I suspect this may be the point, as Space Giraffe is also one of those games where you have to be focussed and ‘in the zone’ to get much out of it. It’s one of the few shoot-em-ups I’ve ever played that requires a tutorial, and – trust me – without it you’re doomed. It might look like Tempest, but Space Giraffe requires you to do a little more than simply cycle left and right and shoot. After all, you can do so much more. You can aim your bullet stream left and right away from the perpendicular axis using the right analogue stick. You can jump momentarily away from the edge using the right trigger, enabling you to avoid and tackle any enemies that have reached and populated the edge. Moving, shooting enemies and jumping also lights up a chunk of the tube, and as long as a sizable region is powered-up, you can also shunt enemies attached to the edge right off it, killing them and earning yourself big bonus points. These additions aren’t just elaborations, they’re essential skills and part and parcel of the game.
To add another layer of complexity, not all enemies are the same. Some just trundle towards you then attach themselves to the edge, but others fire their own bullets back at you or grow along the grid lines and prove fatal should they collide with you at the edge. Others still roll towards you and need to be driven back by a constant hail of bullets, while another breed needs multiple hits before expiring. This makes things tricky. Thanks to the shunt move, colliding is usually a good thing. However, when certain enemies are in your path, it can be fatal. Knowing when it’s safe to shunt or wise to jump is a skill you only develop with experience.
Frankly, were the visuals toned down this would be an awful lot to take in, particularly at the game’s relentless pace. Most shoot-em-ups need fast reactions and a small degree of strategy, but Space Giraffe demands a working knowledge of its rules, a recognition of the enemy forces in play and – above all else – total concentration. It doesn’t help that, on some levels, the left and right edges of the playing field join up to form a tube, and that while you’re cycling left and right around it your movement isn’t necessarily tied to your viewpoint, but to your momentum. In other words, when you’ve looped around to the top of the tube, you may need to shift the stick right to move left, or visa versa. What’s more, completing levels isn’t actually the major part of the appeal. In Space Giraffe, you’re always working for that next big high-score, with each end-of-level status screen goading you on by rating your performance. Nobody wants to be ‘Meh’, ‘Bland’ or ‘Unambitious’, but the only way to avoid these epithets is by taking risks, acting boldly and making heavy use of the jump and shunt moves. Your prize? A higher placing on the online leaderboard.