Last weekend, Sony kicked off a promotional tour for the June 7 release of Tokyo Jungle at Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara. While the event consisted of little more than a spokesperson and two demo stations, I was able to spend almost a half hour with Sony's newest big name PS3 title. The demo consisted of eight stages, each a tutorial for a given aspect of the game.
The first stage introduced movement and sneaking. As a cute little pomeranian dog, I had to run from grass patch to grass patch in a deserted Tokyo street, avoiding a pack of hungry hyenas.
The second stage was the same map, but this time I was a cat stalking a rabbit. After getting within range, a fussy lock-on sight (shaped like a pair of fangs) appeared on the rabbit. When it came into focus, I was able to pounce for a one-hit kill.
Stage three was the combat tutorial. As a mangy Beagle, I had to fight off a hyena. Upon landing a series of paw-swipes, I was able to stun the hyena and get a fatality strike (biting out its jugular) before it recovered.
For the fourth stage, I continued as the same beagle as before. This time I was taught to focus on dodging attacks so that I could follow up with a fatality. To test what I had learnt, I faced off against three hyenas.
The fifth stage showed what it was like to play one of the herbivores. As a small Sika deer, I moved through the same area as when I was the pomeranian, again sneaking past the hyenas. This time, however, I had to make my way to several small trees and eat their fruit without being spotted.
The sixth stage was by far the shortest as all I had to do was take my little deer, outrun a hyena and hide in some tall grass until the caution meter fell to zero.
Level seven took place on a much more open map right outside of Tokyo's Shibuya station. Now as a Golden Retriever, I had to travel across the animal-infested map, marking my territory. Sadly this was done by sniffing the ground and not by the lifting of a leg.
Now that I had marked out my territory, level eight was spent defending it to attract a mate. For each animal I killed and ate, I gained experience points. After a few kills, I'd levelled up and became more attractive to my potential mate. Finally, after taking down a bird, deer, cat, several sheep, chicken and almost a monkey (fast little buggers), I reached the max level: Boss. Then all that was left was to take my mate to the tracks above Shibuya station and make some puppies — but no humping action here; just a sniff of the butt before a fade to black. When the lights came back up, I was no longer controlling the dog, but rather the litter of puppies. Seconds later, the demo ended.
I enjoyed my time with Tokyo Jungle. The concept is novel and the gameplay unique. It was easy to pick up and play and each new animal I played as was a treat. The enemy animal AI was great as well. While bigger animals would attack without forethought, the smaller animals would scatter and run. However, if you were injured enough, even the weaker animals would stop running and attack. While waiting in line to play, I even saw a dog mauled to death by a wild chicken.
However, despite all the good I saw, I am worried as all the animals in the demo played basically the same. There was nothing different in controlling the pomeranian, cat, beagle or golden retriever. Only the deer played any differently, and that was only because it had no pouncing attack. I fear that while fun and novel in the beginning, the concept may wear thin if all the animals handle identically.
Other than that, the only issue I had was with the platforming. While the game is a 2D sidescroller, there is still a fair amount of depth between the background and the foreground — just like in most classic beat-em-ups. Because of this, jumping aim must be perfect or you can land in front or behind what you are trying to jump on rather than squarely on the target. If there is any part in the full release where quick, precise jumping is needed, this may prove to be a real problem.
However, as it stands now, Tokyo Jungle is the Japanese game I am most looking forward to in the coming months. Stay tuned to Kotaku for our import preview upon the game's Japanese release early next month.