Hunting down the secret Tokyo Jungle demo at E3

Hunting down the secret Tokyo Jungle demo at E3
One of my goals for E3 this year was to find out if Tokyo Jungle was on the show floor and play it. For the whole show, I heard reports that it was playable, but couldn't find it on the floor. I had Sony reps escort me around the company's giant booth to no avail.

Finally, I got a Twitter report that led me to the right place: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's private meeting room. And there I finally found a single Tokyo Jungle demo station, with the localized European version (it's also due for North America, Joystiq has learned.)

This story would be a lot less inspiring and a lot more embarrassing if the demo turned out to be the quirky, but otherwise unremarkable, game I feared it would be. However, it's a clever, exciting, and, yes, intensely quirky game. It was worth the hunt.%Gallery-157097% For those of you unfamiliar with any aspect but the great Pomeranian mascot, Tokyo Jungle is a PSN game for PS3 that casts you as an animal trying to survive in a post-apocalypse, wrecked Tokyo. I understand it gets crazy with a story mode and dinosaurs and stuff later, but the demo I saw kept it focused on basic survival gameplay. I'm not sure another obscure reference will help a lot of people understand the gameplay, but it's a lot like a faster Cubivore.

Depending on the animal you select (you can unlock more, and buy more as DLC) you'll have to either hunt and eat other animals to survive, or find edible plants, both represented as green dots on a minimap. My first time through, I played as a cat, who can quietly stalk and then pounce on prey, with a "teeth" icon indicating the best timing to do so. You also have basic swipe attacks and a jump. My meals consisted mostly of birds and rabbits, who can be carried to a safe spot after killing, and then eaten to refill a constantly draining hunger meter. As a pig, I also had basic combat abilities, but far less speed, and attacks used entirely to defend myself from predators rather than to hunt prey myself. Different animals have a wide variation in stats and abilities, making for a lot of different experiences. A big predator can fight everything off, but has to eat a lot to stay alive, while a chick ... I didn't even want to try playing as the chick.

Hunting down the secret Tokyo Jungle demo at E3

Each small area of the city has a series of flags. If you "mark" all the territory in the area, you gain control of that area and attract members of the opposite sex. These other cats (or whatever) are attracted to animals of a certain "rank," achieved by eating a certain number of calories. You can rank up from "rookie" to "veteran" to "boss," a process taking several in-game years (which pass in minutes.) As a veteran cat, I found a mate, retired to a comfy pile of straw, and then ... took possession of one of a litter of kittens, who looked just like my previous avatar but smaller. And yes, I just glossed over the "peeing on flags" and "cat mating" mechanics. Just part of the game!

I was able to recognize my new kitten avatar because I was still wearing the shower cap, ninja suit, and metal claws I'd dressed in earlier. You can find items to outfit your animal in the most hilarious (or coolest) way possible, many of which actually boost your animal's stats.

I expected to be entertained by Tokyo Jungle. I didn't necessarily expect to find a deep action-survival game under all that weirdness, but having experienced it for a few minutes, I really want to keep playing. The survival mode, with its constantly diminishing hunger meter, is actually a fast-paced arcade experience that just happens to be delightfully bizarre to look at. I might just go buy it on the Japanese PSN to experience more hunting, more exploration, and more animals.

If you don't want to do that, however, you'll be able to get a localized version. Sony VP of product development and World Wide Studios Scott Rohde told Joystiq that "It'll ship here, it'll ship everywhere."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.