PAX West 2018: Giraffe & Annika

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

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If I’m being honest, I didn’t really know what I was getting into with Giraffe & Annika when I sat down to play it at PAX . (You may find that’s kind of a theme with me at PAX West this year.) The intro didn’t give me much to work with either, a series of vague manga-panel-style images and a bit of text before dropping me into the world with very little direction about what to do, and a house nearby. With no idea what I should do, I went towards it, solved a few simple puzzles, and went inside.

Giraffe & Annika | Giraffe model

Giraffe & Annika is an action-RPG of sorts where you play as Annika, a young girl with cat ears and a tail. I’ll say the anime-esque art style is very cute and charming, especially the still images that make up the cut-scenes. The graphics themselves leave a bit to be desired, while the models themselves seem fairly high-quality the visuals themselves seemed somewhat grainy, although that may have been a result oof the rig I was playing on. The walking animation also isn’t without its oddities. It’s fine when walking in a straight line or making smooth turns, but when turning 180° Annika will slide backwards slightly for a second as she turns around to face in the new direction, like they wanted to have immediate response on turning but didn’t want to sacrifice an animation for turning around. I was also able to make her slide along the ground barely moving her feet by moving slow enough, which was amusing to see.

Giraffe & Annika | Japanese cut-scene

The game, or at least the demo area I played, didn’t have much in the way of combat, with the player only being able to avoid the enemies strewn around the demo dungeon and no way to fight them. There is one fight, however, against the boss at the dungeon’s end. It shows off the rhythm-style combat, with the player moving Annika back and forth and using timed button presses to block magical attacks fired her way. It’s not a bad system itself, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a very good sense for it. Apparently when transporting their setup to PAX, publisher UNTIES somehow lost the headphones they would’ve had to make the game playable with audio, meaning that I was forced to play a rhythm game with no sound. As such the combat didn’t seem great, but it would probably be better if it had music for me to play along to.

Giraffe & Annika | Rhythm combat

Giraffe & Annika seems like a cute, decent little action-RPG, but I found it lacking in some aspects. The biggest issue I have is with the exploration; Annika can’t jump or run aside from her default run speed, and since there doesn’t seem to be combat with regular enemies the dungeon in the demo consisted mainly of me going around and trying to run past all the enemies. I hope there’s some way to deal with them in the full game, or perhaps more interesting ways of traversing the landscape. The combat probably also would’ve left a better impression if it had sound like it was supposed to, but I can’t blame the developer for that. However, that’s all based just on the one dungeon, so it’s possible things may change as you progress through the game when it releases on PS4 and PC in 2019.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.