Giraffe and Annika Review
Giraffe and Annika is an adventure title from Japanese indie studio Atelier Mimina, led by writer, director, and programmer Atsushi Saito. After being released for PC worldwide by Playism earlier this year, the game is now making its way to consoles, with NIS America publishing the game for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in the west. Though it may lack depth and content for some, Giraffe and Annika is a textbook example of a wholesome game that feels ideal for kids or simply anyone else that wants a relaxing and welcoming experience in more stressful times.
The game follows Annika, a girl with cat ears and a tail who wakes up with amnesia on Spica Island. After checking out the nearby house, she comes across a boy called Giraffe, who asks Annika to help him by collecting star fragments from dungeons that he is unable to enter. This basic premise lasts most of the game, followed up by the subsequent conclusion, but there is another thread driven by Annika’s returning memories, with lots of other hints to it scattered from the outset. It’s certainly not a complex or deep story, but it’s one that is absolutely filled with heart. There is a true ending providing a slight variation on the regular ending — which is still satisfying — that most should be able to reach in around five hours, but unlocking this is very difficult if one doesn’t know exactly what to do or doesn’t want to spend several more hours scouring every reach of Spica.
The primary portion of Giraffe and Annika sees Annika making her way to the next dungeon, exploring Spica Island and undertaking some requests from other inhabitants in the process. Numerous areas are initially gated off until Annika retrieves the requisite keys or gains new abilities from recovering the star fragments. There are a couple of slight annoyances here; sometimes it can be hard to find the next objective, and often players are required to talk to Giraffe when it seems like they should just keep going forward, necessitating a trip back to prod him towards the next event.
The game lacks any real combat, with Annika’s greatest threat coming from falling or drowning during platforming sections. There are also ghosts in dungeons to try and avoid, but whenever Annika is knocked out she reappears a short distance away with no loss of progress, while health recharge points are liberally placed. Some of the game’s five total dungeons are a bit challenging to visualise the path through, the ocean dungeon being the most notable case, but they are largely linear with only short diversions to find unlockable bonuses such as the Meowsterpieces, a series of adorable cat-themed works from a multitude of artists. Puzzles are not complex and generally all about pathfinding, but the game still makes them enjoyable with a tight design combined with the overall audiovisual experience.
The closest Giraffe and Annika comes to combat is the rhythm game at the end of each dungeon. Here, the boss sends out rhythm orbs to the left or right of Annika and she has to move to that side and time a button press to match with each orb’s arrival, all the while avoiding other orbs send towards to the middle. There are three difficulty settings for these battles, selectable at the start of each, and they are readily replayable, offering some extra artistic unlocks as well. The rhythm games are strongly designed and certainly enjoyable, helping to showcase the strong musical score from Tomzuin H, but it would’ve been nice if they formed a larger part of the game.
In and of themselves, the visuals aren’t anything special, but they combine with the audio and general wholesomeness of the game to lend Giraffe and Annika its great level of charm. Spica Island is just simply a calming and very pleasant place to be, while the storybook scenes in particular are a great source of heart, making the characters, particularly Annika, relatable.
Though none of its constituent parts are world-beaters, the feelings they exude make Giraffe and Annika greater than their basic sum. It’s a game that’s ideal for both youngsters and those needing to spend some hours just relaxing or getting some warm, fuzzy feelings.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Incredibly adorable, exuding charm and fuzzy feelings
Enjoyable music and gameplay
Not much depth
Progression sometimes unclear