Giraffe and Annika is a new 3D adventure and rhythm game from developer Atelier Mimina and publisher PLAYISM. You play as the cat-eared Annika throughout your adventures on the Island of Spica. As you set out to find star fragments, you’ll meet plenty of charming characters, explore the beautiful island, delve into dungeons, and uncover Spica’s mysteries.
WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE ISLAND
You awake on the Island of Spica, unsure of how you got there, and are able to start exploring and understanding aspects of the new world thanks to the notes left around by a character named Lily. This is a good introduction to the controls, as much of the game is exploration driven. The island itself is beautifully-designed with a great day and night cycle, and various nooks and crannies for you to uncover. Accompanied by a great soundtrack and cute graphics, exploring the island is as fun as it is relaxing.
As you explore the island, you’ll also come across collectibles called “Meowsterpieces” – aptly named paintings of cats. Achievement hunters will enjoy hunting down all thirty paintings, but even if you’re not in it for the Steam achievements, there are also in-game rewards for finding the paintings. A certain number are needed to progress in the later stages of the game, and finding them can also unlock special items, like additional outfits for Annika to wear.
INTO THE DUNGEONS WE GO
Soon after you wake up and begin navigating this new world, a blue-haired boy named Giraffe tasks you with helping him find fragments of the stars. This is where your main journey begins. The star fragments are found in dungeons located throughout Spica. Unfortunately, Giraffe is barred from entering the dungeons, so you must run from ghosts and avoid falling boulders all by your lonesome.
The dungeons are more platform based, with Annika having to avoid, jump over, and run past obstacles. You can shoot boulders, but there are not really any fighting mechanics beyond that. Despite the lack of combat, there is a nice increase in difficulty as you advance through the five available dungeons and they each have a steady pace throughout them. It never feels like the dungeons drag on, though there are a few difficult areas you might get stuck having to repeat until you triumph past them.
The difficult areas aren’t exactly difficult due to the level design, but rather due to the clunky nature of the controls. The buttons don’t always feel precise. For example, Annika does not always stop walking or running exactly when you let off the WASD keys. Additionally, if you’re on a log or a beam and if the camera is just the slightest bit off to one side, she might jump off the beam instead of going straight when you hit W. This makes dungeons where precision is key (like the fourth dungeon in particular) especially difficult and somewhat frustrating to complete at times.
Once you make it to the end of the dungeons, boss battles take the form of a rhythm game. You must move left and right, hitting the Z button in time with the orbs being thrown your way. I didn’t particularly mind this form of boss battle, although if you are not a fan of that style of gameplay, these battles might seem like a chore. On the plus side, you can adjust the difficulty of the rhythm game for each dungeon if the battles seem too easy or too hard.
TELL ME A STORY
As you explore the island and conquer dungeons, the main story will unravel in a mix of in-game and manga-like cutscenes. The manga art is beautifully drawn in full color and the in-game cutscenes run fairly smoothly, both of which provide an interesting way to pull you into the narrative.
In addition to the cutscenes, the characters you meet on your journey also help you to connect with the story. Annika’s quirky personality draws you in, as does Giraffe’s kind but mysterious background. The supporting NPCs each have unique roles and charming personalities that help to make the world feel lived-in as well.
Though slightly sad, I quite enjoyed the story as a whole and would like to see more of what happens after the credits roll. That being said, the story is a bit on the short side. It took me around seven and a half hours to beat the game, collecting twenty-two of the Meowsterpieces. If you’re going for all the achievements, it will probably take you an extra hour, or an hour or two less if you’re not interested in collecting at all. For the price, the gameplay is rather short, but the time and effort put into the impressive amount of artwork does help to make up for that.
The Verdict: Great
With beautiful art, cute graphics, and a great soundtrack, Giraffe and Annika is a fun and visually pleasing adventure game. The world is relaxing to explore and the collectibles keep you wanting to search and uncover more. Though the controls are a bit clunky and the playthrough length is on the shorter side, if you like manga-style art and are a fan of exploration games, I highly recommend checking it out.