Tokyo Jungle

Fri, Oct 12, 2012, 01:00

GAME OF THE WEEK:16 cert, Sony/Japan Studio, PS3

Many vegetarians, including Paul McCartney, say Bambi inspired them to stop eating meat. That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s based on a myth. Bambi is not a documentary, and nature is not a Disney movie. Tokyo Jungle, a bizarre, daring game, acknowledges that the natural world is essentially a battleground.

This game is set in the future, 10 years after “humankind has vanished” and the cities have been reclaimed by animals. Tokyo is overrun by wild plants, feral house pets and escaped zoo animals. Hyenas and beagles fight to the death over chickens; cats set upon deer in packs; and fluffy Pomeranians gut their enemies.

You start the game as either a deer (grazer) or a Pomeranian (carnivore), and claw your way up the food chain by marking territory, forming packs (by wooing and breeding!) and taking down other animals.

You have to keep an eye on your hunger, health and stamina. Awareness of surroundings is essential as well, as some areas become polluted and others have too few animals to feed on. Key achievements unlock later chapters in the narrative, and more playable animals. As you’d expect, a game as a herbivore is more stealth- based than as a carnivore, which is more combat-heavy.

This is a third-person (third-animal?) game that mixes elements of open- world, crime simulations such as Grand Theft Auto,

and an especially brutal nature documentary. The juxtaposition of cute, fluffy animals and their untamed lives is bloody and harrowing, but also compelling. And anyone whose beloved cat has brought them the gift of a pigeon or a mouse will find it strangely believable.

It’s the highest accolade to compare the animals in Tokyo Jungle to our feathered friends in Hitchcock’s The Birds; you’ll never look at household pets the same way again. Exciting, playable and original, this would be an unequivocal rave review if Tokyo Jungle wasn’t so difficult: save points are rare; levelling up to other animals is extremely challenging, as is fighting animals twice your size. I guess nature is just cruel, sometimes.