Review

Tokyo Jungle

An Elephant Never Forgets

The futuristic Tokyo Jungle is campy, fascinating accidental right-wing propaganda.

By Steve Heisler • October 4, 2012

Long after humanity’s demise, animals roam the streets of Tokyo Jungle, victims of a new, skewed pecking order. Beagles claw at zebras’ asses, rabbits cower in fear of boxing kangaroos, and toxic rain turns gazelle corpses into glowing hyena-killers. It’s a ridiculous concept for a game, finding humor in its earnest treatment of animal behavior—be it something mundane, like eating, or the surreality of a giraffe wearing a bikini. And unknowingly situated in the eye of this Darwinian hurricane is the seed of the American dream: Work hard, set goals, and someday you, a lowly beagle, can bite the asses of many a zebra.

The story begins in a world that threatens an animal’s most basic rights. You play survival mode as the creature of your choice, and usually as a male—the default setting. At first you’re limited to a pomeranian or a sika deer, the representative predator and herbivore. Plopped in the middle of Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood, you sneak through tall grass, climb abandoned buildings, and leap over flipped cars in search of a food source. The pomeranian frantically scratches and bites birds while the sika deer runs blindly for berries; there’s a hunger meter that ticks down to zero, at which point you start losing life unless you eat, stat.

Tokyo Jungle

Time marches on as you mark your territory and hunt down a suitable female, who won’t have anything to do with you unless you’ve consumed enough calories to sport some muscle tone. Or you can choose the “desperate” mates, who give you fleas—it’s last call at the Shibuya Station corral. You inevitably make with the hanky-panky, sire a clan of rapscallions, and the new generation begins the process anew. Your pomeranian’s bootstraps get a bit looser from all that pulling.

As you discover primal order, chaos rages in this harsh post-whatever Tokyo. Heat waves spring up without warning. Radioactive waste permeates the streets. And let’s not forget the obvious: Bigger predators, like tigers, attack freely, stealing your food and flaunting the ease at which they can chase you down and end your simple existence. The strongest have no sympathy for the weak; it’s like there was a jailbreak at the Ayn Rand Zoo.

Tokyo Jungle

Tokyo Jungle hints at a time when the human nanny-state reigned supreme. You start out pretty soft, after all, but the longer you exist in your state of feral freedom, the stronger you get. The passage of time, the rise of a rank, or the birth of a new generation all bring an increase in power (and a few brothers to fight/graze beside you). There are presents scattered throughout Shibuya, containing relics like novelty dog booties and miniature baseball caps. In the wild, these only make your fluffy pomeranian stronger. Frontier justice prevails. Let’s say your antelope sniffs out the one edible mushroom in the entire Shibuya Shopping District, only to be beaten down by a troop of maniacal chimps. Well, won’t those chimps be surprised when they’re given what-for when you return as a robotic dog.

Maybe it’s a Darwinian nightmare. Or maybe it’s a libertarian paradise. This glorious land of opportunity frequently springs “golden challenges” along the lines of, “Kill the bear.” These suggested detours unlock new playable characters, so in no time flat, you gain the ability to reincarnate higher up the food chain, the promise of a better life in tow. You kill the bear to become the bear. Start out as Joe The Plumber and ascend to a golden-maned Donald Trump.

Tokyo Jungle

Spend enough time in Tokyo Jungle, and you will become a lion. The king of the jungle. The star of The Lion King (the movie) and The Lion King (the play). Yet the real victory comes when you unlock the elephant. It’s slow, clunky, and completely unable to blend into the urban Shibuya landscape. But it’s certainly the biggest, oddest, most compelling beast—and quite rare. There’s something comforting about the elephant, too. Its size and stature are a showy reminder that your journey from purse dog to icon is complete. The animals of Tokyo Jungle dream of becoming something bigger than themselves, and with nothing but a free market and a little moxie, they can get there.

Tokyo Jungle
Developers: Crispy’s, SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PlayStation 3
Price: $15
Rating: T

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180 Responses to “An Elephant Never Forgets”

  1. I could turn a blind-eye to Uncharted, Resistance and even Last of Us, but I swear to god, this is the PS3 exclusive that could make me cave.

    You just don’t get to see as many bat-shit insane Japanese games like this anymore. I’m still in shock it even got localized. It looks like an utter blast though, and totally unique in many aspects.

    I’m very curious to see what types of emergent gameplay could come from this game. Here’s to hoping that it’s at least a mild success (or even a runaway hit like Demon Souls) and that it inspires more crazy games to cross over.

  2. Mike Mariano says:

    This is amazing.  If they made a game out of 12 Monkeys it would have to look something like this.

  3. George_Liquor says:

    So you and your pack of wild pomeranians wearing little baseball caps can hunt and kill a grizzly bear, while velociraptors and pimped-out mastiffs watch? That sounds awesome! It’s The Warriors with housepets!

  4. NarcolepticPanda says:

    Paul Ryan gives this game 9 out of 10 Austrian economists. It does look pretty fun despite the PS2 graphics. Not sure if it’s worth a buy though. I’m guess I’m one of the 47% who believe this game should be free and I should start out as a tiger. I’ll check out the demo this weekend.

    • kateburning says:

      I think it’s worth the buy. (Granted, I’m PS+ so it was $12 with several free DLC packs including the ability to play as FAT CAT.)

      The first night I played it I was a bit skeptical, especially because the graphics are pretty lame and the combat system is awkward, but it is strangely addictive. Yesterday Fat Cat and I took out the Giant Bunny of Legend, which was exciting, but then got eaten by an alligator.

