Comparing Space Giraffe to Tempest 2000 – undoubtedly Jeff Minter’s best known title – is a bit like comparing Super Mario Kart to Wipeout. Certainly, they both fall into the same genre and feature similar power-ups, but the tactics you need to master to ensure success are vastly different.
Any novice can pick up Space Giraffe and make pretty colours appear by randomly running around the grids firing off â€˜hoof shots’, but to learn the many nuances the interactive tutorial needs to be paid attention to. It’s likely, for example, that for your first few goes you won’t notice the vital white bar that moves up the grid. Shooting enemies powers it up, and only when it’s nearer the back of the grid can you â€˜bull’ enemies that have made their way to the front. Bulling them, or ramming to be more exact, builds up your multiplier – essential for making sure you don’t get laughed off the leader boards.
Then there’s the art of leaping off the grid to master. This lets you avoid enemies that cannot be rammed, such as flowers, and can also get you out of tight spaces. On some levels, those with tight curves in particular, it’s also useful for getting a better view of what’s coming around the bends. One thing the tutorial forgets to mention, though, is that you need to listen to the sound effect that each enemy produces. The flowers for one are irksome entities that will kill your giraffe if you crash into them, but as they give off a distinctive â€˜ping’ noise when shot you can always tell when one is around.
Staying with the sound for a moment, the ’90s-style rave soundtrack suits the chaotic nature of the game perfectly, while the random mutterings of a child on the title screen is deeply hypnotising. A few sound effects from Gridrunner ++ make a cameo appearance, and predictably there are loads of â€˜baas and â€˜moos’ too. Minter is an avid animal lover, if you weren’t aware. Block rocking bleats indeed.
Like all good shooters, Space Giraffe definitely has the â€˜one more go’ factor, and with 100 levels to play though – most of which you’re unlikely to beat on your first go – there’s plenty to get stuck into. However, the giraffe is a cruel mistress. At times it’s just too trippy for its own good, with bullets often becoming obscured by flashes of light and subliminal background imagery. The fact that you can still be killed while using the smart bomb is a bit off, plus there are times when you can die from getting hit by stray bullets left over from vanquished foes while zooming onto the next grid.
But as mentioned earlier, even with its minor gripes it’s brain-meltingly addictive stuff and surprisingly varied to boot – each level offers something new, or is viewed from a slightly different perspective from the last. We found ourselves repeatedly starting the game from scratch just to better our scores, and to see how far we could get without losing a life, or to looking for an easy way to get an achievement. There are loads of nods and winks to video games of yore too, which is always a good thing in our imaginary book.