Giraffe and Annika caught my eye almost immediately with its colourful and charming visuals, but does it have a fun adventure to make its world worth exploring? It actually garnered a ‘very positive’ rating on Steam following its release on PC earlier this year, so my expectations were pretty high. Unfortunately, whilst NIS America’s latest release looks the part, the adventure it offers is a little lacking in almost all facets of its design. It does have some stand out moments here and there, but there’s very little going that’ll really get gamers excited for more.
The game tells the story of Annika, a young feline-like girl who awakens from a strange dream to find herself stranded on Spica Island and with no memory of how she got there. Fortunately, she comes across a boy named Giraffe, who doesn’t only know who she is but thinks he will be able to recover her memories – provided she helps him find some star fragments that are hidden on the island.
The tale is told through comic book-style sequences, each of which is illustrated in a charming way that does a good job of keeping players invested in the story. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative itself can be very by the book thanks to its amnesiac protagonist and quirky cast of characters, but there’s something pleasantly endearing about it all that makes it fun to see unfold.
Giraffe and Annika’s main gameplay sees players exploring Spica Island in order to gather the special star fragments, all whilst completing quests for the inhabitants of the island, gathering all sorts of collectibles that are scattered around, and rummaging through dungeons full of platforming challenges and troublesome enemies. It actually has all of the hallmarks of your typical RPG, though the simplicity of the gameplay loop does see it fall a little short of the mark as far as adventuring is concerned.
Take the dungeons for example. Whilst these are filled with hazards to avoid and platforming segments to leap across, you won’t actually have to battle the enemies that are lurking around. Instead, you simply avoid them and hope they don’t get you in their grasp. It could feel a bit strange trawling through dungeons being unable to defend yourself, whilst the linearity of their design could make them feel a bit boring at times too. In fairness, each dungeon did offer something a little different based around their theme and you do unlock new abilities as you progress, but I still felt like they needed that extra *something* just to bring them to life.
At least the boss encounters offer a means to fight back, with the player partaking in rhythm-style showdowns that demand quick reactions as you leap left and right and mash a button to deflect projectiles being shot your way. It’s a really simple system that doesn’t really offer anything you wouldn’t have seen before, but I still found them fun to complete. There’s a decent difficulty curve in place that ensures new challenges are introduced to the player throughout each battle, whilst the colourful cast of villains you face off against add some charm to the encounters too. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing innovative about them, but they still make for enjoyable showdowns.
Exploration outside of the dungeons could leave a lot to be desired though, with Spica not exactly full of things to do. I was a fan of the Island’s aesthetic and the vibrant landscapes really offered some lovely sightseeing opportunities, but actually doing things such as looking for collectibles or completing side quests could get a little old fast. The side quests themselves could be a little frustrating too, with unclear objectives and time-limits preventing any from feeling overly compelling – they do give a decent variety of tasks to complete though, so a handful of them will probably stand out to some players.
I’ve given Giraffe and Annika a lot of stick, but there’s no denying that there’s a wonderful vibe to the adventure. It’s very feel-good in style, both with the gameplay and the world you explore, so you can definitely expect to have a smile on your face as you play. It is worth noting that it’s a fairly short adventure though, with the game easily between in around five-hours. You can probably add a couple of extra hours onto that if you want to find everything that Giraffe and Annika has to offer, but it certainly isn’t an epic in size.
I couldn’t help but to feel underwhelmed by Giraffe and Annika, with its adventure doing little to excite during its fairly short runtime. It’s not that anything was particularly bad about the game… there’s just not a whole lot to it. Sure, the vibrant world and quirky narrative do bring some charm to the journey and I enjoyed the rhythm-based battles, but everything else about Giraffe and Annika lacked any real spark of excitement to makes its adventure one that’s worth investing your time into.
Developer: Atelier Mimina
Publisher: NIS America
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC