At this point, when people think of gaming, it’s typically extremely popular games like Fortnite, shooters or the handful of extremely popular franchises but it is so much more than that. There are various genres that can invoke a different sense of fun of people, with a wide variety of experiences that remind us why gaming is so great. This is honestly part of the reason we love to cover games from companies like NIS Amerca. They have a lot of heart and stand out in a wide variety of ways that make it easy to suggest something different to those tired of the usual things. Among the wide variety of unique offerings from the company comes a new game with the younger demographic in mind. Cute visuals and simple mechanics come together, but is it enough to sell the concept?
There really isn’t much to Giraffe and Annika’s story. Annika wakes up on a weird island and decides to explore. Eventually she meets a boy named Giraffe, who seems to have a connection to her. He tells her about star fragments that will help her remember thing and also gain additional powers. Each vision hints at what happened and leads to a fairly expected reveal, one that makes the journey worth it. Assuming you can get there.
Gameplay in Giraffe and Annika reminds me a lot of late ‘90s and early ’00s Disney games. Most of those games weren’t particularly amazing, though many of them were brought to newer consoles, with some of the worst titles having an odd mix of extremely easy and oddly difficult. This is how I often felt exploring the world of Giraffe and Annika.
Most of the initial tasks are extremely easy and explained relatively quickly. One is finding wood, another children, with there being little to no challenge. Dungeons work a similar way. Instead of battling tough foes, Annika mostly runs past ghosts and an absurd amount of healing crystals. Seriously, you almost have to die to die to enemies, yet touching water, prior to unlocking her swimming ability, might as well kill her instantly. In most cases you can just blindly move forward and regardless of timing or skill, overcome whatever challenge.
Perhaps the most notable example of that happened in the second dungeon. A sign mentions you’re supposed to use stealth to avoid attacks, yet barreling forward will simply outrun whatever attacks enemies attempt to make. It’s fine for someone who just wants to play as a cute cat girl in a rather colorful world and feel like you did something, even if it isn’t overly difficult.
Collectibles and other elements have similar shortcomings. Things like the Meowsterpieces are almost always hidden with a painted icon indicating when one is near. Again, a younger player will likely see those and feel a sense of accomplishment, whereas an adult will likely notice them and find it a bit on the nose.
At the end of each dungeon is a rhythm battle. These can be completed on easy, medium or hard and have some bite. I found the timing to be a little rough, though it is really simple. You just need to move to the side where the attack is coming and swing while also avoiding attacks that come directly at you. There is a bit gap between each difficulty, meaning you can find the sweet spot and improve, if you want, but these sections are far and few between.
Where Giraffe and Annika starts to fall behind is overall polish. Controls are a bit on the floaty side, jumping between platforms is harder than it should be and things like boxes feel weightless. It isn’t hard to make a mistake or mess up from lackluster controls, over a lack of skill. As a result, it can be tricky, yet extremely easy.
These problems also extend to the world itself. There really isn’t a whole lot to see in the world of Giraffe and Annika. The town is a bit on the empty side, dungeons are extremely basic and even basic animations like climbing a ladder are excluded in favor of just appearing at the top. This can take you out of the overly cute world, though cutscenes will likely bring you back.
Giraffe and Annika Verdict
Giraffe and Annika is meant for less experienced and younger gamers and does a good job of presenting a world for them to explore. There might not be much to see or challenges to overcome, besides some control issues, making it easy to understand its place. The cute story and vibrant visuals also make it easy to enjoy the simple charms, even if the rhythm sections are a bit on the rough side. While I wouldn’t say this is a grand slam of a children’s game, it’s has enough redeeming aspects to play through it.
[Editor’s Note: Giraffe and Annika was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]