Review – Giraffe and Annika

I appreciate when small studios try to come up with ambitious ideas for their debut titles. When they use their rookie naivety to their advantage, not being held back by knowing how hard it might be to bring their ideas to fruition. More often than not, this attitude ends up backfiring, as it might lead to delays, scrapped ideas, or the most dangerous side effect of all, resulting on a game that simply lacks focus. Giraffe and Annika, by indie studio Atelier Mimina, is a perfect example of that.

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The boy on the left is Giraffe. He is not a giraffe.

The game’s premise is your typical amnesiac castaway story. You control Annika, a small human girl with cat-like ears who wakes up on a mysterious island called Spica, with little memory of her past and how she ended up on said island. Everyone else seems to know her for some reason, including her partner Giraffe, a boy who looks like every single other mammal in the animal kingdom except for a giraffe. Both of them set out on a journey to recover star fragments hidden inside some of the island’s dungeons.

The last paragraph made it sound like Giraffe and Annika is a Zelda clone, especially considering that the first dungeon you visit is a forest temple. But honestly, I don’t even know what genre this game can be labeled as. It has some small nods to Zelda, sure, but it also features 3D platforming, some minute yet noticeable slice of life elements, and bosses you fight against in a rhythmic minigame. There are optional secrets scattered throughout the world called “meowsterpieces”. This adds an additional hour or two of gameplay to what would have otherwise been a very short title, in case you’re the completionist type.

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I really enjoyed the rhythm sections. Too bad they’re few and far between.

This is the game’s biggest issue. Giraffe and Annika tries to be a lot of games at once, but it never dives deep into any of its gameplay features to create a cohesive and polished experience. It completely lacks focus. There are dungeon exploration segments, but they are ridiculously simple and linear, devoid of interesting puzzles or anything that can be remotely considered a challenge. It features rhythm-based battles, which are easily its most appealing bit, but they are few and far between. There’s platforming, but the jumping mechanics are so clunky and awkward that some early PS1 titles manage to feel more modern in comparison. Its story is just downright forgettable. There’s also collectibles, but they are literally just cat-themed fan art JPEGs. They are not worth the effort.

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Sometimes, this is a really pretty game. Other times, it’s atrocious to look at.

Visually, Giraffe and Annika is an anomaly. It’s equally pretty and hideous, which is hard to explain. The characters are well-designed and some of them are actually well-animated, especially Annika. You can see the developer’s passion towards the project just by looking at Annika’s adorable idle animations, for instance. Some of the game’s locales are actually gorgeous, especially the second dungeon, the Ocean Dungeon. A few of the cutscenes are also presented in comic book panels, and I can’t say they aren’t well-drawn.

With that being said, the game features abysmal lighting effects and shadow rendering, the latter making everything look cheap and excessively artificial. The framerate isn’t exactly the most impressive and some animations, especially whenever a character decides to walk, are downright terrible. For every positive aspect in Giraffe and Annika‘s graphical department, there’s something else that negates it.

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Stuff of my nightmares.

Ever heard of the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none”? That’s Giraffe and Annika in a nutshell. It tries to be a Zelda clone, a rhythm game, an exploratory 3D platformer, and even a mini slice of life game all at the same time, without ever truly focusing on one aspect to make it truly stand out. It has some minute redeeming factors, such as its rhythm sections and some of its stages are actually very pretty, but I honestly think the developers ended up biting off way more than what they could chew. Kudos for the effort, I guess.


Graphics: 6.0

It’s a weird case when a game is really pretty and hideous at the same time. The character models are cute and well animated and the environments are really colorful. The poor lighting effects and cheap shadows are beyond ugly, though.

Gameplay: 5.0

Although the controls are simple, the game suffers from poor responsiveness, as well as one of the worst jumping mechanics in the history of 3D gaming. The rhythm segments are really cool, however.

Sound: 5.0

The soundtrack isn’t bad, but it’s beyond forgettable. It does have one or two slightly interesting tunes during the game’s rhythm sections, however. The sound effects are as bland as they can be.

Fun Factor: 6.0

It’s the epitome of “jack of all trades, master of none”. It tries to be lots of different games at once, without ever focusing at one mechanic with enough depth to make it stand out. Its story is bland and its controls are clunky, but it does feature some friendly characters and some optional exploration segments that give it an extra degree of replayability.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Giraffe and Annika is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Giraffe and Annika was provided by the publisher.