The PS3 game that brings an African Safari to your living room!
One of the most unique ‘games’ currently available on the Playstation 3, Hakuna Matata puts you in the shoes of a photojournalist in Africa. Replacing the guns of typical games, with a variety of cameras, you are sent on missions to photograph different animals and their behaviours, earning money for the quality of your work. Not a fast action game by any means, Hakuna Matata is a relaxing, yet interesting and often exciting experience.The instant attraction to the game is just how lifelike the various animals are.
You start off simply in the backseat of a jeep, driven by your tour guide. Here you can take snapshots while on the move or even leave the vehicle and travel on foot, with the option to creep slowly and quietly in hope of that perfect shot of an unsuspecting animal.
The missions are emailed to your laptop, which you can access at any time by returning to your tent in the base camp. Ranging from simple, find animal ‘x’ or animal ‘y’ for example, to more difficult requests that require a lot of patience, such as capturing the moment a Hippo opens wide and yawns or the mating dance of an Ostrich.
The type of photo you take will decide how much you earn and will take a number of elements into equation. As with real life photography, the perfect shot can depend upon angle, distance, technique and target and your in-game photo’s are judged as such. You can use these earnings to buy various items such as photo frames to hang your best shots in your tent, camping gear that allows you to stay in distant areas without having to keep travelling back to your base and lens and camera upgrades (all licensed). These can be extremely handy and continue adding to the experience as you can clearly notice the improved focus and zoom levels, which also equals better resolution and clarity on the photo’s you export to your PS3 HDD.
That’s right! All photo’s in this blog were taken by myself in-game and simply exported to the XMB. Such a great feature that more games of all genres should try to implement. As I unlock better cameras, I’m sure the quality of shots will improve too!
Without wanting to spoil it for anyone and also because I still have a lot to discover myself, I’ll quickly mention that you do gain full control over the jeep and have freedom to drive around at your own leisure, you take part in scripted Big Game Trophy scenes such as a high speed chase of a Cheetah hunting it’s prey or a baby Elephant being helped across a lagoon, you can unlock a remote camera to capture sneaky or shy animals such as Meerkats and you do unlock a number of different locations which always include new animal discoveries. Other noteworthy features include the Field Guide which gives you a lot of info on each animal, the National Geographic Library which contains real life pictures and videos of your unlocked animals and an online gallery and photo contest.
Technically, the game is a bit hit and miss. Up close the visuals are very good. The animals act and animate very realistically, the textures are generally pretty good and the frame rate nice and smooth. However, when you see animals from a long distance, they look a bit strange. Almost as if their frame rate has dropped in half, moving in a stuttery like motion, seperate from the close-up action which remains smooth. I’m not sure why this happens, but thankfully it is only at very far distances. There are decent lighting effects that come with the change of day and the environments, while lacking detail, do a good enough job.
The controls are generally good too. On foot, you move like a typical 3rd person game and the smooth animation and quick response help you to accurately get to where you need to be. The jeep controls quite well but sometimes has the retro gaming feel when you come to a dead stop after hitting a small shrub. The actual photgraphy is the standout though. Like a real camera, you can focus (by semi-psuhing the R1 button) and shoot (full push of R1) nice and easy. The right analog stick is used to zoom and you can even lean and peek with the digital directional buttons, handy when hiding behind a tree for example. A nice option is to shoot vertical/lengthwise shots, which is done by taking advantage of the Sixaxis controller by simply turning it sideways. It’s a nice touch that adds an extra level of realism to the main focus of the game.
Now this game is currently only available in Asia, with the rest of the world catching up later this year with the renamed Afrika. I bought my copy a couple months back from Play-Asia thanks to the Asian version having a complete English option in game and an English section of the game manual. Right now the game is only US$30 so for those not wanting to wait, now is a great time to snap it up! PS3 games are region free after all!
Hakuna Matata is not a game for everyone. If you don’t like photography, animals or have little patience then I suggest you stay away. If you are the type of gamer who enjoys something unique (although I guess this game is somewhat similar to the N64’s Pokemon Snap) and have always wanted to go on an animal safari, I highly recommend it! The shortcomings are more than overshadowed by the great features and experiences throughout!