Tokyo Jungle Mobile Review
Posted by Mike Mason
You might be kidded into thinking that there'd be some modicum of peace on Earth if the human race, along with its wide range of squabbles and skirmishes, evaporated one day. The Tokyo Jungle series disagrees. After society collapses, humans go bye-bye and cities become overgrown concrete jungles, the conflicts of the animal kingdom rage on fiercer than ever before. Previously domesticated animals unlock their primal instincts to tussle with anything in the way of their next meal; zoo escapees go claw-to-claw with their wild counterparts.
Tokyo Jungle Mobile finds you in the middle of the pandemonium, doing your best to cope in a harsh new world where beloved pets are far more likely to be found tearing at the throat of their rivals than begging for walkies. As in last year's PlayStation 3 version, you can select from a large range of animals, choosing either a herbivore or a carnivore before setting off into the world. Whichever your preference, the goal is simple: survive.
As your chosen creature you trot around a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, scavenging for food and ultimately trying to find a mate to continue your line. Predators' food source is, of course, other animals, so you must sneak up on potential victims and snap them up; leaf eaters, on the other hand, gobble up whatever plants, flowers, and mushrooms they can find and try to avoid the hungry advances of their more carnivorous city-mates.
But just because they don't enjoy eating meat, some herbivores can give just as good as they get on the battlefield. By timing attacks just right, animals can perform an instant kill on others – and that applies to enemy characters just as much as players, so you have to stay on your toes so that you're not caught unawares. Eating boosts your beast's level, from Rookie to Veteran to top-of-the-chain Boss.
Your rank plays a crucial role in how good a mate you snag. Once you've secured a number of an area's marking points, you unlock a nearby nest and members of the opposite sex start to hop about. If you're a lowly Rookie, you'll most likely end up with a partner on the desperate end of the scale, while Bosses can hope to score a prime catch. The quality of mate determines how well your offspring turns out: a terrible specimen will result in a single child with little in the way of stat increases, while teaming up with a lovely beast might produce several stronger siblings. The latter scenario is ideal; once you've copulated, control switches over to the newborn animal, and additional siblings act as extra lives.
Though it's based on the same ideas as last year's PS3 release, Tokyo Jungle Mobile features several changes that make it more suitable for mobile phones. Most obviously, the visuals have taken a hit; the detailed, fluid side-scrolling of the console version has been traded in for isometric areas with grid-based movement and sprites with far less animation. It doesn't look bad, but occasionally you can miss an animal hiding in a hedge due to the lower fidelity. Despite the grids, don't be fooled into thinking it's become a turn-based strategy game – Tokyo Jungle Mobile is still straight-out real-time action.
The controls have been simplified, too. There's no more sneak button, while jumping has been similarly abolished. Now you run in four directions and attack: you can swipe with a quick button tap, hold down for a powered-up strike or press at the right time for a one-hit kill. You no longer need to press a button to eat something – you automatically feed after a successful hunt, while plants are consumed by hopping on their square. It feels snappy, and the speed has also been increased a tad; time seems to pass more quickly and challenges pop up constantly, asking you to hunt a certain number of animals, snarf down a set amount of kilojoules of energy, visit new areas, and so on.
The story stages of the PS3 version has been stripped out of this release, too, leaving only the survival mode behind. This gives Tokyo Jungle Mobile the feel of a score attack game more than anything, as the entire goal now is to keep striving for longer survivals. Unfortunately there's no online leaderboard support, which would have extended its appeal further as a high score game, but due to the sheer amount of beasts at your disposal, there's still plenty of play to be found. It's easier to unlock new ones too, as the more detailed unlock conditions of the PS3 release have been removed; any points earned go into a single pot and can be used to unlock any animal that you've encountered during play.
Tokyo Jungle Mobile gnaws down the PS3 release to its core bones, streamlining the concept to fit the philosophy of a mobile phone game without betraying the ideals of the source material. It's not quite as proficient as the console release, but the changes serve the series well and results in an enticing little action game that's fun to paw at on the road.