Among the numerous massive games released every year there are also a number of simpler titles released that still exude a certain level of charm while delivering smaller adventures. In recent years NIS America has been diversifying their releases a bit and while last year saw the simpler Destiny Connect release, this time around the company has returned with Giraffe and Annika. With plenty of charm and designed to be more child friendly, Giraffe and Annika may not be something many would expect but it does offer something a bit unique these days.
Players take on the role of Annika, a young girl that has awoken on the flourishing Spica island with seemingly no knowledge about who or where she is. After a bit of exploration, Annika finds out that while she has no memory of herself there are plenty of people who know her. One of these happens to be Giraffe, a boy that asks for Annika’s help as she is the last Felycan on the island and, as such, is the only one capable of unlocking the special ruins scattered throughout the island that hold special Star Fragments that he is seeking.
Hoping to learn more about herself, Annika undertakes this task and encounters the powerful Witch of the Forest named Lily who also is familiar with the young girl and seeks the star fragments herself. With Annika managing to fend off the witch, she absorbs the fragment and witnesses unique visions. In an effort to learn more about herself and help others, Annika continues her journey throughout the colorful Spica Island.
Giraffe and Annika keeps things as simple as they come. Players will find that the story is charming at its core and features a great cast of characters that players will encounter and while there are some enemies, none of them feel very threatening and even the boss battles carry little weight behind them. This leads to a light, albeit inconsequential, adventure that encourages players to explore various parts of the world and examine everything they come across in an effort to learn more about Spica Island and its inhabitants, which given the game’s short length, is something many may want to do.
It quickly becomes evident that Giraffe and Annika was designed for a simpler experience in mind as players will find that this “action adventure” style game doesn’t really offer much action at all outside of boss battles while the adventure aspect is kept to a minimum near the start as Annika doesn’t even possess the ability to jump, run, or even swim properly until she unlocks the ability by clearing dungeons.
There are enemies that Annika will have to deal with that mostly appear in dungeons and while they can hurt her a bit, she can easily regenerate health either through eating food or standing near healing crystals that are generously scattered throughout every area. When not conquering dungeons players will find that the various residents of Spica Island can give Annika extra tasks that generally involve tracking down items or restoring parts of the island with the rewards being simple cosmetic items or the ability to help out during the more gameplay focused mine cart portions of the game.
The majority of the actual conflict in the game comes during the boss battles against Lily as she will launch magical orbs at Annika who, through rhythm based gameplay, can catch them and send them back at her. These rhythm sections are fairly simple to learn and players have the option of selecting between Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty before every challenge in case they aren’t familiar with playing a rhythm game but those who are will want to bump the difficulty up to hard as playing on Normal still ends up being far too easy as players can hop left and right and catch individual notes and press-and-hold notes to survive. It is also worth noting that Annika doesn’t even need to deplete all of Lily’s energy to win a fight, players only need to survive long enough for most battles to come to a conclusion.
Likely due to the lax nature of the game as a whole, players will find that the control system is a bit too floaty for its own good. Annika moves extremely quickly while moving across almost any type of terrain and these slippery movements can make some of the more finnicky platforming sections a bit difficult, especially since some of the collectible “meowsterpieces” are hidden away in hard to reach locations. It is also worth noting that Giraffe and Annika features a day and night cycle that allows for certain events to only happen at certain times of day which is a bit of an odd choice considering these cycles do little to the actual gameplay besides encouraging players to try and find out how dungeons or certain parts of the island differ due to the time of day or forcing them to find a bed to sleep in in an effort to advance time and continue their journey.
Visuals & Audio
There is a certain level of charm to be found in Giraffe and Annika’s coloration and design work. The environments themselves are fairly standard for a game such as this one while the dungeons that players explore are enjoyable enough but aren’t memorable enough outside of the colorful boss battles that cap them off. The charm shines the best when it comes to the character designs and the simple but effective comic-style presentation used for story scenes.
As for the soundtrack, the game features a solid collection of light calming music that fits perfectly with the tone of the game’s child-like exploration while the boss battle music works nice for the rhythm game it is paired up with. It is worth noting that there is only a minimal level of voice work here as cutscenes are not voiced and only Annika makes small bits of noise while exploring and interacting with the world.
While there are still plenty of grand games out there for players to enjoy, Giraffe and Annika takes on a smaller role and offers a simpler experience that is both charming and something that even younger children can enjoy. This does mean that things are a bit too easy for most and the controls aren’t quite as tight as one would hope given the amount of emphasis put on exploration here. All in all, Giraffe and Annika is a light and enjoyable game that will put a smile on most faces as long as players don’t go into it expecting a serious or difficult challenge.