Normally, I'd be all for sending a giraffe to space. Why? Because we can!
After Space Giraffe, however, I'm convinced we should stick to monkeys.
The game starts as a neat little lightshow, but quickly becomes a big flashy annoyance. SG has you positioned at the end of a long geometric shape, firing at oncoming enemies. While this is not a complicated goal, extra features such as 'bulling' or the 'power zone' provide extra points for those looking to use a bit of strategy.
Ultimately, the game falls apart when the player is bombarded with harmless background colours and life-sucking enemy bullets at the same time. The two become almost indecipherable from one another.
But is this flaw a "deal-breaker"? Can Space Giraffe's quirky sense of humor and upbeat sound track make up for such short comings?
My room mate Baxter thinks so.
"I don't understand it," said Baxter O'Gotham, as he dawned his sandals and poncho. "I really dug Space Giraffe."
"What you don't understand Baxter, is how far video games have come since their inception. And how could you? You're from the sixties."
Baxter and I became room mates after a rift in time teleported him from 1967 to present day Toronto. Being a time traveler, Baxter knows plenty about almost everything - except videogames. Our crazy antics are the stuff of Thursday night sitcoms.
We started talking gameplay as soon as we hit street level.
"Neither of us have played Tempest, so how can you really compare the games?" Baxter asked.
"But I've seen Tempest being played, and I'm telling you - this game looks a lot like Tempest."
"Sure, sure. You still have the playing field, which takes the form of an elongated 3D geometric shape, and your 'giraffe' still sits at the outskirt, shooting at approaching enemies. But that's where the similarities end," said Baxter.
"Granted, the receding 'power zone' is an interesting concept," I said. "Shooting enemies pushes it away from you, not shooting enemies moves it forward. Lose a life if it comes to close. I also liked how power-ups would let you 'jump' off the play area to avoid danger and shoot more enemies."
Baxter was quick to finish my thought.
"This then works in tandem with the 'bulling' system, where you could let the enemy come right to the end of the playing field, then ram them for bonus multipliers."
I interjected, "And the whole thing becomes a give-and-take sort of deal, where you want to shoot enemies to keep the power zone back, but let enemies through so you can 'bull' them for extra points."
We turn a corner.
"But how many extra points does 'bulling' get you?" I said. "The game does little to guide you. It offers no suggestions in-game. The tutorial only teaches you the absolute basics. You just get a cryptic rating at the end of each level saying things like 'not terrible', or 'a bit rubbish'."
"Man, there had to of been something there you liked," said Baxter.
I had to think about it. "Well," I said. "The music and sound effects really work within the context of the game. The trance soundtrack fits perfectly. The bonus level is also really fun, maybe because it's nothing like the main game. I can also appreciate the 'inside jokes', referencing things like Super Mario or J. Allard."
"And the game is really neat to look at," Baxter maintained. "The psychedelic graphics really make me feel at home. I love how every level takes a different shape, and demands a different strategy. The vector-based stuff in the foreground gives the game a distinct texture to it, while the swirling mesh of colours in the background add to the overall style."
"But that's exactly my biggest problem with the game," I countered. "It's just too much to look at. Everything blends into everything else. Most of the time, I haven't the foggiest idea what the hell is going on."
Baxter let out a sigh. He knew I had a point, and had given up trying to convince me. Plus, we were approaching our destination. Not being one to shy away from an argument, I had to hit it home.
"And moreover," I said. "I didn't know why I died in the later levels. It was too hard to see bullets. Too hard to see the 'killer flower stalks'. I would just be shooting, and then I would die. How am I supposed to compete with that?"
Baxter became flustered, "Well, it's not a game for everybody. I mean, it's pretty good for what it is…"
I couldn't let this comment slide. I was on a rampage. "Since when have we had to put up with 'pretty good'? Have you played Geometry Wars? It's the same price (400 Microsoft points), and offers way better gameplay with similar graphics. Maybe the game offers less opportunity for strategy, but since when has 'more complicated' been synonymous with 'better'?"
"Space Giraffe plays differently from Geometry Wars, that's an apples to oranges comparison," said Baxter.
I was about to point out how the two games both use abstract geometry as a means to facilitate twitch-style gameplay on a backdrop of techno music and vector graphics, but we had arrived at the pet shop.
Baxter pulled down his mask and checked his gun. "You ready?" he asked.
Those goldfish never saw us coming.