Space Giraffe

Info

Created by genre-defining game designer Jeff Minter, Space Giraffe is a psychedelic shooter that spans 100 levels all set against vivid backgrounds that synchronize with your custom music selection. Collect power-ups to activate Bonus Rounds and master the strategies necessary to maximize your score on every level.

Number of Players: 1
Released: 2007

Review by Keith Murray

Jeff Minter a person that every gamer has an opinion on, with only Peter Molyneux provoking a similar reaction. He’s the Llama/Sheep/Camel-loving games creator who’s long and illustrious career has been responsible for software titles such as Gridrunner, Attack of the Mutant Camels as well as Neon, the light-synthesizer software in the 360 dashboard. Originally releasing unique titles in the 80`s era of the “one man code shop”, he symbolised the belief that anyone with a good idea could make a game and get it published. Now he’s released his first XBLA title, Space Giraffe.

Initially there’s a lot to put off a casual player. From the Number Stations-inspired voice counting in Welsh at the title screen, to the eye-watering visuals. At times the game feels like an evening in the company of prog-rockers Can, complete with the mind-altering lysergic effects but without the need to ingest any chemicals. But to dismiss the game off hand is a lazy assumption which gives no credit to the deep mechanics that are nestled within the game.

The premise of Space Giraffe is to shoot (handled automatically) and keep enemies at bay, which then forces a white line on the game grid to move back. The gap between the player and the white line is the power zone and as long as this zone exists, enemies can be pushed off the edge, or in Minter-speak, “Bulling”. This practice gathers bonus points for crashing all advancing enemies off the line, and doing this to as many as possible helps boost the total bonus points that are awarded.

All the while, the power zone continues its relentless journey towards the player. If the zone reaches the player, a power up called the Jump pod (obtained from shooting down a set amount of enemies) can be used to jump back from the line with the R trigger. This allows the player to stay out of harms way and also resets the power zone. While initially confusing and unsatisfying, all the elements start to click and become second nature -the reward for persisting becomes apparent the more the game is played.

As the levels progress (all of them named in the same colourful fashion as the presentation), items such as flowers will grow and eventually shoot off the end of the grid, potentially destroying the player. However they can also be used to extend the power zone, making the use of the jump pod essential. Previously benign base-star shaped enemies start to fire projectiles, forcing the player to either dodge or fire the shots back. A comfort zone is never afforded to the player as new elements are continually introduced, while the trance-inspired soundtrack plays hypnotically in the background.

It’s fair to say that only the most engaged of players will allow themselves to become immersed in the quirky yet compelling gameplay on offer and that’s a real shame. On a service which initially provided an optimistic outlook for smaller developers, that Space Giraffe is so criminally overlooked speaks volumes of the audience of the Xbox 360.