      • NarcolepticPanda says:

        Oh hey, I’m PS+ too! You DESERVE to be eaten by an alligator for killing a rabbit though. I think I might remember that deal, but was turned off by the graphics, as I am now. What’s the combat system like?

        • kateburning says:

          But it was a giant rabbit and he was already eating a bunch of beagles!!! (But you kill A LOT of regular sized rabbits…)

          So for the combat system, you can only kill animals that aren’t looking at you. You can sneak up on them or hide in patches of grass if you can find them. You wait for a jaws icon to appear over the target animal and turn bright red and use one of the right triggers to pounce and bite them.

          If it’s timed to the the jaws right, you can take them down in one go. If your timing is off the animal takes damage but realizes you’re there. You have to use square to swat at them until they either die from swatting or you create an opening and strike with the trigger when the jaws appear. There’s also an evade with the right stick that occasionally gives you the jaws icon to retaliate with.

          If you’re fighting a pack of animals, it can be incredibly hard to tell which one is yours.

           

        • NarcolepticPanda says:

          @kateburning:disqus : But I LIKE rabbits, I don’t want to KILL them. Maybe this game isn’t for me…

          That combat system doesn’t sound too bad though, kinda sounds like CQC in the Metal Gear series, except without the frustration of body-slamming a guy when you meant to choke him.

          I would imagine telling your animal from the others would be tough. I guess you’ll have to find a rhinestone-studded top hat or something.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           The game manages to be disturbing, actually – not graphic or anything, but it’s pretty brutal. Fluffy, harmless animals getting killed left, right and center. One of the reasons I originally bought this (other than I thought it looked awesome) was that I thought it might be fun to play with my son. No, no way; he’d be crying himself to sleep for months.

    •  My fiance and I love this game. Nothing quite like playing as a clowder of cats and teaming up to take down a giraffe!

  5. Effigy_Power says:

    This game is intensely ugly. Considering it is an exclusive for a console of the latest generation anyways. Screenshots and videos put me more in mind of a GameCube type engine rather than the powerhouse the PS3 is supposed to be. The screenshot with the Raptor up there looks like it’s something from South Park and made out of paper cutouts. I know a lot of people don’t care too much about a game’s appearance, but in cases like this I find they break the experience completely. It may only be $15, but it’s still ugly.

    I am not even going to point out the sexism inherent in the fact that even in a game about animals, where 99% of people can’t point at one and tell you what gender it is, you only get to play from the male perspective.
    Oh fuck, there I went and pointed it out anyways. Silly me.

    PS: If the human evolutionary ladder starts with Joe the Plumber and ends with Donald Trump, I am going to have myself declared a different species. I don’t want to be anywhere near there.
    (Seriously, you couldn’t have said… Snookie and Einstein or something, Steve?)

    • NarcolepticPanda says:

      I didn’t notice the only-male perspective, but, yeah, if a game can be connected to Ayn Rand, Donald Trump, and libertarians, I’m very apprehensive. But…I can be a tiger! A tiger!

    • Fluka says:

      Beat me to it by 4 min!  Feminist hive mind at it again.  This game is crazy wingnutty out there enough that it almost feels redundant to complain about not being able to be a lady tiger.  On the other hand, this is a real thing?  In the real world?  Bu wah?  Perhaps it’ll catch on with the Breitbart set…

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I think the fact that their game is batshit insane and therefore distracts from the other bull is something the developers might be counting on sometimes.

        “Hey, maybe if we make a game about space-ships made from bubblegum fighting invisible space bananas, nobody will notice that our black character’s name is Sambo and every woman is called bitch.”

        • Fluka says:

          Oh, decidedly.  I think in this case, though, it’s less the craziness which makes me more liable to get irked about it, and more the fact that it seems to be very specifically coming out of a recognizable right wing context, unlike the more insidious casual sexism and racism you get in other mainstream games.  Then again, as you say, lots of objectionable things often get written off by gamers as “Oh that whacky Japan!”, so it’s probably wiser to call out this shit when it happens.

        • EmperorNortonI says:

          It’s not just “we can get away with it,” it’s a complete lack of awareness.  Complete and total incomprehension.

          Also, laziness probably plays a role.  If you were able to play as a female, you’d had to write a whole “mate selection” minigame, and that would take, like hours.

          Since I can’t reply to Fluka directly, I’d also like to say that I would be very surprised if there was any sort of right-wing context behind the game, simply because politics and political awareness doesn’t really exist here like it does in America.  I think the creation process for this game went, “Hey guys, I saw this cool nature documentary last night, where this shark totally ate this gorilla.  Man, wouldn’t that be cool if we made that, but set it in Shibuya?”

    • George_Liquor says:

      Feh. Aedeagus-envy. That’s what you ladies have.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/Tormissus_linsi_aedeagus_dorsal.jpg/220px-Tormissus_linsi_aedeagus_dorsal.jpg

        Keep it.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       At least one of the story missions refers to your character as a she. At that point you’re playing as a pampered, spoiled, ineffectual pomeranian… ahem. Anyhow; the game doesn’t mention your sex at any point, but when you mate with another animal it shows your character mounting it. So yeah.

