But remember – Space Giraffe doesn’t do ‘toned down.’ This is the most divisive point about the game. With so much going on onscreen at any time, and only about a half of it directly relevant to the actual gameplay, it’s frequently impossible to see everything you need to and make the right, rapid decisions accordingly. For a long time, you’ll find yourself flying blindly into a bullet you never saw coming, shunting when you should be evading and dying without a clue what exactly just went wrong. If you’re the sort of player who gets frustrated easily, or who hates it when a game does not play fair, then Space Giraffe might just drive you up the wall.
If, however, you like a good, gritty, old-school arcade challenge, then you can and will get used to its quirks. I’m not sure exactly when or how it happens, but after a few hours of play you find yourself getting used to the sudden gaps of information, and you start making use of audio cues and good, old-fashioned intuition to keep you out of trouble. Your sense of the game seems to get a little richer, a little deeper, and the level that has had you stumped for half an hour suddenly seems just about do-able. The feeling might not last, and I’ve found that any break from the game seems to send you right back, if not to square one, then at least to square 2, 3 or 4, but you do get better the more you play. And while the likes of Defender and Tempest never gave you the kind of visual overload Space Giraffe does, wasn’t that the case with them as well?
All the same, this is one of those ‘marmite moment’ games. Those looking for another Mutant Storm or Geometry Wars will likely go away disappointed. Like them, Space Giraffe is a defiantly retro, old-school shooter, but it isn’t nearly as accessible or instantly addictive. It may take an hour or two before you get it, and I suspect I still only half understand it. Yet there are going to be people out there who will get it and, more to the point, love it. In fact, there will be people out there who will want to sacrifice nearly every spare waking moment to it. And this is just where the benefits of Xbox Live Arcade come in. If any of this sounds appealing, download the Space Giraffe demo and give it a go. Don’t just try it and dismiss it; give it a little time and space to work its magic. You might just find that one of those people is you.
Classic Minter and more than just a retro-psychedelic curiosity. Space Giraffe may be too trippy and complex for the mainstream, and sometimes too over-powering for its own good, but that doesn’t mean it won’t find and deserve a sizable following of fans.