Hello Kitty Island Adventure Review

A Working Vacation

Hello Kitty Island Adventure Review
Hello Kitty Island Adventure
Brutalist Review Style (Version 2)

With Hello Kitty Island Adventure, Apple Arcade takes a run at Animal Crossing‘s life-sim crown—has Sunblink crafted Nook’s first real challenger?

Sanrio made some waves last month when they announced Hello Kitty Island Adventure, an exclusive “cozy adventure” game for Apple Arcade. Its concept struck comparisons to Animal Crossing: New Horizons—where players wind up on an abandoned island with Hello Kitty and other familiar Sanrio faces—and, of course, jokes from a classic 2006 episode of South Park.

However, Hello Kitty Island Adventure proves to be much more than a clone or a meme. Even approaching the game with no real experience with Sanrio’s cutesy icons,

Like last summer’s big-license cozy game, Disney Dreamlight Valley, Hello Kitty Island Adventure disperses with the Animal Crossing influences pretty early on. Rather than moving to an abandoned island and quickly being appointed the leader of its burgeoning civilization of personified critters, your character is tagging along with Hello Kitty and the whole gang as they head off on vacation. After a baking mishap forces everyone to jump ship (yup, that’s a thing that happens), you land on the island and become the messenger who scurries around, finding lost friends and helping them unlock areas.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure Review

Where Animal Crossing makes self-expression a priority, Apple Arcade‘s new life-sim wants to make you the glue holding this new colourful community together. Everyone relies on you to dress up the visitor cottages and reunite them with their friends, while you don’t even have your own cabin to relax in. It’s a working vacation.

Adventure substitutes for home flipping in Hello Kitty Island Adventure. Given how little I knew of the Sanrio-verse going into this, I assumed there would be an intricate web of home customizations to play with. Instead I found myself doing my best Indiana Jones or Lara Croft impression, manipulating pressure plates and solving puzzles in ancient ruins. Challenges like timed token collection or even navigating a haunted house are pivotal experiences to unlock new areas, and thus skills and neighbours.

A (relatively) complex web of personal requests from the cast is the game’s skeleton. Increase friendship with characters to get new items and recipes; use these to increase your friendship with other characters. The player is soon steered toward the bigger quests that open new areas, and the web of quests continues to grow.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure Review

The titular island of Hello Kitty Island Adventure was a surprising joy to explore. With a simple yet expandable repertoire of moves, Sunblink have created an approachable adventure. Breath of the Wild-inspired stamina wheels pop up during more strenuous activities like climbing or diving, but otherwise it’s still a pretty laidback experience.

Granted, this is where the controls become a bit of an issue. Touch controls are as spotty as they’ve ever been, making intricate jumping and gliding scenarios more inconvenient—a pain when coupled with the early game’s insistence on saving you from any minor puddle you might step in without flippers. While it’s a far cry from the demanding control of console adventures like Tears of the Kingdom, it can be a nuisance nonetheless. (Thankfully, controller support is seamlessly integrated, so grab a good mobile controller if you intend to spend a prolonged holiday with Hello Kitty and friends.)

Outside of this foible, Hello Kitty Island Adventure manages to find a pretty sweet spot in terms of appeal. It’s better than other mindless mobile fare designed to exploit kids into making microtransactions, stimulating enough that an adult can boot it up for easy entertainment but not so impenetrable that kids can’t grasp it—just like Animal Crossing itself.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure Review

It’s also one of the most interesting things currently on the Apple Arcade, one of a few bright oases of exclusive content in a desert of slightly upgraded versions of other paid games. Sure, the Nintendo Switch has an incomparable install base, but here on iOS’ subscription service Hello Kitty Island Adventure stands out like a technocolour beacon.

Of course, this is just the start for the adventure, as Sunblink will surely continue pulling from Sanrio’s roster of mascots, if the presence of Retsuko from Aggretsuko and Gudetama is anything to go by. After all, they know their way around a crossover, as shown by their recent collaborations with anime like Naruto Shippuden. This title has the foundation and the IP behind it to keep players entertained for a very long time.

At least, for now we’re with Butters on this one—we’d rather be playing Hello Kitty Island Adventure than World of Warcraft.

Final Thoughts

Chris de Hoog
Chris de Hoog

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