Giraffe and Annika from NIS America follows the story of an amnesiac little girl named who is on a quest on a mysterious island. Read more about this title in our Giraffe and Annika review!
Giraffe and Annika is a 3D adventure game where you follow along with the cat eared girl Annika as she explores the mysterious island of Spika.
Each dungeon is guarded by a boss where Annika will need to defeated through a music-based battle system and fully synched animations. The game system and effects are all fully synced with the music.
As the game opens, you are greeted by a beautiful hand-drawn cutscene that makes the whole thing feel as if it was taken straight from a cartoon book. In this animation, you get to see a little girl with cat ears named Annika. As you can probably imagine – from knowing the game’s title – Annika is the main character of this game.
You then get control of Annika and are free to go in the direction you wish. The game doesn’t hold your hand at the beginning. As you explore the available surrounding areas, you’ll quickly realize that there are many paths that are blocked – a broken bridge, a fence that requires a specific key, and so on. Even though you are initially limited, and the only place you can really go to is a nearby house, I initially thought that the lack of guidelines made the game a bit confusing. I’m all for a game that helps you learn how to play it by its intuitiveness, but in this case, I felt like I’d have liked a little more guidance.
After wandering a little while, you’ll eventually meet your friend Giraffe – also in the game’s title -, who will talk to you about your main quest: recovering three gems. Annika is the last of the Felycans – a race that has cat ears – so she is the only one who has the power to recover them.
The game features a few dungeons, each hosting one of the gems, and they’re quite easy to navigate. The first one is mostly linear, but the next ones require more thought, reflection, and some backtracking. Annika doesn’t fight, so you mostly have to avoid the different enemies and hazards until you reach the end. It wasn’t an issue for the first dungeon, but in the subsequent ones, I was craving for a minimap since the dungeon layouts were more confusing and did require some backtracking.
I also thought that beginning at the second dungeon, there were a few annoying issues. For instance, at many places, when Annika dies, she goes back to the nearby checkpoint, but the enemies are already there shooting at her – and there’s no way to avoid the hit. The gameplay also felt unbalanced because ghosts (the main enemies) can fire at Annika, but many times she can’t hide or run fast enough to avoid them. One of the worst moments was when she was on a small raft, and there were ghosts everywhere shooting at her. You can board up a defense mechanism on the raft before going, but nearly every time, the blockade fell in the water, which made Annika a sitting duck.
Once you reach the end of a dungeon, you’ll be introduced to a rhythm mini-game, in which you have to press the action button at the right time. Those were a great change of pace of the exploration and felt relatively challenging until you understand the pattern. There are also a few collectibles to collect in each dungeon in the form of Meowsterpieces, which are, in fact, art pieces.
Graphics is an area where there isn’t something to complain about. The cutscenes are gorgeous, and the game is built on the Unreal Engine, which always helps to render good looking games. There are also day and night cycles, and I loved how the sun generates some real-time shadows. There are also puzzles based on the day and night cycle, which was a nice surprise. The music is instrumental and played on the piano.
Giraffe and Annika is a rather casual experience, making the game feel as if it was targeting a younger audience, with HP recovery points everywhere, and relatively simple dungeon design. The game is also very short and can definitively be completed in a single setting.
Should you play this game? If you’re looking for a hardcore experience, then this game isn’t for you. Giraffe and Annika is more relaxed and self-contained experience with great graphics. Other than some issues with some of the dungeon choices, this is a short but fun experience that you can take on and complete in a handful of hours.
This Giraffe and Annika review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by NIS America.