Space Giraffe is to Tempest what Geometry Wars is to Robotron. It's a creative, eccentric update of the into-the-screen shooter classic. You control a giraffe, sitting at the near end of a space tunnel, and enemies move from the distance towards you. The giraffe continuously fires bullets at the enemies, which you control the direction of by moving with the left stick, or aiming slightly with the right stick. The player must shoot the waves of enemies, complete the level, and move onto the next one.
It sounds very much like Tempest, but there are some big changes. Most obviously, the game engine is based on Llamasoft's Neon light synthesizer, which is something like looking at the aurora borealis while squeezing your eyeballs in time to techno music. This increasingly obscures the gameplay as you progress through the levels, and is one of the main sources of difficulty progression. A variety of enemies appear as you progress through the game, each of which requires a different strategy to destroy. And then there's bulling.
In Tempest, if an enemy got to the top of the tunnel, you were pretty much dead. In Space Giraffe, it's the aim of the game: you score highly by letting enemies reach the top line, then rapidly sliding through them to bull them off the edge, which is appropriately accompanied by a reverberating "moo!" from the giraffe. But you can only bull enemies if you still have a power bar, which is increased by shooting enemies, and depletes over time. So there's a constant challenge in the balance between shooting, waiting, and bulling, which is the most rewarding part of the gameplay.
The player can also collect jump pods, which enable the giraffe to jump backward off the line and fire on un-bullable enemies or flowers that have reached the top of the level.
The tutorial for the game just about introduces these concepts for the player, but there's a great deal of depth in the game which is difficult to see without the support of the community around the game. As the visuals rapidly become overwhelming, players will have to learn to use audio cues to determine which enemies are on the screen and where. Some of the later more difficult levels are so disorienting that it almost feels like punishment; level 64 in particular is so challenging that there is an achievement just for completing it with one life.
Space Giraffe is currently available on Xbox Live Marketplace for 400 points ($5) and on Steam for $9.99.
Space Giraffe is unfortunately notable for a very low 2/10 score from Official Xbox Magazine, and for its reportedly very poor sales. Despite this, fans of the game sing its praises as one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games, and some other critics have reviewed it very highly. Cheif Chief among the complaint were the chaotic nature of the games graphics. The game's controversial nature is perhaps best demonstrated by its unprecedented double-rating from Eurogamer; there it received both 6/10 and 8/10. The usually harsh UK gaming magazine Edge gave the game 8/10.
Space Giraffe includes a few strange references to popular culture, which are presented prominantly in the game. Some of these are listed below:
- The game features former Xbox spokesman J Allard in the aptly-named level "The Eyes of Allard." As you play the level, the undulating background occasionally pulses, revealing the compelling gaze of Allard.
- The sound effect played when the player collects jump pods is a sample from the KLF album "The White Room". The sound itself is a recording of the phrase "mu mu", a reference to the group's alternate title, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (or JAMs).
- The title of the level 3AM External is a reference to the KLF track title "3 a.m. Eternal".
- OS: Microsoft Windows® XP SP2 / Windows Vista ™
- Processor: Intel® or AMD™ Processor 1.9 Ghz or higher
- Memory: 256MB
- Graphics: DirectX 9.0c compliant video card with 256MB RAM ( Shader Model 2.0 )
- DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 80MB of free space
- Sound: 100% DirectX 9.0c compliant sound card
- Controller Support: Generic HID controller DirectX compatible, XBOX 360 for Windows Controller, keyboard