Afrika (Hakuna Matata)

All I expected was edutainment.

That’s what they call it, don’t they? The type of software trying to make the link between what I enjoy doing (playing video games) and what people think I should be doing with my free time instead (learning something). Memories of Oregon Trail and Typing of the Dead wafted into the room while I sat through the almost-obligatory hard-drive installation that PS3 games are known for.

Hakuna Matata is the game most people know as Afrika, but was re-named for the Chinese territory, along with a much desired option to play the game in English. When I decided to import it, I planned for a fun distraction that would impart the tiniest amount of knowledge possible about the subject matter, similar to a tour at the local zoo. I was ready for it.

Before I knew it, I was holding on tight to the back of a dirty jeep carelessly careening across a plain that stretched far across the horizon. The sunlight bleeding over the lush vegetation was invigorating. The addition of an upbeat orchestral score perfected the feeling of being part of a real-life safari adventure.

I began my high-risk/high-reward balancing task, trying to get close enough to get good pictures but keep enough distance to not be noticed. The driver slowed down as we reached a small pond. He tried to suggest some advice, but I was too excited to pay attention to what he had to say. I climbed my way out of the jeep and slowly made the rest of the trip on foot. I saw a zebra hanging around the other side of the pond and realized that it might be my chance. A bottled water company was desperate for a good high quality picture, but in order to satisfy their request, I needed him to be up close and looking towards me.

This defiant creature walked in my general direction, at a slightly awkward angle, and sharply turned around when he was almost in view. Then he repeated this pattern another two times. I started to feel like he was fully aware of what I was trying to do, and he was mocking me. At the time, I didn’t even consider that he might have been following an A.I. routine. He was real to me.

The zebra turned its head to look at me, but before my flash had a chance to go off, he quickly galloped to the other side of the pond to graze. I would continue to wait, the ambience disturbed by the sound of my teeth grinding.

Success in this game requires patience, waiting cautiously for that perfect moment to come around. Conversely, it meant I would be constantly on edge, knowing that perfect moment might come out of the blue. One false move and I could make my target aware of my presence, but sticking to one spot might provoke an aggressive species to defend its territory, putting me in immediate danger. A title like Tom Clancy’s Afrika would be a closer fit for the tension it delivered.

When I first received it, the task sounded significantly easier than it actually turned out to be. Time would prove that there was more to this mission then a couple button presses. Some of my initial shots came out too blurry, over focused or I was far away from the source. I already took shots of the zebra, but the camera I started out with didn’t zoom in very closely. I would constantly have the desire to move in closer, but I couldn’t risk the potential of scaring him away. I nearly dismissed this mission as impossible in its current state, assuming that I needed to buy a better camera before I could complete it. I would later realize that it was my own ignorance of the opportunities such a setting could provide that truly hindered my progress.

The sun slowly began to disappear and I worried that I might not get my shot in before the end of the day. This wasn’t just an animal; this was my prey, my ultimate goal. I needed to know as much information about this elusive zebra as possible. I stopped and checked the in-game database, which automatically filled with information whenever I discovered a new beast during my excursions. It’s an expected feature for this type of game, to be sure, but one that works much more fluidly than just as a tacked-on encyclopedia for me to ignore.

After hours of additional play, I would start to realize how much depth is really in this game:

  • How a wave of euphoria would flow over me when I caught two lion cubs playing in the water so aggressively that a nearby giraffe nearly toppled. I would be there with my camera to catch it -- a simple matter of being at the right place at the right time with my finger on the flash button.
  • How the amount of money I would earn from capturing these rare spontaneous moments would depend on my ability as a photographer, from framing to composition.
  • How that money garnered me new and better equipment, including the ability to record sound, which aided me in completing tasks more creative and complex than I could ever imagine possible.
  • How that online database I’d thought to be a great diversion turned out to also be intelligently integrated into the game. Not only would I learn real facts about an animal’s eating habits, sleeping patterns and behaviours, but I would need to use those facts to effectively complete some of the missions.

But at that point in time, all I cared about was getting that zebra to look in my direction. I decided to be more tactical, crouching behind a nearby bush. I kept my focus on my target and followed his movements as fluidly as I could. Finally, as if he had grown tired of leading me on, he walked right up to the bush and stared intensely into my lens.

IMAGE(http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a263/kevlarcardhouse/newzebra.jpg)

*click*

This wasn't at all what I was expecting. But, in that instant, the game snapped into focus -- and surpassed my expectations.

Comments

Stylez wrote:
This actually sounds pretty damn cool. I'm curious to see this game in action! Maybe at the next S&T we can actually get together and PLAY some games.

I was thinking a meetup at my place for the next one.

It could be the "intimate" slap and tickle.....

That means I need a passport... and a safe word?

kuddles wrote:

Sorry, Itsatrap, other than Endless Ocean, this is the first game of it's type I ever tried so I can't really compare it to anything else.

I'm just surprised so many people think that Afrika is a new concept, seeing as these sorts of games have been around for about 5 years.

- Alan

Sounds like Far Cry 2, except that in FC2, I just ran zebras down with my jeep, rather than photographing them.

It's about time someone revived the Pokemon Snap genre.

Only they used real animals this time and no friggin rails.

It's almost enough to get me to wish for a PS3

It means 'no worries'.

ApplepieChamploo wrote:

It means 'no worries'.

But for how long?

The rest of your days, perhaps?

We're in a recession, so it will only be until next Tuesday.

Certis wrote:

We're in a recession, so it will only be until next Tuesday.

Pumbaa is too big to fail!

wordsmythe wrote:
Certis wrote:

We're in a recession, so it will only be until next Tuesday.

