Giraffe and Annika review (PS4)

We’re taking a look at the PS4 version of Giraffe and Annika today, coming out next week through NIS America. Developed by Atelier Mimina, it’s a short and touching 3D adventure with anime-inspired visuals.

As a bit of a break from the norm for a NISA title, Giraffe and Annika was released on Steam prior to being ported over to consoles, but it’s been a game we were eagerly anticipating thanks to its anime style visuals that reminded us of games like Ni No Kuni.

In Giraffe and Annika, you play out a short (five to six hour) story as a young girl on an island called Spica. You’re Annika, and after a short while you come across a blue-haired boy who asks for your help in claiming star fragments from a series of dungeons that he himself can no longer access. This boy’s name is Giraffe, but although the titular characters are tied in the narrative you’ll also encounter plenty of other inhabitants. Some you’ll get to know indirectly as well, like when you find little notes that were left by “Lily” early on in the game.

giraffe and annika3

Although we initially thought about Ni No Kuni when we saw trailers for Giraffe and Annika, this is a very different game. Visually it’s not as detailed or polished, but the anime-inspired characters and cutscenes certainly look wonderful, and the soundtrack that backs it all up is also well done. Gameplay-wise it’s a very different experience as well, with non-violence being your only choice for the majority of the game.

Although you’ll encounter bad guys like ghosts, your only course of action is to run away or block them to stay out of harm’s way. The only confrontations where you’re forced to “fight” are at the end of each dungeon where you face off against a boss, which is where a rhythm game unfolds that sees you tapping buttons to the rhythm in order to defeat the boss and claim the dungeon’s rewards.

As a 3D adventure, a lot of the in-game action revolves around walking back and forth across the island of Spica and jumping and dodging obstacles while in a dungeon (of which there are five in the game). Coming off a 3D platformer or action game the controls in Giraffe and Annika feel rather clunky and imprecise, and the game could have used a bit of polish in this area, but at the same this is a slower-paced title that mostly gets away with that.

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Besides the story, which is partly delivered through well-made cutscenes but also through many well-developed characters, you can also spend a fair bit of time just exploring the island. You’ll do so naturally over the course of the story (there’s a bit of backtracking involved), but you can also seek out additional collectibles if you choose to do so or just want to make sure you see everything the game has to offer, as they also grant you access to certain (cosmetic) unlockables.

Giraffe and Annika is a nice but ultimately forgettable game – it lacks the impact that visually similar games like Ni No Kuni have and doesn’t have the gameplay polish of other 3D action/platforming adventures. That being said, the narrative and characters are engaging, and certainly manage to make the six or so hour journey through Spica worth the time.

Score: 6.8/10

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