Title: Giraffe and Annika
Developer: atelier mimina
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
We all have our ways of coping with life and all the hardships that come with it. The Atelier Mimina-developed 3D adventure game Giraffe and Annika aims to tell an emotional story through the eyes of a young girl. It’s this imaginative way of storytelling that is merely the foundation for an adventure that is as wholesome as it is exciting.
Giraffe and Annika has players take on the role of Annika, a young cat girl who finds herself without her memory on a strange island. What’s even more bizarre is that everyone seems to know her, but she doesn’t know them. She ends up meeting a young man named Giraffe, who informs her of three elemental crystals that he needs her to find. After a little push back, she decides to help him, and the quest begins.
The story is rather linear here as players find themselves traveling from dungeon to dungeon as they collect these crystals. However, each time a dungeon is completed, players get the chance to see small bits of Annika’s memories. Furthermore, she meets other citizens of the island who request her help, which is needed to progress the narrative.
Without spoiling too much, I will say that Giraffe and Annika is an emotional and pure story full of imaginative set pieces. Since the player is merely completing tasks to progress, the developers have a batch of quests that make it feel as though the player has some control over the pacing. This includes a day and night cycle.
Giraffe and Annika is pretty much a pacifist game where players must avoid enemies at all costs. There are no attacks here, so using obstacles to block enemy attacks or just running away are reasonable actions. At first, I didn’t like this feature too much, but then I remembered that this is a little girl who probably shouldn’t be fighting anyway. Furthermore, it plays in well with the game’s narrative and becomes more apparent later on in the story.
Even though Annika can’t fight enemies in dungeons, she does have an attack against bosses. Each dungeon ends with a rhythm boss battle. You weren’t expecting that now were you? Players will tap and move to hit icons until the boss is defeated. There are multiple difficulties and points earned during matches, but these are just there to unlock new illustrations.
Luckily for Giraffe and Annika, this game has a killer soundtrack. Each track is beautiful and makes mindless experiences like going from one side of the island to the other more enjoyable. This extends to the rhythm battles, which caused me to move in my seat along with the dancing characters. It’s all extraordinarily pure and fun game design that flows surprisingly well with everything this game has to offer.
Giraffe and Annika also has puzzle elements where players collect items and run errands for other characters. Most of these tasks are straight forward, but it fits the narrative. Each discovery feels natural to the adventure as if these scenarios were somehow unique to my playthrough.
The game rarely lets you visit places early or go somewhere that you shouldn’t. Throughout the adventure, you’ll collect keys and new abilities that allow you to access new areas. Abilities are all necessary and within the means of what someone’s Annika’s age could do, such as jump, swim, and run fast.
The entire adventure can be completed in around 5 hours, which is just enough time for you to feel connected to the story. As for replayability, there are treasure chests containing illustrations, which can be turned in for items. One small thing about collecting these items that I didn’t like is that delivering them is tied to a late-game story quest, which means you’ll have to collect them if you want to get through the game.
Giraffe and Annika is in dire need of a map feature that lets you know the places you’ve been in a dungeon. All too often, I became lost or turned around only because some environments look way too familiar. Furthermore, the game could use a fast travel option, which would considerably cut down on the game’s runtime, but running across the island for the tenth time tends to stop being fun. Still, these didn’t hinder my experience, but I did encounter a glitch where text stayed on the screen.
Graphically, Giraffe and Annika is gorgeous as the story plays out in comic book style scenarios. The 3D models of the characters are colorful and unique, and the island looks amazing. Strangely, it seems the developers have included some premade assets, which stand out next to the more cartoonish world. One of my favorite parts about the game is the level of detail that they put into the game’s animations. The team went above and beyond to make Annika move naturally and react to the events around her.
Giraffe and Annika is an emotional and imaginative adventure. The game’s focus on pacifist dungeon crawling and exploration paid off to deliver an exciting narrative with a young girl at the helm. Incorporating music into the game’s design was a smart choice as it broke up the straight forward and linear progression. While I wish there were a few more accessibility features, Giraffe and Annika is an adventure worth going on.
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