation features from those that exactly meet the Berlin roguelike definition.

By these definitions, Tokyo Jungle is a Rogue-lite or Roguelike-like, but I am simply going to refer to it as a Roguelike because I don’t feel like sounding so redundant. Why do I believe that Tokyo Jungle is a Roguelike game? Simple. Tokyo Jungle has a Roguelike approach. You start off with one type of animal that you can play, and as you gain kcal (calories consumed, functions as experience) you gain ranks. You can find and earn gear to equip to your animal. You will eventually find collectibles and complete quests that will unlock further animals to play with, although not during that initial playthrough. The game’s world isn’t procedurally generated, but its contents are. Death is permanent. So outside of this game’s non-traditional approach to its characters and the lack of procedural generation, it is most definitely a Roguelike.

There isn’t a whole lot of story to be had at first. The game gives you a short tutorial where you will play as a Pomeranian. Yes, these little rat dogs are the initial animal choice, and you’re stuck with ’em, like it or not.

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Fierce. After the tutorial you are set upon the world to live or die. The basic premise is that for whatever reason, humanity is gone, wiped from the earth like a emptied recycle bin. Animals are all that are left, and as the years went on, Tokyo has turned into a jungle. You are a Pomeranian, and you have to turn from toy dog into fierce hunter. This is accomplished by killing prey, taking in calories (kcal) and surviving through the years. Years are only a few minutes long, so time goes by fairly quickly. Eventually after eating and surviving a bit, you will be presented with challenges that give additional points (there is a scoreboard/leaderboard) and sometimes loot (or in the case of boss fights, more animals to play as in further playthroughs). As you hedge closer to old age though, some detriments start to show, such as lower heath/hunger/stamina totals, and/or a quicker drain on your stats. The only way to cure the old age status is to procreate, and that means you have to take on a mate.

This is accomplished by marking territory. Each subsection of the city has a certain number of flags which are marking points. When you have marked at each flag the whole of the territory becomes yours, and females will be attracted (this game obviously came out of the East, a more patriarchal society, as the option to play anything but male animals is mysteriously missing, despite a large portion of the animal kingdom relying on females to hunt). Pick one of the available females and “mount up”.

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Yeah, they went that far. Thankfully you don’t see anything outside of the mounting animation, and that wasn’t overly necessary either. Depending on the quality of your mate (which you can’t see before actually attracting them, and then it’s too late to change it up) you will take control of your new pup, along with others that will form your pack. Shitty females will procure a single additional pup (they also give you fleas), while more well-to-do females will give you more pups. Having the additional help when times get tough is nice, and if you happen to die while you have other pack members alive you will take control of one of the survivors.

From here, the goal is to simply survive as long as possible, along with trying to collect data discs and complete challenges. It’s pretty much rinse and repeat.

After collecting enough of the data, bits of the actual storyline will open up, and chronicle different events from animals lives and attempt to explain what happened to the humans. I haven’t played long enough to get very far into the story line, but it’s rather irrelevant to me. I have been enjoying this as a simple roguelike, and having been able to pick it up for only a buck made it well worth the money.

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Being able to unlock new animals gives the game replay-ability. Starting with a Pomeranian, I was able to get the gist of how the game works. Shortly thereafter I opened up the house Cat, which ended up being a lot easier to play and I was able to survive past year 30. I have since opened up a Beagle and Golden Retriever, the latter I have yet to try. The game has local co-op which isn’t favored that much these days, and surprisingly has no online component outside of the leaderboard. Points that you earn during a session are cumulative, so each time you start up a new game you have the option to buy the animals you unlocked during the previous session, along with “skins” (fur variations) on some of the animals (such as the house cat).

I played some co-op with my sister yesterday and despite the fact that you have to share the same screen and same resources, we managed to make it past year 40. There are parts of it that are more annoying when you are playing co-op, such as having to find separate mates, and then only being able to mate one at a time in a given territory, and then having to mark territory all over again to allow your co-op partner to mate with their partner. It is nice that they added in “pet medicine” so that you can rez your co-op partner, but once the medicine is gone, if anyone dies it’s all over. From there the remaining player can continue. In my case, she died and I continued for maybe 5 minutes before being attacked by a group of crocodiles. They bite pretty damn hard, and my Beagle couldn’t hang.

The game has its flaws but it has enough redeeming qualities that I believe it would have been worth its original asking price. It was more than worth it for $1. If you get a chance I’d give it a shot.

I’ll just leave this here:

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#tokyojungle #psn #roguelike #roguelite