       Some developer was talking recently about how people let the Japanese get away with a lot of misogynistic and racist shit, which struck me as a really good point. Not that gaming as a whole is very enlightened, especially in the portrayal of women, but the japanese take it to a whole other level.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I was going to write something along those lines, but the fiery proponents of Japanese culture are already threatening me with Hello Kitty knives. A lot of things that would be unacceptable in a NA/Euro game are laughed off as camp, satire or downright “hilarious and crazy” in Japanese games and I don’t know how that’s okay. I really don’t.
        I am probably guilty at times of stereotyping Japanese games for this kind of thing, but to me, the uninitiated with their culture, it seems really really prevalent.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Ain’t it the truth.  While there are certainly side effects to living in the great cultural experiment that is the USA (such as an inability to implement comprehensive universal health care because a bunch of reactionary knuckleheads don’t want it going to the “wrong people”), it’s still preferable to me than a lot of the unintentional side-effects of living in a completely homogeneous culture.
           I saw Advent Children when the movie first came out and it was okay, as these things go.  But I remember a scene at the end where everyone’s gathered around a healing pool talking over each other excitedly.  I could just barely make out Barrett in the background yelling out “Whoa, dat’s sum crazy water!” in a voice lifted directly from an Amos ‘n Andy radio episode.
           Given the nation’s less than stellar understanding of global racial and gender dynamics, It’s to the series credit that Sazh emerged, to me, the sole sympathetic character from XIII.

        • Girard says:

           I don’t want some welfare mother sitting on her couch receiving government funded surgeries all damn day instead of getting a job!

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus It would be naivety itself to suggest the US is exempt from racism and sexism, and one certainly doesn’t need to go as far back as Casey Kasem’s apogee of cartoon voice acting to find an embarrassment of examples of either.
             But when I become my most dispirited about  the failures of our culturally pluralistic society, we go and elect a black man as president.
             That and our food.  For all the benefits of living in a nation like Norway or Iceland, I think of all that beige cuisine and I’m glad every nation on earth has people coming here and bringing their ingredients with ’em. 

        • Girard says:

           @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus : Just as a point of clarification, the Scooby movie in question was made in 2010. This wasn’t some relic of a less enlightened time. What the hell, Hanna-Barbera?!

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus    Well, as long as we’re discussing cultural progressiveness, just admit that you’re hanging out with pre-school kids as a beard to get your teenage mystery-solving team fix.
             It’s the 21st century, man.  It’s okay.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           I certainly do think that there are some sexism issues in the Japanese games industry–Team Ninja, I’m looking at you–but I’ve never quite believed that many of them were really racist, not in a real malicious way.  Sure, there are plenty of examples–Barrett from FFVII, the Majini from RE5, etc.–that would, if made in the US would definitely have a deliberate racist tone.  However, it always feels like that it’s just lazy writing in their case, as they are simply skimming stereotypes/cliches from American media, with little concept of the larger picture.  There’s always been this weird back-and-forth of cultural influence between the  US and Japan; Not all of them are good influences. 

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @The_Misanthrope:disqus I agree.  I don’t believe it’s by default racism.  I just think mostly it’s a lack of cultural awareness so basic and intrinsic as to be almost the same.
             I visited my brother when he was teaching in Tai Pei, Taiwan.  One afternoon we were sitting in a second-story restaurant overlooking an outdoor mall courtyard.
             This particular afternoon, there was a talent show occurring on a fairly large stage built in the courtyard.
             The show consisted of groups of teenagers putting on skits of a nature I couldn’t even begin to fathom.  One being a group of about eight intensely skinny boys, stripped to the waist -wearing matching blue sweatpants and coated in some kind of petroleum jelly- running back and forth between assorted musical instruments and spastically pantomiming playing them to the recorded accompaniment of Flight of the Bumblebees.
             That doesn’t have anything to do with where this is going, I just really like telling people about it.
             But the last group of five were performing their skit dressed in full Chinese opera costumes, sans makeup, except for the lead -a teenage girl in full-on blackface and an afro wig.
             My brother and I just sat there, spoons frozen over our bowls of Taiwan’s shitty excuse for ice cream, slack jawed and wide-eyed with amazement.
             I don’t necessarily think this girl was a racist.  It was a broad, easy gag.  Visual and comical.  One that’s pretty much seen as such everywhere in the world.
             But it is so fundamentally taboo in this country, I feel like it should be on the international roster of things not to do, like drawing Mohammad or eating Durian fruit on crowded public transportation.

    • For at least some of the animals you can definitely choose to play as a female. Gameplay is exactly the same as when you choose to be a male, and they didn’t even do the standard videogame trope of “female character is faster but less powerful.” Stats are the same.

      And the game certainly doesn’t look great, but I got over that real quick. The game also looks amateurish because it was made through Playstation CAMP, which is a way for amateur developers to get their game made.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I did consider the graphics ugly before I saw that it was $15, so basically an arcade game. But by then I had already written the sentence and… eh… too lazy to change it.
        Still ugly tho.
        That gaming trope of female powers being less strength and more dexterity is actually pissing me off more than the cleavage armor thing. Also because it’s limiting and false for both genders. A lot of men are likely a lot more graceful than I am. A lot of women are a lot stronger than a lot of men. The fact that gaming has accepted these things as an inevitability doesn’t bode well.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Oh yeah, the gaming industry definitely has a ridiculous, pre-adolescent view on gender. One doesn’t have to look any further than the Dead Or Alive games, and the massive amount of processing power they dedicate to simulating comically large, pendulous boobs to know that’s true.

          However, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to play a couple rounds of Devil’s Advocate: Thanks to sexual dimorphism, the animal kingdom is pretty damn sexist in and of itself. Male lions, for example, usually outweigh females by 100 pounds or more, and are stronger animals. However, the females, who are faster, more nimble and generally better suited to catching prey, do almost all of the hunting.

          It sounds like a big part of this game involves seeking out a suitable and willing mate. At least among the animals featured in this game, that responsibility generally falls to the male of the species. I suppose they could have explored mating from the female’s perspective too, but it would have involved mostly dodging or fighting off mates you found unsuitable. Hmm.. you know, now that I think about it, that sounds kinda entertaining too.

    • SteveHeisler says:

      Heh. Joe The Plumber and Donald Trump were intentional. Evolution in Tokyo Jungle is more in line with the Tea Party variety than, you know, actual evolution.

