A pleasant, peaceful experience
Giraffe and Annika is a game quite unlike most. It’s simple, sure. It’s not a large game, by any means. But there’s something there that is likeable; it’s charming. There’s a lot to unpack here, however, as we take a look at what Giraffe and Annika is, as well as whether it’s worth your time and hard earned money – especially in its newest iteration on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
At its core, Giraffe and Annika is the story of a young cat who’s lost her memory. With the help of Giraffe, a blue haired friend whom Annika cannot remember, Annika travels around her little island (Spica) in search of elemental fragments with the goal of attaining her memories. On her quest, Annika will navigate Spica while exploring dungeons in order to track down these fragments. Upon earning each one, Annika regains pieces of her memories, as well as new abilities to help you progress through the various obstacles on the island. She’ll meet a relatively large cast of characters along the way, and building relationships with each of Spica’s denizens is also as important as exploration.
Gameplay in Giraffe and Annika is pretty simple. While exploring the island, you’ll complete tasks like finding a group of missing rabbit children or fixing a bridge. You will be required to, perhaps, do a little bit of simple platforming (pushing boxes and making timed jumps) and collecting, too. The exploration bits of Spica are more for advancing the narrative and building atmosphere than to challenge gamers at every turn. After each segment of the island, you’re required to run through one of the various dungeons. Each dungeon sees you platforming, dodging ghosts (they plague the island, projectiling attacks at Annika as she attempts to clear each area), and completing requirements unique to each dungeon before reaching the boss. Each boss works like a rhythm/battle game, where you need to hit or hold buttons based on the beats in a song. I was garbage at this system to start, but once I actually figured out what was going on, it began to flow smoothly. On console, the dungeon battles – everything, really, – appeared to work so much better than when I reviewed this on PC.
Visually, I fell in love with Giraffe and Annika. The game itself isn’t jaw-dropping gorgeous, of course, but it is masterfully crafted to create a peaceful and relaxing setting and atmosphere. The story is told mostly through beautifully hand drawn storyboard scenes and brief dialogue boxes in game. It’s a wonderful little combination that builds upon a tranquil soundtrack. And, by the way, Giraffe and Annika boasts a wonderful accompaniment. The very first thing I noticed about the game, after thinking that the visuals were nicely done, was the beautiful piano theme that whisks Annika through the island of Spica. Sometimes I can be hard on sound direction, but, for the most part, Giraffe and Annika nailed it, even with its sometimes silly or boisterous tunes. It’s no Nobuo Uematsu, of course, but it is superb nonetheless.
In all, Giraffe and Annika is perfect for the indie-loving gamers who also enjoy a serene and tranquil experience that sails upon its crafted atmosphere and peaceful premise. For players looking for a challenge, you can increase the difficulty of boss battles, but it’s not necessary – and most of us playing Giraffe and Annika aren’t doing so for the challenge. There is a lot to love here for gamers with an open mind. For $19.99 on PC and $29.99 on PS4/Nintendo Switch, the approximately 6-10 hour adventure is worth the slightly elevated price tag.