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It's a dog-eat-dog world in Tokyo Jungle Mobile


This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.

In Tokyo Jungle's bleak future, gangs of wild animals hunt to survive in an abandoned, post-apocalyptic Japan, marking territory in a bid to find an ideal mate and to pass on their genes to hardier generations. The PlayStation 3 version released last year was a tense, creative take on the roguelike genre, and Tokyo Jungle Mobile veers its gameplay in an interesting new direction.

Unlike its predecessor, Tokyo Jungle Mobile is presented from a grid-based, overhead perspective. Don't mistake it for a turn-based game, however, as gameplay is both real-time and very brisk. If anything, Tokyo Jungle became more action-oriented and arcade-like during its transition to the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation certified devices.

Tokyo Jungle's core concepts survive the platform shift intact. There are many playable critters on offer, ranging from grazers like deer and chickens to many different breeds of dogs and cats. After collecting enough unlock points during gameplay, you can eventually play as deadly carnivores, including lions, bears, and even dinosaurs.

Tokyo Jungle Mobile It's a dogeatdog world
All animals have their own drawbacks and advantages, and picking a creature that's higher up on the food chain doesn't ensure victory. Even the relatively defenseless rabbit class is a valid choice, assuming that vegetation is plentiful, and provided that you don't piss off anything with fangs.

As gameplay progresses, the creatures you encounter will become more exotic and dangerous. By this point, though, you'll have earned a wealth of stat boosts by completing optional challenges and by inheriting choice genes from prior generations. While the original Tokyo Jungle was sometimes frustrating due to unexpected difficulty spikes, Tokyo Jungle Mobile steadily ramps up its challenge. Your animal's gradual rise in skill ensures that you'll be able to keep up with everything the game throws at you, as long as you use strategy and pick your battles carefully.

Stealth plays a central role in your success as a hunter. Tall grass is abundant, and creatures are less alert to your presence than they were in the original Tokyo Jungle, allowing you to easily sneak up on them and take them down. This seems like a questionable change at first, but Tokyo Jungle Mobile's smaller environments are better suited for quick, frequent encounters, making the change essential to its design.

Tokyo Jungle Mobile It's a dogeatdog world
Some of Tokyo Jungle's more interesting elements, however, were axed during the shift to mobile platforms. Tokyo Jungle Mobile nixes equipment, leaderboards, and the original game's mission mode, among other major features. There's also no trace of a story in Tokyo Jungle Mobile. The narrative elements in the original Tokyo Jungle, while faint, provided a good deal of replay incentive, and fleshed out the game's world in a satisfying way.

Other changes are for the better. Tokyo Jungle's confusing sibling mechanic has been ditched in favor of a simpler system that gives out extra lives after every generation shift. Few players will lament the loss of the annoying toxicity system, either. The trimming of content is unfortunate, but overall, it better serves the game's narrower focus and faster pace.

In some ways, Tokyo Jungle Mobile is a disappointment. It feels like more work could have been done to include the more interesting aspects of the original, and the sheer amount of removed content makes it seem like a hollow shell of a game in comparison. Taken on its own merits, however, Tokyo Jungle Mobile is a skillful adaptation of its source material, and its narrowed scope makes more sense for portable platforms.

This review is based on a PSN download of Tokyo Jungle Mobile, provided by Sony.

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