      • SteveHeisler says:

        And yes, the male perspective is very odd. You are literally not given a choice. It’s jarring.

        • It distracted me at first too, but considering mating is one of the goals in-game it seems less compelling, I suppose, to take over a district of Shibuya, find some stray dude and drag them home to mount you. That sort of thing flies in Brooklyn, where it’s a sign of female empowerment, but I’m not sure it reads as well without zines and ironic glasses.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I often sit in front of games that do not give gender choice (not this one in particular, but there are plenty) and wonder if the reason is pure laziness of the developers (which I could live with), downright misogyny (which would be detestable, but at least honest in a way) or, the worst, a result of the “white male character” (again, this game being a bad example) as the natural and logical standard.

          When faced with discrimination I always find these three possibilities (laziness, hatred or ignorance) at the center and ignorance has always struck me as the most detestable, because it requires the least effort to change about oneself.

          Hatred is something learned from childhood and often so deeply rooted that you can only hope that these people die without infecting future generation. I don’t personally believe that people who act out of hatred can really be changed in a meaningful way, at least not on the large scale.

          Laziness is something, admittedly, that I can even empathize with and it is usually a behavioral pattern that is hard to beat. That doesn’t make it any better, but at least it’s the result of weighing effort against result and requires, even though it sounds like an oxymoron, some doing.

          But ignorance and beliefs derived therefrom are the culmination of a willingness to accept things that are dubious, false or downright idiotic without bringing up the effort to make sure that they are correct. And in the day and age we live in, at least in our industrialized world, ignorance is by necessity always willful. There is in my mind nothing more detestable and damning than willful ignorance and being a self-righteous cynic, I usually reach for that as the reason why things that piss me off are as they are.

          /rant

        • Girard says:

           That was probably the reasoning of the (likely all-male) development staff, and is actually evidence of their sexism, rather than an excuse for it. The idea that being mounted is inherently “less compelling” is crazy sexist*, and the type of thinking that leads to concepts like “penis envy.”

          Then again, it’s also possible they didn’t actually apply any reasoning, and just had the animals be male because of course they would be. Which is actually way more troubling.

          Anyway, yeah, that sentence kind of raised a red flag for me. I can appreciate cheap aesthetics in a camp piece of art (often, it helps), and I can even appreciate to some degree a sort of self-aware tastelessness in camp (though that sometimes leads to the “absolution through irony” mentality of sexism in games like Lollipop Chainsaw), but these kind of automatic, ignorant assumptions on the part of developers are genuinely troubling.

          I can’t say I would boycott the game or anything if I had a PS3 to play it on (heaven knows if I didn’t read, play, or watch anything produced from a chauvinist viewpoint, I hardly engage with any culture) – but I certainly wouldn’t pretend that that choice was not very problematic.

          *Also, disrespectful to male bottoms out there.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus I’m curious whether you mean games where character doesn’t necessarily influence the game’s narrative, or all games in general? 

          For instance, I think a number of games are purpose-building a specific protagonist with a specific personality, whether this means Geralt in The Witcher, the eponymous Duke Nukem, or Jade in Beyond Good and Evil (for some reason, that was the first and most recent female protagonist that came to mind). I don’t necessarily think that any of the above games lifted would be terribly assisted by the ability to choose the protagonist’s gender (although I’d love to see a Duchess Nukem). 

          I think there’s also a resource limit to keep in mind. Not every developer can afford to be like BioWare or Bethesda and write around gender in their story or pay two different voice actors to portray a chosen character.

          But, I do think, even keeping those sorts of conditions in mind, it’s worth pointing out that games don’t need to default to our white, brown-haired Adam Jensen standard protagonist, and that it is lazy to develop a protagonist built from that same mold. 

        • This is factually incorrect. It is absolutely possible to play as a female character in the game.

        • Girard says:

           @HobbesMkii:disqus : I think when discussing ‘specific characters,’ the complaint is valid at a more institutional level – of course if a game has a specific human protagonist with specific traits, those traits will include a specific gender and sex, but institutionally, its unconscionable for so many of these games to feature male protagonists.

          In a game like this, or like some CRPGS, where the protagonist is inherently nonspecific, forcing the sex of the character is glaringly sexist. If I can have a trunk, or a six-foot neck in a game, why the hell can’t I have ovaries?

        • Effigy_Power says:

          @twitter-85465361:disqus: There are trophies only for mating as a male, so even if the game lets you play a female animal, it’s not on the same grounds.
          http://www.ps3trophies.org/game/tokyo-jungle/trophies/

          @HobbesMkii:disqus: I do mean games in which the gender of the character is irrelevant from a mechanic standpoint, yes. I understand that Bruce Wayne can’t suddenly be Brucina (and even there I am not 100% convinced), but there are tons of characters who never speak, never feature sexually and would not be changed in any way. Looking at the ad prevalent right now, what would be changed if the nameless, voiceless marine was a woman? Nothing. And yet the sales would plummet, not only because the game is fairly strongly aimed at men, but also because women simply aren’t taken seriously in such roles. We get to be scouts and snipers and mages, but rarely are allowed to be as grunty and violent as the menfolk (the usual developing studios excluded).
          Before Unreal Tournament morphed into the thick-necked GoW thing it is now, where humans apparently have more drastic gender dimorphism than most insects, it featured a group of warriors that were unanimously hulky and huge, including the women. Why is that so rare?

          It really shows where the limits of imagination are. “Sure, laser-guided dragons. What? A women space-marine? Eww.”

