Afrika Review

Publisher: Natsume
Developer: Rhino
Release Date: October 14, 2009
Platforms: PlayStation 3

Now I know, when you first hear about Afrika, you begin asking what in the world could make this game good at all. As you expect, this PlayStation 3 exclusive, which was shown off as a tech demo before the PlayStation 3 was even released to the public, and was said to have been a launch title, takes place in, well, Africa. You play as one of two selectable characters, one male one female, who are both photo journalists who have been sent to Africa on an expedition as part of a wildlife organization. No matter which character you choose, the other one is also there with you in camp, and also sometimes comes with you on your adventures into the African wild. The point of this game is simple: go out into this fake piece of Africa and take pictures of the animals. While it sounds boring at first, and it can be, it’s not just doing that.

You don't want to get too close to a rhino; they're angry.

In your main camp, you are able to access your laptop, in which companies, including real, licensed wildlife magazine, will e-mail you, asking you to take a picture of a certain animal doing a certain thing, or from a certain angle. Using your real, licensed Sony cameras, which you continue to unlock better and more advanced of as you progress through the game, you are to go out in to Africa in search of the animal. At this point is where the game gets both fun, and not so fun. After leaving the camp, the first thing you realize is that there are no voice actors. If you’re traveling with your guide, or even your partner, the text will show up at the bottom of the screen in what looks to be a very outdated font. Jumping in your Suzuki jeep, you head out into the beautiful Africa that Sony has created for you to explore.

Afrika is a beautiful game, without a doubt. Looking around, you will see that each area is somewhat large, and filled with various different land types which are home to different types of animals. When you’ve driven around and found the animal that you’re looking for, you’ll also find the animal models to be quite well done as well. The attention to detail on the environment is definitely stunning, although not in a way that you find in a lot of games out these days. Of course, the attention to detail also goes into the cameras as well. When you are in the menu choosing your camera, you will find a perfectly detailed Sony camera, modeled to look exactly like the camera’s real life counterpart.  Taking a picture with the camera also has a bit of authenticity to it, as each camera’s lens is different when looking through it.

Packs of animals are beautiful in Afrika.

Here’s where we encounter another issue. After you’ve reached your destination by driving, you can get out and run around just like in an open-world game. The controls are mostly simplistic, the analog sticks controlling which direction you move and look. When you press the up or down button on the D-pad, your character with kneel to the ground to be able to move up quieter, or stand up in order to move faster. To bring the camera up though, you have to press the square button. Many times while trying to do this, I’ve found it to be somewhat annoying and difficult, and I’m always wanting to press the X button in order to bring my camera up. Although, when taking a picture, you are supposed to press the R1 trigger button, and, just like a real camera, by pressing it down half-way, it focus holds the camera if you are set to Auto Focus. That attention to detail to real cameras impressed me.

There are a variety of missions in Afrika. Some of them are more interesting, such as one Big Game mission where your guide drives your jeep next to a cheetah chasing a gazelle, and you have to take a handful of action shots while the chase happens in slow-motion. Some of them, however, can be quite boring, including one in which you have to sit in the bushes next to the hippo pond, and take a picture as one of them is yawning. None the less, there are a wide variety of different types of missions, from getting a picture of a certain animal doing a certain action, to getting a picture of a certain animal at a certain angle, so there’s always enough room for a lot of creativity when taking these pictures, and if you love photography, you’ll love how well some of the ideas of this game work.

If you can capture a picture like this, you're bound to get a good rating.

When getting down to the nitty-gritty of the game, it’s a little rough around the edges. The menu system is very out-dated and janky, the fonts used are not the most unique, there is a great lack of music in almost every area, there is a limited amount of sound effects; not to forget that each animal does have their own real noises; and the control system is sometimes hard to use. Looking past all of these issues though, if you love photography, you’ll love how authentic the game tries to be to it, and you’ll love the quality of the graphics. I fear that this game was really meant for a certain niche, and while that works out well for those of us who like this kind of game, that doesn’t bode well for the finance department in the end.

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