Review: Giraffe and Annika


A Cat's Tale

As the gray hairs have slowly replaced the brown ones on my temples, I've become quite fond of shorter games. I don't mind diving into something meaty that takes me two weeks or more to complete, but with the color of my hair reminding me of how little sand I have left in the hourglass, I'm gravitating more and more toward bite-sized adventures.

But just because a game is short doesn't mean it can't be memorable. In fact, some of my favorite titles of the past few generations have been those I can complete in 10 hours or less. And while Giraffe and Annika doesn't quite measure up to those short adventures that came before it, its endless charm has me appreciating the experience anyway, warts and all.

Giraffe and Annika

Giraffe and Annika (PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: atelier mimina
Publisher: NIS America
Released: August 25, 2020 (PS4, Switch), February 17, 2020 (PC)
MSRP: $19.99

Giraffe and Annika can best be described as a playable fairy tale. Its characters, situations, morals, and enchanted world evoke the more kind-hearted aspects of those old Grimm and Andersen yarns. The story is set on Spica Island, where the cat-eared Annika awakens with a fuzzy memory about this place. It's familiar to her, but not in a way she clearly understands. After breaking into a local house and stealing a bag, she meets the floppy-eared Giraffe, who tasks her with exploring three dungeons to retrieve the star fragments from within.

From its opening moments, it's clear Giraffe and Annika was made with more casual players in mind. It's an action-adventure game sans the action. Annika has no attack or combat buttons. In fact, at the start of the game, she can't even jump, though she eventually learns how to do that -- as well as swim and run -- with each completed dungeon. These dungeons are a hotbed for ghosts and Annika can make it through unscathed if she notes the route they take while patrolling their section. Or you can do what I did and just run through each dungeon not caring about damage because health restoration points are plentiful throughout the game.

This isn't a title that's going to challenge you. Rather, it's a fanciful adventure across an adorable island with friendly inhabitants who each need a little assistance. Some need you to collect shells for them, others need you to restore forgotten monuments across the island. In turn, they'll help you out, such as sewing a new dress for you or being your gunner in the few mine cart portions of the quest. It's a rather pleasant experience and the charm of it all was enough to put a smile on my face for most of the five-and-a-half-hour run time.

The only time I wasn't smiling here was when the lax controls butted heads with the light 3D platforming sections. Annika moves as if her feet are butter sliding across a hot skillet. For a majority of the game, this slippery movement doesn't matter much as no tasks here require much skill to pull off. However, when the game did decide to challenge me with retrieving its more difficult-to-find "meowsterpieces" -- collectible art hidden across the island -- that uneasy movement became my prime source of contention.

Thankfully, that's a very small piece of this otherwise uplifting package. For the rest of Annika's quest, I admired how the developers slowly revealed more of the island to me and lightly rewarded my fondness for exploring on my own. The best times I had on Spica Island were the moments I just happened into certain areas far earlier than the game expected me to, setting up a tease for what was to come later.

The small, open-world design is perfectly suited for an adventure like this, constantly beckoning me back to areas I'd previously explored once I had a new item in hand. As much as I enjoyed this on Spica Island itself, I wasn't too keen on going back into the dungeons. In fact, they're not that engrossing the first time through. Their designs lack a unique imagination and the length of time it takes to complete each of them varies greatly from two that you can finish in a matter of minutes to one that feels like it goes on forever. There is also time mechanic where certain events happen at specific hours, forcing me to find a bed to sleep until morning or night and then wait it out until it was ready to go. It's not the most taxing wait, but it certainly karate chops the rhythm of the experience.

Giraffe and Annika

Keeping a proper rhythm is the key to boss battles found in Giraffe and Annika. At the end of each dungeon, the witch Lily will challenge you to a rhythm game. She sends little cosmic bulbs at Annika who needs to hit them in time with the music using her magically manifested staff. These are not terribly complicated battles as they only require one button and the joystick to play. You're even able to choose the difficulty level before every encounter. Successfully hitting the bulbs in time to the music will deplete some of Lily's energy, but you don't need to wipe her energy meter completely clean to defeat her or her cohorts. You just need to survive a few sections of the song without missing too many beats and losing all your energy.

Like the rest of the experiences found on Spica Island, these rhythm battles can best be described as quaint. And while that term may not be the one publishers race to add to an accolades trailer, I hope the developers see it as the compliment I intend it to be. Because this is not the most engrossing game I'll play in 2020 or one I'll even remember six months from now. But the congenial nature of Giraffe and Annika was enough to be a welcoming, brief respite from an otherwise weary world.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Giraffe and Annika reviewed by CJ Andriessen



Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


CJ Andriessen
CJ AndriessenEditor-at-Large   gamer profile

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games. more + disclosures



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