          I know I am ranting a lot about this and I know my posts are becoming increasingly bitter despite my insistence that they are not, but when you are one or several minorities (despite the fact that there are more women on the planet than men, figure that one out), it’s everywhere and very, very prevalent. And very frustrating. Especially when something you love as a hobby and part of your personal cultural identity repeatedly pushes you away and claps you on the ass with no more than a “Take it easy, babe.”

        • Ah sorry, I’m not too familiar with this commenting system, but this reply would be directed at Effigy_Power

          It’s interesting that you point out laziness and ignorance as two possible explanations for developers getting gender representation so wrong, because they seem to be two possible explanations for why the initial reviewer was able to make statements like “You are literally not given a choice” that are factually incorrect, and for commentors to take that incorrect premise and run with it to a general indictment of the Japanese video game industry. (I would also accept anger at past transgressions and enthusiasm for a more diverse playing field as possible explanations for reaction from the comments section.)

          “You are literally not given a choice” could possibly just come out of ignorance, as the game doesn’t point out that you can choose to play as a female. There are two main game modes in Tokyo Jungle, Story and Survival. From what I’ve played of the game Survival seems to be the main draw of the game, where you struggle against predators, pollution, and starvation as a generic member of the species you select. Survival mode seems to be the main focus of Mr. Heisler’s criticism. Story mode, on the other hand, presents you with a specific animal and gives you a bit of context, like a Beagle trying to dethrone a Tosa as the top dog of the Shibuya Suburbs, or a fawn trying to find its mother. Of the four animals I have played, two (Beagle and Pomeranian  were explicitly male as part of their story was finding a female to mate with, and two (deer and Tosa) did not have any gendered indication. At this point, I don’t know how many other stories are left, and if any of the future animals appearing in story mode are female or not.

          I do know, as I have said, that it is possible to choose a female character in Survival mode. The default choice for all of the species I have unlocked, however, is male. This is a default that the game actually makes difficult to overcome. The screen where you choose you animal for survival mode simply presents shadowed silhouettes of all locked characters, with the silhouettes of playable characters filled in. After earning the right to unlock a new character by playing Survival mode, that new character will appear as a filled-in silhouette on the select screen with a lock over it. You must then pay a number of points to actually unlock the animals and make it selectable. Certain animals, after selected, take you to a next step in the process where you have the ability to pay more points and unlock alternate forms for the selected animal. For at least some of the animals, like the gazelle, this alternate form is female. As far as I can tell, the only difference in actual gameplay when choosing to play as a female is the slight difference in your character model (no horns for the female gazelle) and that your available mates will now be male.

          Given the above, if not out of ignorance it seems lazy to me to repeat “this game does not allow you to choose to play as a female.” It’s a shame because many of the same arguments against the game could still be made, they would just have to be more nuanced. Acknowledging the fact that you can actually choose to be a female in some circumstances could have lead to new conclusions and either strengthened or weakened Mr. Heisler’s review or the reader’s conclusions in the comments.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           @twitter-85465361:disqus: Fair enough. I can, as I said, only argue with the material I can find online (for which I did a certain amount of research, just so I don’t fall into the same pit I mentioned the developers might have), so I don’t claim to be 100% accurate.
          I am sure that my emotional state when discussing this topic comes heavily into play and very likely skews my viewpoint, I am after all only human, even if my gender requires unlocking :P
          You make some good points and I am sure, as usually when intelligent and levelheaded people argue, the truth is somewhere in the middle. My side is just a bit louder, since I am arguably on the “victim” side whenever this topic comes up (and it comes up a lot) and it’s hard to avoid sounding like I am whining, so… I accept that.

          Incidentally, to tag someone with Disqus, you write an @ symbol, followed by typing someone’s name, which should drop down a list you can select their handle from. Make sure to scroll down if you are typing to the bottom of the page.

        • Girard says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus “I am sure that my emotional state when discussing this topic comes heavily into play and very likely skews my viewpoint”

          Well, you are only a woman after all! Am I right, bros?

          …bros?

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Sorry, @paraclete_pizza:disqus, due to budget concerns in my realm, all my assassins have been equipped with dull, rusty cheese-graters, so your death won’t be quite as clean as you make it out to be.

        • Merve says:

          I think I lean towards the institutional explanation that @paraclete_pizza:disqus proposes. To wit, is it problematic that Adam Jensen is male? Not in the slightest. Is it problematic that an overwhelming majority of video game protagonists are male? Absolutely.

          That there are so few female heroines is a product of the fact that the female perspective is rarely included in games. The solution isn’t to dismiss individual male perspectives, but rather, to get more women into the business of making games and to get existing developers to consider alternative perspectives.

        • dreadguacamole says:

          @HobbesMkii:disqus – Do you really want to see what the team responsible for Duke Nukem would do with a concept like Duchess Nukem?
           I predict a missile bra.
           
           Here’s what the Duke’s sidekick was supposed to look like in the original design for DN4:
          http://dukenukem.wikia.com/wiki/Bombshell

        • dreadguacamole says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus – There is a fourth reason, which I think probably has a lot of weight: budget. The main character will almost always be more detailed than anyone else
          in the game, be more carefully designed and redesigned, and have more unique animations (apparently, that’s one of the most expensive things in the industry at the moment.) In many cases he will have a ton of dialog. All of this has to be done twice if you’re to give a female option.
           This, of course, doesn’t explain why there aren’t more female characters in games that just saddle you with a default character; to that, I’d mention that Sleeping Dogs, back when it was known as True Crime: Hong Kong, had a woman as the playable character, until Activision made them change it to a guy because they thought a female character wouldn’t sell nearly as well.

    • Shamble says:

      You can play as female animals.  

      • SteveHeisler says:

        Yes, apologies to all. It was difficult to find it, but yes you can be a female. Though there are FAR fewer of those choices. Changed to reflect this.