Pumbaa is too big to fail!

I agree. Look at what happened when Mufasa failed: competitors circled his corpse like hyenas, and now we're all stuck with the scars. Some sort of intervention was needed to keep the wildebeest from plummeting then, and something is needed now. If we don't learn from our mistakes, we're bound to repeat them.

Edit: On topic, this looks like a really interesting game. Out of curiosity, what happens if a predator does come after you? It seems like a game that would be spoiled a bit by a die-and-reload mechanic.

Of course climbing out of a Jeep in Africa and hiding behind a bush for a nifty zebra shot will probably have you end up dead and mangled due to other predators.

But hopefully you got the shot first and the camera can auto-upload the images?

animal wrote:

Of course climbing out of a Jeep in Africa and hiding behind a bush for a nifty zebra shot will probably have you end up dead and mangled due to other predators.

But hopefully you got the shot first and the camera can auto-upload the images?

No, but Frank Bilders might find it.

So Play-Asia finally got more copies in stock and shipped mine out today. I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on it and checking it out.

Mister Magnus wrote:

So Play-Asia finally got more copies in stock and shipped mine out today. I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on it and checking it out.

Be sure to let us know how you like it!

I will be sure to report back after returning from safari.

Would this be a game that I could play with my nephew? He's five.

I'm just wondering how easy it would be to control and whether it would be frustrating for him.

I'll write back with my impressions after it arrives and I check it out.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

Edit: On topic, this looks like a really interesting game. Out of curiosity, what happens if a predator does come after you? It seems like a game that would be spoiled a bit by a die-and-reload mechanic.

The game resets you back to the jeep, so your only punishment is losing whatever effort it took to sneak up to the animals to begin with.

Lard wrote:

I'm just wondering how easy it would be to control and whether it would be frustrating for him.

It's actually quite easy to control, you only use one button and the thumbsticks most of the time. You even use the sixaxis control when you want to turn the camera on it's side. The only issue is the same issues most gamers might have, which is he might find it boring quite quickly. The limit in the amount of time in the day, the number of pictures you can save in your camera and the difficulty of getting close to the animals leads to a very slow and precise play style.

Well the thing is, my nephew adores Zoo Tycoon. He's not very good at it and the animals often die, but he loves it, because of the animals.

I think he'd really like it.

Got it yesterday and fired it up.

Be aware there is an install. A boring and slow install.

But then you're in the game! I couldn't get a lot out of the manual but outside of the quick tutorial I received when leaving base camp here's a couple of things:

Down on the d-pad will make you crouch low, right/left on the d-pad will shift your weight in the corresponding direction so you can peak out of a bush or get a better shot. The start button will put you into first-person.

Quick and dirty: I like it. The animations of the beasts are fluid and fun to watch (I especially like the twitchy ears of the hippos). It's a reasonably slow-paced game and patience is key. I watched the hippos for a long time before I felt like I was able to get a good-enough shot of one of them yawning. And on a couple of shoots I felt like I wasn't able to maximize my points because of my equipment as opposed to my shot (but I suppose that's going to be subjective... I thought I nabbed the quintessential drinking-giraffe pic, but I suppose 9/10s of the point total is fine).

After just two days of shoots I was able to pick up some additional storage for my camera, so credits weren't a huge issue, I suppose.

Kuddles is right about the language barrier... there isn't one. Everything defaulted to English. All text is written (which is semi-disappointing, I would have even welcomed Chinese voices—it gets quiet on the Savannah) and it's serviceable. But the bulk of your time is spent out in the wild with the animals anyway, quietly observing and waiting for a close, clear shot.

I got too close to the hippos a couple of times. When it happened the camera zoomed in on an angry hippo mug before returning to me... the screen flashed red on the sides and I knew it was time to clear out. I didn't bait the hippo into attacking because I was afraid he'd trample my camera, so the game obviously immersed me enough into its world for me to react genuinely.

For folks with a Wii but no PS3, it's an experience similar to Endless Ocean, but with ambient sound instead of a synth track.

This is the sort of game where you know right off the bat if you might enjoy it. For $54 it was worth the import. I look forward to seeing what's prowling around deeper in the Savannah.

So, I bought this game, and I'm having a serious problem. On the tutorial mission, when I press X to get out of the Jeep, I can't move my character. I can kinda shake the camera sometimes with the right stick, but then nothing happens. I've tried nearly every button, but it doesn't work. Any ideas?

I'm reinstalling the game, and deleting my save. I'm also unplugging everything from my PS3, although my DS3 is on controller 1. Argh!

TheCounselor wrote:

So, I bought this game, and I'm having a serious problem. On the tutorial mission, when I press X to get out of the Jeep, I can't move my character. I can kinda shake the camera sometimes with the right stick, but then nothing happens. I've tried nearly every button, but it doesn't work. Any ideas?

I'm reinstalling the game, and deleting my save. I'm also unplugging everything from my PS3, although my DS3 is on controller 1. Argh!

I haven't played the game, but a quick search in a couple places didn't find anyone having a similar problem. Hope the reinstall works.

Filthy skimmer, but can you get mauled by lions or trampled by Wildebeasts while you're playing?

I'm glad to hear this is coming to the US and we should be seeing a nice update at E3 next week. It has some promise and definitely a refreshing concept. Here's a brief write up from IGN.

By the way, is there any way to convert this thread over to the Games forum since it'll be missed buried in the homepage?

Looks like the game got pushed to October 6th (was coming out tuesday). I have no official proof, but 95% of the "major" sites changed the release date.