Did you know that giraffe sick is multi-coloured? Neither did I. In the gluttonous world of Laughing Jackal’s Hungry Giraffe there are plenty of quirky foibles – luminous chunder included. There’s anvils, dumbbells, vomit-inducing elixirs, hardhats, psychedelic experimental drugs, and food – lots and lots of food.
If you’ve had the opportunity to play the PS mini release of Hungry Giraffe, you’ll be aware of all of this. The newest reboot of the franchise is not so much a reimagining of its forefather – nor an evolution of the series – as much as a burnished veneer, buttered over an established endoskeleton. The biggest change is it’s compatibility with selected Sony smartphones, as with all of the new Playstation Mobile line-up.
Terra firma for Hungry Giraffe is calorie-gobbling. You pilot the ever-ascending head and neck of your eponymous giraffe, navigating a minefield of fruit, veg, fast-food and hazardous confetti. Each food item consumed by your giraffe adds just enough upward momentum to keep you in play, imbibing any other items will end up sending you off course, in one way or another.
The first of Hungry Giraffe’s ten stages starts off simply. There’s a liberal smattering of sandwiches and French-fries to eat, with only the occasional detractor to dodge. Set atop a gangly and contorting neck, steering your giraffe’s head towards beneficial items will aid your skyward path to the next tier of goodies. And so it continues, with more and more obstacles and slight increases in required player dexterity with every passing stage.
Slight increases only, though, because of the simple control set-up – the Vita’s D-pad left or right pretty much does the trick (plus x for the occasional modifier). It’s not so much the input that matters. While that’s an odd thing to say, it’s more the after-effects of those inputs that framework the gameplay experience throughout.
As the complexity of your path intensifies, Hungry Giraffe becomes more about physics – action and reaction – should you run out of food and start to fall back down, the speed that you land on the nearest consumable effects the velocity with which you bounce back skyward. Countless times, you’ll find yourself sitting up in your chair as you fall millimetres short of that one bite needed to keep on going. You’ll catch yourself straining your own neck, as if somehow that might help, it’s absorbing stuff.
Hungry Giraffe is the dumbest fun your likely to have. There’s a cluster of modifiers to help you on your quest, nabbing a chilli will rocket you up at speed, through anvils and obstacles. Eating a dumbbell will slow your momentum, in that way that you’re slowed when hitting a food wall. Beating the burn of morbid over-eating is aided by collecting hard hats, handily deployable as needed for appropriate uplifting.
As your ungulate cruises through to the latter stages, your screen evolves into a multi-coloured culinary sneeze. Distinguishing between friend and foe becomes harder and more enjoyable as all the pretty colours bleed into one another – as promised, chugging down the wrong potion will cover the screen in dripping rainbow-coloured prairie-vomit. The sensory-assault is made better still, by a surprising musical accompaniment. The frenetic on-screen action is offset by some beautiful, slow-moving, classical music. While most games of this ilk would likely resort to overwrought, zany, cartoon audio, Laughing Jackal’s decision creates an unexpected dichotomy, but one that works well.
There’s a fantastic consistency to proceedings, too – one of Hungry Giraffe’s most admirable qualities is its frictionless flow. When one level ends, the next begins, with no loading or pause for breath. When you reach the end of stage ten, you’ll return to the start and carry on again. It’s slightly disappointing that the additional levels are the same as levels one through ten, as this stunts the steadily increasing difficulty.
The learning-curve is as silky as it gets, though. It’s the kind of experience that develops muscle-memory as the tiny touches needed to skim past each obstacle become more habitual with every minute. The old-school arcade theme is a recurring one.
There isn’t a ton to do, and once you’ve cleared the ten stages, you’ve more-or-less seen what Hungry Giraffe has to offer. However, you’ll find yourself playing just so you can see how high you can get – or how much you can swell your score. And there’re a few awards for ridiculously long-service, too.
Hungry Giraffe is highly recommendable. There’s an absorbing adventure awaiting anyone with a couple of pounds and a few pence to spare. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and effortlessly it’ll suck you in, and delighted to have allowed it to. There’s little more than a lick of paint on top, but it’s what hasn’t changed that makes it so great. The established endoskeleton is still there, and so is Hungry Giraffe’s wonderful arcade soul.
Audio/visual – 4/5: A wonderful blend of silly cartoon fun and cathartic audio.
Gameplay – 4/5: Addictive, immersive and thoroughly moreish.
Innovation – 3/5: Nothing new, but classic arcade action to enjoy.
Value – 5/5: Less than £3, with hours of potential enjoyment to be had
Final Score: 4/5