Tokyo Jungle is one of the hidden gems of PlayStation Plus

Some games have such a good concept that execution doesn’t matter. Tokyo jungle is about animals – exotic zoo animals, pets, farm animals, and forest wildlife – struggling for survival and dominance in an overgrown, post-apocalyptic Tokyo long after humanity has completely disappeared. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest elevator pitches of the 21st century.

The PlayStation 3 game that spawned from that idea in 2012 is every bit as hard, weird and weird as it should be (and it’s now available to stream with PlayStation Plus Premium). It’s by no means a masterpiece of game design or technology. But it’s a brilliant idea implemented in a completely unfiltered manner, which makes it even more valuable.

Tokyo jungle was made by Crispy’s!, a fledgling indie studio headed by Sony’s Japan Studio and then-President of PlayStation Studios, Shuhei Yoshida. It’s an odd mix of slick corporate production and naïve outsider art, with an endearingly contrasting aesthetic. The flashy Score Attack-style UI and haunting techno background music seem straight out of an early 2000s fighting game. Meanwhile, the roughly textured models seem to aim for a blurred, bleached, primitive realism.

In the jungle of Tokyo, a deer is chased by hyenas over destroyed roofs

Image: Crispy’s, Japan Studio/Sony Computer Entertainment

Structurally, in the main survival mode, Tokyo jungle plays like some sort of arcade roguelike invented by someone who had never heard of roguelikes. You choose your animal – initially only available barking little Pomeranian dogs and fragile sika deer – and begin the hunt for food while avoiding larger predators. Time flies at a frightening speed; A year goes by every few minutes and your hunger meter keeps going down. Death is always near and means the end of the game.

So it’s important to keep moving. Tokyo is divided into small districts, and if you can “mark” a territory as yours, you can find a mate there and breed, after which you will be reborn as a new generation. This comes with a stat boost and a pack of siblings to follow after you, essentially as extra lives. But with that, it’s time to venture into new, more dangerous territory, because no brood nest can ever be used twice. (Nests are also the only place you can save your game, which might be the case Tokyo jungle‘s cruelest feature and most frustrating flaw.)

When you’ve settled on a carnivorous predator – and yes, that ridiculous little Pomeranian counts as a predator – the focus of your game is simple, frenetic, and surprisingly ferocious combat. If you’re playing as a grazer, it’ll be easier to breed – but there will be more stealth when trying to sneak up on edible plants undetected by predators. Each of the game’s major animal groups comes with a tailored list of challenges that unlock new animals, and these challenges are also time-limited. The pressure is unrelenting.

Tokyo jungle is funny, both in its deliberately surreal video game touches – dinosaurs! giant rabbits! Unlockable Outfits! — and in the dead juxtapositions of a world where beagles, chickens and tigers fight to the death in wrecked malls. But it also carries the uncompromising sex-and-death brutality of a particularly unsentimental nature documentary. His message: time is running out, eat or be eaten, leave a legacy quickly before you die.

In this way, it’s a less sophisticated, but more accessible, and arguably more entertaining, version of an even weirder experiment in playable Darwinism from 10 years ago: the GameCube cube eater. This is another game that would be great to rediscover in the weeds of a future subscription catalogue. Until then, Tokyo jungle remains the alpha of outspoken video game animalism, red on teeth and claws. Tokyo Jungle is one of the hidden gems of PlayStation Plus

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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