In a time when gaming on your mobile is becoming the ever more popular alternative to purchasing a handheld console, PS Minis seem to be Sony’s answer to quick fix gaming-on-the-go . Starting out life as a PS Mini, Laughing Jackal’s Hungry Giraffe has been given an upgrade to suit the PlayStation Vita console, but is the transition enough to satisfy the growling bellies of gamers?
Immediately drawing comparisons with the 2009 mobile game Doodle Jump, Hungry Giraffe has a relatively simple, rather addictive concept. Using the gyroscopic technology inside the Vita, players must guide the titular greedy beast vertically as he munches his way upwards from the jungle to stars, his neck constantly growing with every mouthful. Turning your Vita left or right determines which direction the giraffe will go and the controls are rather precise. It takes a bit of getting used to, particularly given that the console is a tad heavier than a mobile phone. Miss too many edibles and the poor giraffe will pass out from starvation, falling back to earth with a crash and a rather irritating honking bray.
To make matters a little more difficult, the trails of food are often interrupted by a number of obstacles designed to disorientate the player and put a stop to the giraffe’s gluttony. Anvils not only block strategically block the way up but hitting them bends the giraffe’s neck back down making it that bit harder to build momentum again. Eating vials of poison sends splatters of colourful vomit across the screen, rattling a player into a frenzy trying to keep control of their giraffe. Chomping pills can either reverse the controls or send the giraffe into a psychedelic haze, confusing the player as to what on screen is food and what isn’t, and probably working as a rather effective anti-drugs campaign to boot.
There are a number of power-ups that can be collected to help the giraffe reach dizzying new heights. Hard hats not only give the giraffe a bit of a power boost, but can smash through anvils as if they were made of butter. Chili peppers work in much the same way, as the giraffe gets a touch of irritable bowel syndrome, rocketing him onwards and upwards whilst the weight watchers option, angel feathers, are much more elegant and rare items that help to send the giraffe ever closer to the end of the level without a morsel of food passing his lips.
Players are rewarded for their efforts in the form of calories, which can then be spent in the in-game store. Hard hats, angel feathers and even later levels can all be unlocked from within the store, as well as some extra items to bring a little bit more novelty to the game. Upgrades for the hungry giraffe can make him immune to the effects of pills and poison. Additional skins can also instantly transform the loveable giraffe into an emu, a snake or even a mecha giraffe. It all sounds like a way of making the game’s already limited ten level length last that bit longer, but truthfully, very few people will take interest in going for one hundred percent completion with these skins only providing an aesthetic difference, rather than changing the dynamic of the gameplay (even though a mecha giraffe sounds like all sorts of awesome).
The big difference between the PS Mini version and this one is the addition of trophy support. Considering gamers will have synced their Vita consoles in with their PSN accounts, this is an easy way to rack up a few trophies and gain the advantage over your mates. However that really seems to be the only major benefit of purchasing the Vita version. The console’s touch pad, analogue sticks or buttons are never used during gameplay, meaning this version of the game bears no difference to the mobile versions. The game doesn’t seem to have expanded beyond that of the PS Mini version and some unique features would have helped increase its chances on an already crowded digital marketplace.
Much like its gameplay, Hungry Giraffe keeps its presentation rather simple. The graphics are fun, colourful and perfectly suited to the Vita’s rich OLED screen. The same can’t be said for the music. What begins as an innocent, lively orchestral number becomes a repetitive earworm of a tune that is just as repetitive as the gameplay and will stick in your head during the wee hours when you’re trying to get some sleep, long after you’ve turned the console off.
Hungry Giraffe is an addictive, colourful game that will provide some entertainment for those looking for a quick gaming fix, rather than settling in for an epic story-driven HD experience. However, the novelty factor won’t last long with both the gameplay and the game’s quirky nature becoming repetitive and frustrating fairly quickly. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is the price. Compared to bargain price of 69p on the Apple store, at £2.39, the price of Hungry Giraffe on the PlayStation store seems a little steep and will surely leave gamers hungry for more.