I’d like to clear something up right away, there are as many giraffes in this game as there are donkeys in Donkey Kong. I assumed that if I was curious, then someone else out there may be as well, and I wanted to get that out there as early as possible. You’re welcome.
There are so many things to love about Giraffe and Annika. I love the character models, the colors, the landscapes, and even the beautiful scenery beneath the waves. Annika is cute as a button and you can’t help but love everything about her. I’ve said this before, but when we were in the 8-bit era of gaming I dreamed of a time when I could play a game that looked as good as the cartoons on TV and it’s mind-blowing that we have completely surpassed that. The story is told is by using comic book panel styling. There isn’t much for voice acting, but there was something really cool with the manga panels that would put the sounds into words like “swoosh” and “pffft”. Not everyone may like that style, but for this title it really fits well.
The second obvious is the music. Music, like hamburgers, only gets so good and from there it’s just different. Giraffe and Annika has some of the finest music I have heard in a game and really added a lot of joy to the experience. You can feel it when a game has weak music because it grinds your eardrums into submission. I felt the mood of the music matched well with the scenery very nicely. Since there are day and night sequences, the music at night is more somber than the bubbly daytime stuff.
Something quite unique about this title is that, much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there is no combat. Also like Animal Crossing, you collect paintings and donate them to the museum/art gallery. You get prizes for collecting them, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. Oh wait, did I say NO combat? Well, if a rhythm game is combat then I guess there is combat. As you fail you drain your health bar. If you hit the rhythm, you take away from the boss’s health bar. Then you get a letter grade; I did not get above a B. I’m strangely comfortable with that. That’s probably the most fun action aspect of the game, however you only get to do it six times. At least you can replay them if you wish. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not more would make the game better. Sometimes the McDonald’s fries come at you with the right amount of salt and you don’t think about it because it tastes right. When there is too much or too little you notice right away. If I were to apply that analogy I would say that it has just the right amount of rhythm game in there.
While you are exploring, you will run into the normal irritant of this game, namely the ghosts. They like to launch fire or water at you depending on where you are in the game. Sometimes they whip up some tornadoes to throw at you or breathe heavily in your direction. Other times they just chase you down to hurt you. Something strange about this game that I noticed is that you have a health bar. At least I think it’s a health bar. It may be a stamina bar. Let’s split the difference and call it the Annika Bar. If your Annika Bar reaches zero, that’s it… you’re dead. You start again close to where you died or were knocked out. There are some save statues around. They are weird looking statues that will have a short conversation with her and will save your game. There are some little things to find as well like books to sing from, drums to play, along with the paintings. Undoubtedly they would be trophies on your PS4 if you get it for that system. Did I mention that you have no weapons or shield of any kind so you can’t incapacitate the enemies?
Let’s chat for a moment regarding that Annika Bar. When you swim it gets drained. If you stand next to crystals it gets filled. If you eat it gets filled. When you get out of the water it does not get filled. It’s not health because why would you get injured swimming. Oh, unless you’re a cat. It doesn’t make sense to me and an odd choice so something needed to be said.
There are other tasks you will need to do in order to finish the game. You will need to find the five rabbit children, collect wood for a ghost to build a bridge, and do some stuff and things for other island inhabitants. In total, the game can be completed around the 5 hour mark. So, yes this is fairly short for a game that is releasing at the $30 price point. But again, salt on french fries, I don’t think I wanted more. Another analogy, it’s like getting The Hobbit movie and then they release the special edition with more content. Just because it’s more doesn’t make it better. So maybe that works for what I’m trying to say.
The control of Annika takes everything I just said was good about this game and throws it out the window. I play on the TV, not on the Switch so I played using my Pro Controller. There was no mystical fade or drift in my left stick. No, the controls are just that bad. The problem stems from the way the two control sticks actually fight each other. When you tilt your left stick to the left, what happens is Annika rotates with the direction. We have gotten VERY used to left stick moves you forward, backward, and strafe. Right stick is to rotate the camera and direct your avatar. Why you would go back to Super Mario 64 controls when we have come so far is a mystery to me. It takes all the fun I was having and sucks it right out.
I’m a software developer and inside our controls we have something called “padding”. This padding gives you space inside the limits of the control, like a text box, so that the data inside doesn’t get too close to the borders of the control and the control looks bigger. Well, this game has a ton of padding, doing what it can to stretch out playing time by forcing you to do really boring things. If you played The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker then you will understand where I am coming from when it takes 1 to 3 minutes to ride on a boat to get to various locations. Oh, and DO NOT give us any fast travel points or a map of any sort. Those things would make your 5 to 6 hour game into a 3 to 4 hour game.
Sitting on a boat while it slowly maneuvers its way though the little islands is not fun, it’s boring and something that could be fixed by fading to black and fading back in as you reach your next destination. Yes, they did this so that you would jump off the boat to explore islands and buildings the boats don’t stop at. Getting off the boat doesn’t stop it or make it wait for you. If you do get off, then you’re swimming. What’s odd is that the Annika bar depletes as you swim so you either need to dive to rest near crystals or you need to take enough food with you to eat so that you make it. Even the game tells you that swimming that distance is too far which is why they have you ride a turtle at one point.
There is also a time factor involved where some places cannot be entered during the day or during the night which either forces you to wait or find a bed to sleep until night or morning. At no other point did this become extremely annoying than when a tram only leaves once per day at 3:00 PM in-game time. This makes you sleep until morning and then just stand there watching the clock wind around until the tram finally arrives. Padding at its worst and a waste of the player’s time.
That being said, the game is charming and entertaining. It’s a bit short, but I did have fun exploring the world. The game looks and sounds great as well, but the gameplay mechanics, including the controls really hold this one back from greatness.
Giraffe and Annika Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 5/105/10
- Lasting Appeal - 4/104/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Overall, the story is worth playing through. It is touching and has an ending that is quite good. The manga panel presentation of the story telling is very cool, and the music is absolutely wonderful. However, with all the unnecessary padding, inability to destroy or at least incapacitate enemies, and the insanely idiotic control scheme that is enough to drive you crazy, it may not be worth the initial price tag of $30.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.