Title: Giraffe and Annika
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 08/26/2020
In this platformer, you take control of a cat-girl named Annika, who has lost her memory and awakened in an unfamiliar world. When someone asks her to go out on an adventure, she eagerly does so in order to rediscover her memories and collect the three star fragments, in this cute platformer! Despite the seemingly tropey and generic start, I was stunned to find out there was a surprising amount of depth to this story.
Nothing earth-shattering or anything, but it does have some emotional, thought provoking moments and the overarching mystery is pretty fun to try and guess at by your lonesome until you piece it together.
Giraffe and Annika is a 3D platforming game with a pretty typical look to it. Characters are humanoid, but with some mild animal features to them, such as ears or tails, and the environments are pretty decent, even if they can look quite blurry on Switch. The game in general has a pretty colorful, friendly feel to it, and despite the resolution quirks the game still runs decently enough to be enjoyable, so if you can look past an odd texture here and there, then you’ll be totally fine.
Honestly, every inch of this game is filled with some sort of goofy charm, even the parts that try to be “darker” in context of the universe. Whether they’re goofy enemies, ridiculous looking save statues, funny NPCs, a lot of Giraffe and Annika manages to stick out, despite the budget production values here. The music is worth praising some as well. While most of your explorations are accompanied by peaceful songs, some cutscenes do pack on the stronger pieces, and the fact boss battles are rhythm based means those songs really do a good job at being incredibly catchy.
Being a 3D adventure platformer, it may surprise you to know that for the first portion of the game, you can’t jump at all! That power is rewarded after defeating the first boss, and it opens up for some wider exploration, with subsequent dungeons awarding you other abilities such as a helpful dash among other things.
Even with upgrades though, you’ll notice that this platformer is a lot more easygoing than your average 3D adventure. There are enemies and hazards, but little in terms of serious combat or actions to do. For the most part, you just explore, use your limited abilities to see if you can nab anything that catches your eye, and reach the next main part of the game. Yes, you can die, but all it really does is just spawn you a short ways back, and you’ll more likely die by falling into a pit or drowning than running into enemies, since the enemies are stupidly simple to avoid.
At first I was a bit put off by this, especially since I ended up finding myself reaching the end of the first dungeon in a mere five minutes, but eventually I grew to appreciate the game’s easygoing nature: it’s not braindead easy like Kirby’s Epic yarn, since the bosses can trip you up on higher difficulties and the optional collectibles are cleverly hidden. Speaking of those, there’s a surprising amount of fun stuff to hunt for: there’s a variety of art pieces known as “Meowsterpieces” that are hidden throughout the world, and upon delivering them to an art house you can browse through them. The art isn’t anything jawdropping, but it’s a fun side collectible to stumble upon.
There’s also scrap pieces to hunt down, and even some secret easter eggs, which I thought was pretty cute. (Playing on Christmas during the review period actually dropped a specialized artwork inside one of the houses, so there’s even seasonal touches, though not required to 100%) To make things even sweeter for replay value, this Switch version has all the achievements from the other versions in-game and ready to unlock.
The bosses in this game are where the “combat” kicks into place… And these fights are just rhythm minigames. Move to the sides and press the A button to the rhythm, and try to build up a long chain without making too many misses. It’s pretty straightforward and surprisingly fun, and accurate! I’m not typically the fondest of button-based rhythm games, and I even find stuff like the recent Melody of Memory to be stingy with my inputs, but even on the hardest settings the songs in Annika were super comfortable to adapt to and it felt rewarding when I finally got a perfect chain. Luckily, you can replay these at any time via a music book, so you can go nuts trying out all the difficulties and improving your scores! As a brief change of pace from exploration, it works pretty well.
Unfortunately, there was a pretty big gripe I had with this part of the game, and it kinda relates to a design issue I noticed as I spent more time. Pressing pause at any point in the song will force you to restart it, so you have to do the whole thing without interruptions: fine I guess, but the problem comes from how you can accidentally softlock your game by doing this. I managed to restart the rhythm game, and while mashing the start button thinking I could jump past the initial boss cutscene to the rhythm portion, I opened the restart menu on the same frame as the cutscene, causing a softlock. With no autosaving that I could tell, I had to essentially redo the entire dungeon again, hence why it was a mercy for said dungeon to be so short. Thus, you have to be careful not to get the game stuck like that, since it seems there’s no fix in this port.
Speaking of saving, you do so by saving at any of the cat statues scattered around the game world… But one time I forgot about them and got lost trying to find a save point that I stupidly assumed exiting to the main menu would trigger an autosave: it does not, and that’s my fault. What isn’t exactly my fault, however comes from how choosing the exit to the main menu option immediately boots you back to the title screen: no confirmation requests, nothing, so I hope you don’t have a drifting joycon on the pause menu! Irksome design aside, I was at least relieved to see multiple save slots along with the option to lock your save so you can keep particular moments nice and safe.
In conclusion, Giraffe and Annika is a platformer with quite a lot of charm, but not much else to it, unfortunately. It does have a story worth seeing to the end at least once, and the bonus collectibles are legitimately fun to hunt down, but the core game is pretty short so for the MSRP, you’ll really only get a full value out of this adventure if you go for 100% or all the achievements. Still, what’s here is fun, even if some design elements are annoying enough to drive me insane at points, but if you be careful and know how to save properly, you’ll find a surprisingly charming, if flawed platformer.
Honestly, the amount of attention to detail and hidden touches is enough to make me recommend this game to platformer fans, but I reckon you may wanna go for the physical edition with extra goodies or wait for a digital sale if you want to check this out. Otherwise, this is a whimsical adventure that you’ll have a fun weekend with.
I give Giraffe and Annika a 7 out of 10.