Ticelli Bot is back with a second look at PS3's Afrika - released by Rhino Studio's in 2008 in Japan and 2009 in the U.S.
Afrika is Rhino Studio's first attempt at creating a game on the PS3. Unfortunately, reviews have been mostly unfavorable as it just doesn't appeal to most audiences. Most people I talk to about it just assume that it's just insanely boring. Actually, I'd be willing to bet that most gamers today who would even turn it on wouldn't last 15 minutes before switching it out for Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. The reason, I believe, is that modern gamers need that constant barrage of stimulation to the senses and this game is presented at a much slower pace. However, I have always been a huge supporter of new ideas because the thought of another cookie-cutter FPS makes me gag. I will admit that my first impressions of Afrika were...
...well, a bit off. Don't get me wrong, I was really excited to play this title, but I was a bit skeptical. I mean, back in the day (and by that I mean 1999), Pokemon Snap rocked my world, but Afrika? I’m no longer going to be taking photos of my favorite Pokemon spewing supernatural powers, instead I’m going to go out to a savannah and snap photos of antelope, flamingos and beetles. Woo. Eventually, when I finally did get to play the game, I was pleasantly surprised. The first couple parts of the game are spent riding around with a chauffeur as he shows you a couple of the landscapes. He lets you out of the jeep every now and then so you can get used to the free roam mechanics. (If you get the chance, take a photo of the driver, it's worth it.)
I was both amazed and disappointed by the graphics. The animals are beautifully animated with realistic motions and impressive interactions with the environment around them. Also, the camera and camera equipment, at least in the upgrade shop, are quite intricately detailed. Even when you are taking photos and adjusting the camera settings, such as the Aperture or Shutter Speed, it's quite realistic as to how this affects your photos. Unfortunately however, the environment detail is where the graphics fell kinda flat, much like the environment itself. The ground is mostly a nondescript mixture of greens and browns, and some poorly rendered bushes and trees amongst the wasteland. There are a couple nice environments you get to visit but for the most part it’s just more of the same. I guarantee that the bushes in this game will most definitely be your biggest pain in the ass. I would like to invite you to just take a look at these methodical..conniving..underhanded...bushes:
Countless times have I been driving over the crest of a hill just to find a bush on the other side. You're thinking, "No big deal," right? This wouldn't be a problem, if not for the bushes being made out of wrought iron! My very first time seeing one of these bushes I thought, "Hmm, this jeep going at 30-40mph and therefore, should just crash right through these puny bushes," but boy was I wrong. No matter how fast you are going, when you crash into the bush, you are brought to a complete stop. Then, you have to wait for you character to feel like putting the jeep in reverse. You sit there for a solid 5 seconds or so before the driver finally puts the jeep in reverse...and those are some tedious 5 seconds after the 80th or so time you run into a damn bush.
The gameplay works well enough, but definitely could have been touched up to run a little more smoothly. Walking around, driving, crouching and climbing up trees can become a little tiring. There was multiple times where my character decided to run in circles while I was trying to make him run away from a pissed off baboon. Damn monkeys made me lose my film so many times. That’s right, if you get charged by a rhino, mauled by a hippo, or even trampled by elephants, your character gets away unscathed but you lose all your film. You aren't hurt, your camera stays in perfect shape, but the film that was inside the camera is destroyed. What the hell.
Next are the missions. They are presented to your character via in-game email and are the driving force of the game. The missions are always photograph animal "X" doing action "Y" and it doesn't ever get too difficult. Doing missions gives you more money to upgrade your camera and buy more equipment. The missions also allow you to open up more areas and teach you new techniques in photography.
For me, there is just something satisfying about capturing the perfect shot of a giraffe eating leaves after being hidden in a tree for several minutes or setting up a trap camera to get pictures of unsuspecting meerkats. My favorite part though has to be the special event missions. The very first one, you are trying to take a photo of a cheetah hunting an antelope racing over the desert at 60mph. These events take some time to unlock though and aren’t what you’ll be doing most of the time.
All in all, I think Rhino Studio's had an awesome idea, created amazing animals and camera mechanics...then half-assed everything else. I haven't even mentioned that there aren't any voice actors in this game and everything is presented in text. This is almost unheard of in today’s console generation. If nothing else, I supported a company trying a new idea and I don’t regret buying it.
I give Afrika on the PS3...
3/5 Indestructible Bushes