  6. duwease says:

    Haven’t turned the PS3 on in a long while (been using 360 and PC), but I may have to hook it up in the living room just to play this.  This is the kind of left-field stuff that made me love the PS2, but seems to have disappeared this generation on consoles.

  7. Fluka says:

    Dang it, gaming!  Even in a crazy jungle post-apocalyptic Tokyo where I can play a pomeranian, I can only play as a boy pomeranian?!

    *Goes back and rereads the right wing/Randian part of the above.*  …Right.  *Slowly backs away.*

    • Girard says:

      You can inhabit virtually every phenotypic variation in the world! Trunks, claws, horns, stripes – we have an endless variety of body types at your disposal!

      What? You want a…a what? A vagina? I’m sorry, but we simply can’t commit resources to some obscure genetic variant.

      On a totally unrelated note: Hey, remember in New Super Mario Wii, when Nintendo gave us two stupid Toads to play as, Peach’s skirt was too hard to animate?

      Game developers, don’t be lazy idiots! It apparently tends to make you sexist idiots.

      • Fluka says:

        The irony being that I could see playing as a female wolf trying to protect her cubs in this context being a fantastic game mechanic.  Fierce protection of offspring is part of evolution too!

        I am still holding out hope that one of the upcoming Mass Effect 3 DLCs is going to contain a female turian. Come on, BioWare!  You gave us excuses for why there were no female Krogans and Salarians, and we still saw at least one of each of them!  There is absolutely no reason beyond the old “Mumble mumble, we don’t want to have to create new body models and animations, gnrr..”  Let us have some female aliens which are more than just helmets and blue skin slapped on a skinny lady with breasts!  New MP DLC apparently has 16 bloody new classes, so at least maybe one of them is a lady turian?  Please?
        Male is default.  Female is too much work.

        • Girard says:

           Also: Playing as a female lion would be more badass because they’re the ones who actually do most of the hunting.

          As far as Mass Effect, it seems guilty of an even weirder lack of imagination when it comes to gender issues. Why, in a game where I can play as any animal on Earth, am I relegated to being male? Likewise, why, in a game where there are creatures from all over the universe, is every entity just either female or male (and why does their sexual dimorphism so closely resemble ours?).

        • stakkalee says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus For that matter, why, when dealing with actual alien species, are there only 2 genders anyway?  Talk about a lack of imagination.

        • Fluka says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus The Hanar seem to be the closest thing to an actual alien species in Mass Effect, though they are mostly coded as male in terms of voice acting and, you know, the existence of Blasto.  (I’m forgetting at the moment if the non-Blasto hanar are mostly referred to as “he” or “it”.)

          Generally speaking, there seems to be a tendency in gaming (and also in comics and nerd movies) to discount to existence of anything female which is not breast-owning and fuckable.  Everything must be sexy.  If I cannot make this female creature sexy, why should I make it?  Why does imagination not extend to the existence of a female creature without an hourglass figure and boobs?

        • Fluka says:

          @stakkalee:disqus Weeeell the asari technically speaking having no gender because *BRAIN SHUTS DOWN FROM BULLSHIT*

          I’ve mostly learned to stick to books at this point for imagination in dealing with alien species.  Ian M. Banks does the whole concept of a triple-gendered species quite well in Player of Games.  And of course there’s Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which I have admittedly never gotten around to actually reading, but apparently deals with the actual implications of a mono-gendered species, rather than just “sexy dancing bisexuals!”  Books have the advantage of being mostly written by a single person with some editors, though, rather than being assembled with a team of hundreds of people with several million dollars, so there’s a little more room for being subversive.

        • Girard says:

           At the risk of being semi-self-promoting*, you might enjoy this weird art book+DVD anthology put together by a bunch of contemporary art weirdos, which is all about depicting unconventional alien sex in text, image, and video.

          *(I have some stuff in it, but I don’t get any kickbacks from the book itself. I’m interested in pointing out something you might dig, not shilling something for purposes of commerce.)

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Bioware is an especially heart-wrenching topic because it promotes and annihilates gender equality with an alarming duality that makes my brain hurt.

          The Asari are about as revolutionary when it comes to equal rights as a 1950s pulp movie like Forbidden Planet, where women are relegated to screaming and being-abducted duty.
          I guess that’s the issue with all fantasy or scifi anyways… we think it’s all super-imaginary, but it so closely follows our own limitations. Sure, you can make a case that it’s for reasons of relateability, but I don’t buy that completely. There have been games that completely broke the frame and still worked out. I should probably name some, but I am really exhausted from bitching.

          The only way ME could have gotten away with every alien being roughly the same physiology, stature, brain capacity and sexual characteristics would have been if the Reapers actually seeded worlds with stocks of life, each adapted to live on its host world. It would have been a really interesting twist on creationism and also made a lot more sense that what really went on. To find out that we are all one people -takes hands and sways- would have been a great, unifying discovery to the people of the ME universe… well… at least as unifying as it is to know we are all humans here. So not very.

          Still, that would have been, next to what I thought was the secret (we are all Protheans, that’s why the Pylon reacted at all), the only way to sell big breasted space sluts.
          They didn’t sell it. It makes me sad.
          At least I still have Aveline. Unless she wears in dress in DA3, in which case I shall ceremoniously burn my computer.

        • Fluka says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus That is delightfully perverse!  Glad it made its Kickstarter goal.

