Forming an opinion on Space Giraffe could be easily expressed with one word, if the game was as black and white as a vague adjective. It's not. I can't seem to decide on how to accurately describe the game without being tempted to use the word 'SUCKS'. It's complicated, and I guess I'm conflicted. Torn between loving it, and hating it, Space Giraffe isn't exactly Tempest 2000, in fact, Jeff Minter's space shooter is different in many respects, yet it shares many similarities to his previous shooter. And, despite the name change, increase in psychedelic graphics, and gameplay tweaks, to those who have actually played Tempest (and Tempest 2000), this game in more ways than one, might seem like a let down.
If you're anticipating a game that revolutionizes the way shooters are played -- or ups the ante established with Tempest 2000 -- you'll be sadly disappointed. Space Giraffe feels more like an idea conceived as an extra gameplay mode to one the Atari Jaguar's most popular games, and not a game worthy of its own release. A game idea that years later, only now sees the light of day on the XBL Arcade. Does anyone even remember Tempest, let alone Tempest 2000? If not, Space Giraffe might make a descent introduction to Minter's (and Dave Theurer) shooter style. And if you think about it, it's like a gateway drug that may make you seek out its (better) predecessor.
After all Space Giraffe could be perceived as one of Minter's drug trip visions. But enough with the drug references, the graphics don't seem to have any focus other than to blind the player, trying to convince them that this is the greatest thing ever seen in a videogame. That just doesn't work for me. Neither does the music. It has its moments, but it lacks the energy of Tempest 2000. If the gameplay is gonna be similiar, the music might as well be too. When you first play the game you'll be blown away by the graphics, but once you start dying because you can't see what's going on, you'll find it frustrating.
Sharing the same uncomplicated gameplay established with Tempest, the game itself requires players to move their ship left and right, on a polygonal board. You in turn shoot your enemies before they get to your end. You can jump, and even ram your enemies for more points. Staying alive, and getting a high score is the point of the game. I recognize the classic arcade style, and I greatly appreciate it! In this day and age of mainstream titles, Minter brings the retro coin-op feel. I give it an A for effort.
The game is absolutely playable despite what others may say. It has just about the right amount of challenge to give you a reason to play again, get better and top your previous score. Once you get a hang of the control, and really focus on the barrage of enemies approaching amid the gaseous particle effects, you'll enjoy the game. There is a good game in there, somewhere... you just have to find it.
Space Giraffe isn't what I expected from all the buzz. I mean I like it, it's fun, but it's just I expected more. Is this a case of a video game legend running out of creative steam? Building hype around a project that just doesn't live up to it?
Well, one thing is clear, Tetzuya Mizuguchi has nothing to fear. The game guru has built a following and reputation for creative music infused titles. Maybe Minter should ask him for some advice?