Giraffe and Annika – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Atelier Mimina and published by NIS America, Giraffe and Annika is a whimsical adventure, filled with wonder, mystery and a charming cast of characters. Explore the island of Spica, meet the inhabitants of the land and travel through the wondrous environments in this 3D adventure title. This adventure is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam, if you want to check it out for yourself, links to all versions of the game will be at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to extend my thanks to NIS America for providing the copy of Giraffe and Annika used for this article. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story.

Story – in Giraffe and Annika, take on the role of the young cat eared girl Annika, who has woken up on the mysterious Island of Spica. With no memory of how she got there, she explores her surroundings and encounters a boy named Giraffe, who says that he knows her and gives Annika the task of locating star fragments that are scattered across the island. What secrets does this island hold? Join Giraffe and Annika on this adventure and find out.

Gameplay – this title is a unique mix of 3D adventure and rhythm action battles. As Annika, you explore the island and traverse mysterious environments that contain many dangers, including perilous traps and spooky ghosts. During exploration, Annika will encounter enemies that seek to halt her progress and cannot be stopped so the only way to keep her safe is to avoid contact with these monsters.

While there is no way to protect the Annika from monsters, there are plenty of recovery points that can help the player to stay alive. The game is also quite generous with checkpoints throughout the adventure, this helps players of all ages to enjoy the experience and progress with little difficulty. Another part of the exploration is the collection mechanics.

Throughout the island, the player will find chests that contain images called Meowsterpieces, art that features cats or those with cat like aspects. Alongside the collectable art, there are many other items to obtain, including keys that open up new paths, new dresses for Annika and much more that the player can pick up on their adventures. The collectable aspect of the game is delightful, adding to the replay value and giving reasons to explore the games world in depth.

The second part of gameplay is the dynamic rhythm action boss battles, with each stage that Annika explores culminating in a musical battle. These battles are relatively simple, with the player moving Annika left and right, hitting the action button to catch notes, holding the button for extended notes and dodging damaging attacks. The rhythm stages are separated into three difficulty settings, providing a level of challenge for everyone.

There is a progression system in this title that gives Annika new skills and abilities as she clears the different areas. The skills that the player unlocks allow Annika to reach new areas and obtain collectables that may have been previously out of reach, adding yet more reasons for players to return to previously cleared areas.

The last thing I want to talk about is the character interactions and story segments. The interactions with characters during the game are separated into three categories;

  • Story – the narrative plays out using both manga style panel art, which uses beautiful illustrated works and animated cutscenes that are rendered using the in game engine.
  • Conversation – the player can talk to various characters that live on the island, who can provide hints, tips and even tutorials on how things work.
  • Request – some characters can give Annika objectives to complete in order to obtain items, cosmetics and more. These little side quests offer a nice distraction from the story and give even more reasons for back tracking and additional exploration of the island.

Now with the gameplay covered with enough detail to avoid spoilers, I will be moving on to the other aspects of the game, starting off with the controls.

Controls – the control method for Giraffe and Annika is fairly simple, with inputs that are easy enough for players of any skill level to pick up. There is however a minor flaw to how the game handles. The movement of Annika feels a little slippery as any direction on the thumbstick can send her running at full speed, which is a little frustrating when trying to perform precise movements and platforming.

Difficulty – there is a fairly low curve to the difficulty of this release, which is good as Giraffe and Annika appears to be targeted towards a family demographic. The regular checkpoints, abundance of recovery points and minimal penalties make this game accessible for players of all ages and skill levels. The main aspect of the difficulty is the rhythm action segments, with three settings of easy, medium and hard that increase the challenge at a rate that gives all players a chance at success. 

Presentation – the visual style for this release is adorable, with cute characters, spooky yet charming ghosts and vibrant artwork for the story segments. The graphical quality of the game is quite nice for the Nintendo Switch, working well in both docked and handheld play, however there is one minor issue. There are occasional frame drops that occur at random points, I am unsure if it is due to the hardware limitations of the machine, but they are an inconvenience when trying to traverse platforms.

The sound design is wonderful and whimsical, with music that fits each setting, ranging from atmospheric and creepy music in underground caves, to calming and gentle soundscapes. There is a lack of voice acting here, but I feel that it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The way that the sound effects, occasional voice clips and soundtrack contrasts with the visual style gives this release personality and an identity of its own.

Final Thoughts – overall, I had a delightful time playing this game, the minor flaws of control and occasional frame drops were frustrating at times but not a deal breaker for me. There is one thing I wish was different however, and that is the length of the game. I was able to finish the main story of Annika and Giraffe in a few sessions while researching the game for this review.

The other content in the game, with the collectables, Meowsterpiece chests and repeatable rhythm stages did add more reasons to return to the game upon story completion, which made me very happy. I can happily recommend this to everyone, if you are looking for a game to play with kids, want a simple laid back adventure to relax with or just fancy playing as an adorable cat girl, I think this is worth playing by everyone.

In the end, I give Giraffe and Annika a final score of 4/5. A truly wonderful and whimsical adventure full of personality that may not be the longest experience, but what it lacks in length, it certainly made up for it with fun. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to all versions will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)

Link to Xbox One version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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