Best in show: revisiting the cataclysmic strangeness of Tokyo Jungle

Does the world seem just a little bit closer to apocalypse now than it did five years ago? Perhaps that's why I recently became so obsessed with Tokyo Jungle, the beastly post-cataclysm survival sim that on its initial release in 2012 was generally viewed as an idiosyncratic throwback rather than a giant evolutionary leap forward. Developed by Japanese studio Crispy's, it was a PlayStation 3 exclusive that ruffled a few feathers but did not seem to leave much of a cultural paw-print. Depending on who you talked to, it was either too weird, or too basic, or somehow both of those things simultaneously.

Rather unexpectedly, it carved a groove in my memory due to its distinctive game icon - a proud little Pomeranian lap dog - an image that would cheerily recur on my friend's PS3 XMB while he was spooling through his haul of downloaded games. Every now and then that cute pup would remind me of the existence of Tokyo Jungle, and make me idly wonder: how much is that doggo in the window? A few weeks ago, when the game was bundled in with July's PlayStation Plus offerings, the answer was: free, to a good home. Just don't expect to win a lot.

Tokyo Jungle simply isn't one of those games prepared to meet you halfway. It stubbornly sticks to its own bizarre and rather obstructionist logic and demands the player essentially fit in around it, a sensation presumably familiar to cat owners. But five years on and its inherent strangeness has ripened into something rather sweet. It's set in an eerily abandoned Tokyo a decade after humankind has mysteriously vanished. Over time, some insistent flora has crept back in, and so, in turn, has the fauna. From household pets to common livestock, zoo exotics to unexpected Jurassic comebacks, Tokyo is now emphatically an animal kingdom where only the strongest survive. With its emphasis on Pomeranians, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and stately Tosas, it initially feels rather like Crufts meets I Am Legend.

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