Is it possible for a retro game to be from the future?
If so, then it would explain a lot about newly-released Space Giraffe on XBLA. If you recall, this was one of the games I mentioned back during my E3 teaser-trailer throwdown. It was part of the XBLA montage of videos and essentially looked like a version of the 80's classic game Tempest... on LSD mixed with crack and delivered in a shot glass of Red Bull. It should come as no surprise to those who play Space Giraffe that the game's creator, Jeff Minter, was also the man behind Tempest -- the man certainly has a thing for odd geometric shapes. Yet, according to this gamer, there seems to have been a step missing. For if Space Giraffe represents the 2000's version of 80's gem Tempest, then I truly fear for whatever Minter has in store for the 2020's version. In fact, God willing, Minter will be dead by then. No, it's not that I wish the man harm, it's just that I truly, honestly, do fear for the continued assault he brings to my eyes. Space Giraffe is so... I trouble for the words... umm... I think "f'ing crazy" fits the bill, that it is much easier to think of this as a game from the future. A game designed for an evolved form of humans with multiple eyes that come pre-equipped with an ability to screen and filter bright lights and automatically adjust contrast. For if this game isn't from the future, then I say it's time to get the pitchforks, light the torches, and storm the gates of Llamasoft Studios ,because somebody's got some 'splaining to do!
I say that in jest of course. There is a part of me that truly does expect to fall into an uncontrollable epileptic attack-turned-seizure while playing this game and I do keep a damp paper towel on hand just in case blood does start to dribble from my retinas, but the game is nevertheless, genius simplified. It's beautiful, it's addictive, it's highly challenging, and the music kicks all sorts of ass. And it costs just five bucks. This is gaming.
Space Giraffe pits you as some sort of "giraffe" moving about on one of 100-shaped three-dimensional "webs". Your motion is limited to the outer ring (think of the web as a flattened cylinder) and all you can do is run back and forth on this outer edge while all sorts of critters are crawling out of the depths towards you. Some fire bullets at you, others rapidly expand, but mostly they just crawl out of the web to the outer ring to get you. Your job is to shoot them back and keep the Power Zone expanded, which is a white line that moves backwards from the outer edge into the web as you continue to shoot the enemies. Enemies that advance towards you and enter the Power Zone can be bull-rushed off the web by your giraffe. The best way to do this is to hang out at the side of the web, let all of the critters reach the outer edge, then use a Jump Pod to max out the Power Zone. With the Power Zone expanded, you can steamroll over the critters on the edge of the web for crazy amounts of points. This also produces a bull noise and boosts the multiplier.
I was going to say that the one aspect of the game that was really lacking for me was the How to Play instructions and Tutorial. But now that I've tried my hand at describing how to play this game, I see how difficult it really is. This is a game that you definitely need to play the Tutorial for, then you need to try and struggle through a few levels. Then you need to go back and re-read the instructions and replay the Tutorial again. Only then will you likely fully grasp the concept.
And that's okay, because not everything has to be terribly easy and obvious the first time we play it. Give Space Giraffe fifteen minutes or so and chances are you'll start to have an understanding of what you're doing. Give it a half hour and you'll start to really see the beauty in this game. I didn't have time to play a whole lot with it yesterday, but I will say that there's only one thing that bugs me about this game. And that's the bullets and some of the enemies are really hard to see. The graphics are extremely busy and there is an overdose of glow and other lighting effects being used. What makes the game so gorgeous to look at it also makes it very hard to play. I can't tell you how many times I walked right into a bullet that I couldn't see because of how busy the screen gets. And I've yet to make it past level 13 out of 100. Nevertheless, it's hard to say no to such a work of art when it costs so little. Give it a go. If nothing else, you'll be able to have friends trip out on it during parties. Who needs drugs when you have Space Giraffe?
Interested? Read more at the Llamasoft blog right here. There's an excellent step-by-step breakdown of the Tutorial and first nine levels of the game, all of which are available in the free demo. There's also some gameplay videos so those without an X360 can see what the fuss is.
*By the way, the title of this post is the first line from the "How to Play" instructions for Space Giraffe. I thought it was very funny.