          @Effigy_Power:disqus I read an interesting article somewhere that pointed out that Mass Effect is in many ways feminist by accident.  The most progressive part of the game, the fine lady Commander Kickass Shepard, is so awesome partially because the team was forced to write gender-neutral dialogue (and of course, because of Jennifer Hale).  It’s interesting that this is how Ripley in Alien started out too – as a gender-unspecified character.  I’m inclined to be a little more charitable and say that the game has fantastic female characters, particularly Liara, Tali, and EDI, provided that one looks beyond the unbelievably silly outfits (Samara, what does the Justicar Code say about your tits hanging out?) and the often squicky romances.  Despite all these complaints, I still have to hand it to BioWare: getting to play as a unbelievably badass lady space marine is the most “included” I’ve probably ever felt in a game.  These things do matter.  (Also, Aveline is the best forever.)

          OT, even if there are no female turian characters in this upcoming Multiplayer pack, datamining has indiated that there are apparently voluses. BIOTIC VOLUSES.  AAH.

        • Merve says:

          @Fluka:disqus: I can’t remember the dev diary I saw it in, but one of the artists all but admitted that they had no fucking clue how to model a female Turian. They want to include female Turians; they just don’t know how. Check one for laziness.

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: It’s been said before in comments on another article, but there’s a lot of self-aware dialogue in the games about their portrayal of the Asari. I wouldn’t say that excuses some aspects of their portrayal, but at the very least, the writers seem to know how it could be interpreted as problematic.

        • Colliewest says:

          If you have the time you should definitely read The Left Hand of Darkness. It’s been over a decade, and I found it a little dense and hard to get into at the time, but  it weaves this blanket of empathy that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like since.

          It’s a powerful antidote to the boneheaded chauvinist bullshit that pervades our culture.

      • George_Liquor says:

         That’s a pretty lame excuse. After all, the NES didn’t seem to have a problem handling Peach’s skirt.

  8. dreadguacamole says:

     Ok. Despite bringing up several nasty associations, both valid (Effigy’s sexism and aesthetic charges) and somewhat silly (you have to strain a little to find the game Randyan, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to shake it now It’s been pointed out; thanks, Steve!), the game frequently teeters on the edge of being great. The main problem with it would be that there’s a whole lot of repetition – the game is basically an open-world* survival sim, and the longer you survive the more you unlock; basically, a score attack that adds some variety and options the more points and unlocks you accumulate. The early going of each playthrough doesn’t quite have enough depth or variety to fully justify going through it multiple times, so it can feel like a grind after a while.
     But it’s thoroughly, endearingly goofy, with a loopy sense of fun; I find it weirdly addictive, almost in a rogue-like way for some reason. There’s no better dangling carrot than an eventual dinosaur unlock.

    *An open world made up of corridors, unfortunately.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Just Cause 2 has racial stereotypes ravage a country full of racial stereotypes in order to overthrow a government perceived as tyrannical (despite being technologically advanced to the point of ridiculousness). This is done by systematically bombing the country back into the stone-age with the help of dubious and downright evil revolutionaries (some of which are implied to be pretty much cannibals) with CIA resources, which probably says a lot more about the country doing the bombing than the country being bombed.
      The game is, for a bleeding-heart liberal, humanist and environmentalist like myself, insulting on every level, especially when the main character congratulates himself with a Schwarzeneggerian zinger after detonating the wind-power and water supply of a remote desert village, collateral death included.

      And yet I am having a massive amount of fun playing it.
      I am sadly, I suppose, not above it, man… Given the chance, I am as easily swayed to overlook damning content as everyone else.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        When I play it, I like to pretend that it is incredibly sophisticated satire, poking exaggerated fun at US foreign policy, the nature of covert governmental destablization, and the colonialist viewpoint the informs those things. 

        Basically, I play it high as a kite, is what I’m saying.

      • Merve says:

        I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with appreciating potentially offensive art. You just have to acknowledge three things:
        1) that the art has the potential to offend.
        2) that others have the right to be offended by it.
        3) that others’ enjoyment of it may be influenced by being offended.

        You shouldn’t dismiss others’ feelings on the art (or even your own feelings) as invalid, but at the same time, you needn’t feel any obligation to be offended on others’ behalf.

      • NarcolepticPanda says:

        Also, the supposedly Swedish guy you meet in the beginning of the game has a Mexican accent, and the female leader of one faction, despite being intelligent/charismatic enough to command a gang that’s taking government facilities left and right, still flirts with you with the subtlely of a middle schooler.

        But still, I’m a namby-pamby, socialized-medicine-supporting, tree-hugging, commie-loving liberal as well, and free-roaming in Just Cause is SO fun, because I have a grappling hook!

      • TaumpyTearrs says:

        I dunno, I think Just Cause 2 might have been a little more self-aware and irony tinged than you give it credit for.

        My memories are vague as its been a year or two since I played it, but I remember you find out that the whole conflict is over the country’s oil, and then you blow up the oil fields in the last mission. IIRC, the titular line of the game is ironic, with your handler saying all your killing and destruction was for a just cause but Rico doesn’t seem to buy it. And everybody toasts at the end to the future of a US controlled President and constant monitoring/control by the US.

        Maybe I’m wrong, and it really is amazingly and unironically fascist/imperialist, but that wasn’t how I interpreted it while playing.
        If it was though, it was still one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. I wish it had been a bigger hit so we could get a sequel, I’d love another massive country to explore and blow up. And just the best traversal system ever.

    • Girard says:

       I find the social Darwinism angle a totally inappropriate criticism, though in Steve’s defense I’m pretty sure it was more a running gag than a scathing exegesis. The whole point of social Darwinism is that it inappropriately applies something that does happen in nature – Darwinism, survival of the fittest – to human society and culture, using a naturalistic fallacy to ignore that society needn’t be Darwinian.

