If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, then Hungry Giraffe is heading straight to the pits of hell. The game’s titular greedy ungulate has a serious scoffing addiction that’s accentuated by the host of snacks left lingering in the sky. Laughing Jackal’s latest PlayStation Mini isn’t going to win any awards for its fiction, but the set-up at least paves the way for some solid interactive time-wasting.
Hungry Giraffe is pitched as an “endless climbing” adventure: think Doodle Jump and Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess for a rough idea of what to expect. Fuelled by all manner of scrumptious scran, the titular giraffe’s able to extend his neck by chomping down as many tantalising treats as possible. On the menu are cheeseburgers, tacos, fries, chilli peppers, apples and strawberries. It’s not quite the salad you’d expect a giraffe to scoff, but this is no ordinary animal.
The gameplay is exceedingly simple: you use the analogue stick to pivot the giraffe’s windy neck, and pass through as much food as possible to get more elevation. Climbing increases your total points tally, allowing you to set some outrageous scores the more you scoff.
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of hazards along the way to upset your progress. Pills, potions and dumbbells aren’t the most agreeable snacks, and thus carry a number of adverse properties. Rainbow sick, for example, blocks your view of the action, while potions invert your controls. Finally, dumbbells might be pretty tasty but they’re heavy like a suet pudding, so don’t be surprised if you end up getting pulled back down to Earth when gorging on lead weights.
For all its silliness, the gameplay is pretty good. The controls are slick and fluid, giving you full precision over your movement, and the sense of momentum you achieve when guzzling down consecutive goodies is hard to beat.
Unfortunately, like similar momentum based games, Hungry Giraffe frustrates when you make a mistake. While the game gives you a window of opportunity to recapture your momentum, the level design doesn’t always take this into mind. You’ll often find yourself with a massive space to clear and not enough food to achieve it.
Hungry Giraffe gets around this issue by including collectible hats (don’t ask) which give you a burst of speed when you hit the X button, in addition to chilli peppers which offer an appropriate spurt of fiery elevation, but obviously the game demands you’re efficient with your resources. While the title naturally needs a fail state, Hungry Giraffe’s biggest issue is the frustration it creates when you’ve run out of options. You really do feel helpless.
Assuming you’re moving though, the game plays great. While it’s not a particularly ambitious game visually, it still looks fantastic. Backdrops depict Hungry Giraffe’s growth into outer space, and if you manage to pull off a full-run – starting from stage one and through to stage ten – the sense of journey is impressive. It’s also worth pointing out just how great Hungry Giraffe looks on the PlayStation 3; Laughing Jackal’s adopted some technical trickery which allows the game to use higher resolution textures on the home console. The result is stunning, and a million miles away from the blurry visuals so common with other PlayStation Minis when running on the PS3.
Unfortunately, there’s very little to do other than simply growing as much as possible and trying to beat your high-scores. Unlike Laughing Jackal’s other recent releases, Hungry Giraffe is a very single-minded game. There’s none of the upgrade mechanics that made OMG-Z and Orbit so addictive, and so it’s a bit of a step back in that regard. But there are trophies to collect and score targets to beat, making it a perfect time-waster.
Obviously, Hungry Giraffe would benefit from network functions, but seeing as they are prohibited from PlayStation Minis, it’s hard to criticise Laughing Jackal for what could have been. That said, not having your friends’ high-scores integrated into the game – a la Need For Speed’s Autolog – feels like a missed opportunity, and it almost makes us wish Hungry Giraffe was a full PlayStation Network release rather than a Mini.
Hungry Giraffe is like a Burger King Steakhouse Angus, then; not quite a gourmet burger prepared by a celebrity chef, but certainly better than a McDonald’s filet-o-fish. It’s chunky, agreeable and perfectly suited for on-the-go, but it’s not quite good enough to make you want to savour every bite.