It’s rare for a sequel to a well received game to be released with little to nothing in terms of new content. Usually, a sequel calls for a fresh plot which ushers in new characters and gameplay elements to keep the familiar franchise fresh. Sometimes though, a sequel gets released that is essentially just a re-skinning of the original game with the same basic plot and characters. The latter of the two situations is exactly what happened with The Lost Town - The Jungle, the latest action RPG to become available on the DSiWare service.
Much like The Lost Town - The Dust, The Jungle is a simple yet surprisingly challenging action RPG with almost no story behind it. The focus is a small village located in some jungle that gets hit by a meteorite and is consequently overrun by monsters, for no apparent reason. The citizens of the aforementioned village can’t take care of themselves but, much to the good fortune of the helpless villagers, a mysterious girl by the name of Chilia appears out of nowhere to protect them and save their settlement. That’s about as deep as the story goes. Do you ever find out why Chilia is in the jungle? Nope. Is that information important? In the name of decent and memorable storytelling, yes it is, but for the sake of this game, it doesn’t really matter. It should also be noted that this game is absolutely riddled with typos that were clearly the fault of translation issues, although there are thankfully very few cases where it's impossible to understand what's going on. The plot isn’t going to win any awards for writing or translation, but the real focus with this title is the gameplay.
The goal here is to survive, and to keep a camp that houses the surviving members of the village safe. Gameplay is divided into both day and night segments, each with slightly different styles of play. During the day, you will be given the chance to freely roam the ever-expanding map surrounding your camp. Rescuing villagers and killing monsters while picking up loot is your primary focus during these portions. The night segments, however, end up being more akin to a tower defense game. At night, the monsters make their way to your camp with the express intention of smashing it to bits. Your job here is to set up traps and attack the monsters directly in order to defend your people until the sun rises once again. While the day and night segments don’t differ all that greatly in terms of gameplay, it is an interesting challenge to see how well you can protect your camp with the items and equipment that you managed to gather during the day.
The longer you survive and the more monsters you kill, the more experience you will gain. Gaining experience means leveling your character up and receiving skill points which can be assigned to a variety of different aspects such as melee and luck. The customization elements of leveling up are a welcome addition to this game, as they provide an opportunity for you to play in a variety of different ways. If you’re a tactical player who enjoys setting traps, then you might want to add more skill points to your luck, but if you’re a run and gunner, then you can add more skill points to your ranged attack instead.
In terms of gameplay, not much has changed from the prequel, aside from the inclusion of optional quests. These quests, which consist of various tasks such as killing certain amount of enemies or picking up food, are automatically generated and are assigned to you to complete at your own pace. Because these quests are optional, you have absolutely no obligation to complete them, but you do gain more experience points for finishing them.
Similar to both Legend of Zelda games released on the Nintendo DS, The Jungle is controlled entirely using the DSi’s touchscreen. Moving your character is done by tapping the touchscreen in the direction that you would like to move, and attacking enemies is as simple as tapping them as well. Menu options are also touch-controlled, so you can give your buttons a rest. While the option to use button controls would be a much appreciated inclusion, the default control scheme works just as well.
All of the characters, settings, and textures in this game are colored in very earthy tones, and everything has sort of a dirty look to it, despite the sharpness of the sprites. This aesthetic works well for the pseudo-apocalyptic story that is being told, and the look matches the grim tone of the game. The soundtrack, on the other hand, definitely leaves something to be desired. It may be true that the music does its part in setting the mood of The Jungle, but the very limited selection can become irksome after a short while.
The Lost Town - The Jungle, while not a bad game, falls neatly under the category of “lazy sequel.” Though the inclusion of optional quests does add a little more focus to gameplay, this title does little else to deviate from its predecessor. On top of the unchanged style of play, the trite story and absurd translation issues make The Jungle feel sloppy and rushed. Unless you truly enjoyed the first game and are just itching for a new setting, you might want to think twice before adding this one to your collection.