      To apply Darwinism onto a simulation of wildlife doesn’t paint it as a Randian screed, it paints it as a simulation of wildlife.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I didn’t think about it that way, but in retrospect you make a lot of sense. I suppose applying a natural effect to a political movement, just to associate the political movement then with said natural effect is a bit of a fallacy.
        Well argued.
        Wait, I mean…
        “ur worze then Hitlre you gaffot! f u I own u in CoD!”

  9. Joel of Arc says:

    “Work hard, set goals, and someday you, a lowly beagle, can bite the asses of many a zebra.” I sort of doubt I’ll get around to this one, but if nothing else, I’m glad its existence birthed this sentence.

    Also, does anyone else get a bit of a Cubivore vibe? Had a couple friends who were weirdly into that one back in the day.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Well, Cubivore/Animal Leader is more about taking what you want out of an environment rather than adapting to it, and survival-themed games share a lot of common themes.

      They are both significantly awesome and even more significantly welcomed as innovative, though, so you’re right there.

    • Patrick Batman says:

      Finally, someone else who played Cubivore!  I was starting to think I had hallucinated that game & it didn’t actually exist.  I get that vibe too.  If I remember correctly, you were forced to play as a male animal in that one too.

  10. Girard says:

    At the risk of repeating my own comment about E.V.O. from a few days back: How can you assert that the elephant is the ultimate beast in this game WHEN ONE OF THE SCREENSHOTS HAS A DINOSAUR?!?!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Because it’s a *shudder* female  dinosaur.

      • Girard says:

         Well, this game taught me that that is a problem. But Jurassic Park taught me that it is a soluble problem. That “clever girl” just needs some amphibian DNA to rectify her apparently unfortunate genetic condition.

  11. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Ralfaca DLC for the win!

    *Paid DLC, of course

  12. doyourealize says:

    This seals the deal…are there seals in this?

    Combined with this review over at Eurogamer, I can’t say no to this anymore. And I also have to say that thanks to this site, after I read the review (which is addicting to read and funny as hell), I immediately recognized Ellie Gibson’s style, and had to scroll back to the start to make sure I was right…which I was. Probably (and I mean no insult to this site, as it remains my favorite despite my commenting having taken a nosedive) the most entertaining review I’ve read in a while.

    Also, unrelated, if you play this game long enough – like, 100,000 years – do you get to find out which creature succeeds humans as intelligent, conscious beings in charge of the planet?

    • Effigy_Power says:

      -opens envelope-
      Turns out it’s moths. The answer is moths.

      • doyourealize says:

        I agree with the envelope, even though @paraclete_pizza:disqus ‘s answer is more fun and makes me aware of an awesome site I somehow missed. I mean, some moths have fucking 13 inch tongues! How could they not rule?

        And in a way too late addition to your sexism comment above, I can’t believe no one has linked to this. I mean, was it just too obvious?

        I won’t add anything else to the conversation, though. I mean, is nature sexism the same as human sexism, and does it matter that this game is a nature sexist game made by humans? Plus, my dog is a girl (Ponyo), so I can inherently claim that I am not animal sexist, and therefore free of guilt.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          To that I can only say that as humans, who are self-aware, self-conscious, philosophical, tool-using and the peak of evolution (or put here by big old spacedude, if you choose to believe that), we should probably hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold animals.
          Apart from moths of course, who are going to be the first beings to colonize Mars.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I didn’t see you as obtuse, I was just in a fightin’ mood.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Yeah, where have you been, anyway?

      • doyourealize says:

        Back to teaching. Aside from not having nearly as much time as I had during the summer, articles attached to Disqus take about a year to load up on my school laptop (although I shouldn’t complain, as the filter usually blocks gaming sites, but so far this one has been overlooked).

        And then when I finally get to my home computer, I just want to play games. I have been reading everything, though.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          I’m not sure if bettering our children’s future is a fair trade for a lack of quality anonymous internet game conversation.

  13. Citric says:

    This might be shallow, but I made the decision to buy this game when I saw the foxes hiding from a dinosaur in the subway. There is no way this is not the best game.

  14. caspiancomic says:

    As I finished reading that first paragraph I felt a strange sensation in my left hand, only to look down and see I had already whipped out my credit card.

  15. Citric says:

    Alright, bizarre problem here, maybe someone here can help. I attempted to buy this, because seriously who wouldn’t, but I can’t get it to download. It’ll get as far as the “Downloading… Please Wait” screen and then sit there for a while until error code 80710723 pops up. What the hell? It’s a beautiful ol’ fatty – specifically, an MGS4 bundle 80 gig which has been improved into a 320 gig – connected to some sort of 2wire modem. I haven’t got a clue what’s happening here.

    EDIT: Also, other stuff downloads fine, I tried some demos like Jet Set Radio.

    • doyourealize says:

      I had a problem downloading originally, too, but I didn’t wait for the error message. I just reset my PS3 Network Settings. It worked after that. Don’t know if that’s the fix, but you could give it a try.

      • Citric says:

        Found out the problem today, it’s weird. A bug in the modem’s parental controls made downloading files over 2gb fail. Apparently this is a common problem, though it took an entire day of back and forth with my ISP to get it resolved – which involved removing those controls – because the guy I was initially talking to didn’t realize it, or realize how the whole thing worked. 

        Anyway, now I have it.

  16. Clayton_Haigh_on_the_Internet says:

    Is this a game about the food chain? Are you saying the food chain is right-leaning politically? That makes me tired. Also, this game looks amazing. Aside from the looks.

    Goodnight!
    Love,
    -Clayton

  17. Jared B says:

    What this review doesn’t say is that you need to complete the story mode in order to play as a robot dog. And you unlock story missions by finding disks scattered all over the place in survival mode (the mode covered in the article).