Giraffe and Annika review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: atelier mimina
Medium: Digital/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No

Midway through my playthrough of Giraffe and Annika, I was mentally preparing a list of all the reasons why I disliked it. There are plenty of enemies, but no combat. It?s seemingly geared towards kids, except to advance you need to search every inch of your island for items, and you have to do it all with no map. It gradually unlocks new abilities for your character, the eponymous Annika, except the abilities you unlock are basic things like running and jumping. The boss battles are music mini-games, except the beats and the button presses don?t quite match up. In other words, I was ready to completely write it off.

And then, somehow, somewhere along the way, I found that I was actually really enjoying it. All those problems still remained, but I was able to overlook them. I even ended up giving the game a vote on my ballot for our Game of the Year list. I mean, I wouldn?t say it?s one of the best of the best, but at the same time, I had fun with it.

In large part, this is because it?s hard to dislike the game?s characters. Annika is relentlessly optimistic in the face of adversity, while the other half of the title, Giraffe, is a pleasant father figure. Along the way, she meets an engaging group of island inhabitants, like a family of bunnies and a giant chicken, as well as some humans. None of them are insanely memorable, but taken as a group, they add up to a cast that you won?t mind spending 6-7 hours with.

On top of that, the story is told via comic book-style panels, a welcome change from cutscenes where characters slide on and off the screen. It gives the game a certain warmth, which adds to the pleasantness of the characters.

Consequently, because you?ve got a good set of characters and a decent story, a lot of those problems I mentioned in the first paragraph end up seeming like not big deals. It?s kind of nice to not have to fight enemies over and over again, especially when you can just run by them. Searching the island thoroughly yields some fun secrets (though it would be a lot more fun if there was a map). And the rhythm mini-games? Well, they?re still a pain, but they?re relatively short, and the music isn?t that bad.

What I?m getting at is that Giraffe and Annika is definitely one of those games where the whole is greater than any of its individual parts. It doesn?t do anything incredibly well, yet, somehow, when you put it all together in a package like this, the end result is delightful.

NIS America provided us with a Giraffe and Annika Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-