I’ll be the first to admit I missed the train on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I had too much going on at the time and didn’t get to experience it for myself, but I sure did watch my friends and the Internet enjoying it, and appreciated a lot of what I saw. It looked fun, rewarding, and, perhaps most importantly, utterly chill. When I learned Sanrio approached mobile developer Sunblink to do something in the same vein for Apple Arcade and iOS devices, I was curious as all get-out. The Sanrio characters have similar vibes to the Animal Crossing characters and the idea of hanging out, adventuring, and befriending them sounded delightful. With just a few caveats, I was right. This is a great time for any Hello Kitty fan, or just anyone looking to spend time on something altogether lighthearted and relaxing.
A dream getaway
Hello Kitty Island Adventure is, like the Animal Crossing games, mostly a social simulation game. The story goes that you and many of the Sanrio characters were on your way to an island vacation when something went wrong with your plane and it dumped all of you on your vacation destination. You, Hello Kitty, and her friends are scattered about the island, but you also discover that the resort on the island is quite unattended. What’s more, there are mysteries abound with curious doors closed, bridges broken, and much of the island’s features in need of a little tender loving care. And so, you and the other Sanrio characters you find set about taking up different parts of the island and making it into a working vacation resort again.
Your part in the story is that of a player-created avatar. You have a choice of critters like dogs, cats, and other animals; a choice of fur colors and patterns; and a choice of starting clothes. I will say I don’t feel like the customization offers all that much. I wish there were a few more options, but I was able to make an avatar that I felt happy enough with.
Once you’re on your way, there’s a staggering number of things to do in Hello Kitty Island Adventure, and much of it involves talking to the Sanrio characters, giving them gifts, and becoming closer friends with them so they’ll give you gifts in return, or even give you quests that let you open up more features of the island. By finding and engaging with Hello Kitty, you’ll unlock and become better at baking, Badtz-Maru will teach you how to fish, and Chococat will show you how to craft things at his work bench. My Melody, Cinnamoroll, Keroppi, Kuromi, Hangyodon, Pompompurin, Pekkle, Pochacco, Tuxedosam, and Retsuko were also among the characters I saw in the game and each of them has something to offer if you find them, help them, and become their friend.
Eventually, you get to the point where the island is more up and running and you can eventually get other Sanrio characters to visit, too. There are abandoned visitor cabins all over the place that you can fix and open. If you furnish them, you can attract characters like Hello Kitty’s boyfriend, Dear Daniel. You just have to make sure you furnish your cabins in a way they’ll like. Some visitors like certain furniture or treats awaiting them in a cabin. Some like a cabin based on its location (Daniel wants his cabin to be close to Hello Kitty’s shop). Figuring out how to procure the goods and furnish your cabins with them is a fun way to engage in some vacation island micromanagement.
White elephant island
To expand what you can do in Hello Kitty Island Adventure, you’re going to have to become besties with the Sanrio characters on the island. To that end, gift giving is a huge part of Hello Kitty Island Adventure. Throughout the island, you can collect natural resources like plants, fruit, and resources like rubber and twigs, get a fishing rod to catch fish; get a catching net to capture bugs, frogs, and other small critters; and so much more. You can also assemble raw materials into better things at the crafting table, bake treats at Hello Kitty’s bakery, and just gain goods from doing things with the characters. There’s a ton of things to collect, create, and assemble.
To what end? Gift giving! Every Sanrio character has things they like, and by collecting and giving those things to them, you’ll become closer to them. Sometimes, they’ll just give you gifts in return, and sometimes getting closer to them will open up quests that let you do more stuff with the island. Every time I logged into Hello Kitty Island Adventure, I never felt like I was at a loss for things to do just because of how much simply giving gifts to these characters opened.
That doesn’t even include the fact that there are curiosities to discover on the island like mysterious alien-like creatures up to all sorts of shenanigans and a mysterious holographic presence that seems tied to the island’s attractions and festivities, but isn’t quite fully functional. In fact, Sunblink told me there’s about 40-50 hours of content in this game and they intend to support it more with additional content and events after launch, so theoretically, you’ll have a hard time running out of things to do in this game.
I will say that not everything was peachy about Hello Kitty Island Adventure. The game’s performance had quite a few hitches during my time with it on iPhone. It was mostly when there were a lot of characters on the screen moving, or when I was traversing areas that lifted the camera back and showed more on the screen. Texture and object pop-in was also regular, especially when I used traveling features like the ziplines.
Hello Kitty Island Adventure also has a few built-in constraints that seem to dissuade players from playing it for long periods of time. You can only give three gifts to a character in a real-life day, then you start getting less bonus rewards for it (you can still give gifts to them if you have a quest to fulfill, so that’s good). You can also only do so much at the start because you need flippers to cross water, a net to catch critters, a fishing pole to fish and so on, so it can feel slow at the start before you start getting everything you need to spread your wings and really look around the place. Even so, what that mostly means is that Hello Kitty Island Adventure is good for a quick burst of activity and then coming back later, which is how I enjoyed it best.
A sweet Sanrio life
If any franchise felt like it was already built up for an Animal Crossing-style game, it’s the Sanrio universe. Hello Kitty Island Adventure was an absolute delight to explore with plenty to keep me coming back and seeing what else it had to offer each day. I won’t claim to be anywhere near that minimum 40-hour possibility, but I also feel like there’s enough here to keep me interested in getting to that amount of playtime with relative ease. The performance could be better, and I feel like some might be annoyed by the daily constraints the game has, but Hello Kitty Island Adventure is still a wonderful time, and if you’re looking for an Animal Crossing-style experience you can keep in your pocket and play at nearly anytime, I’m not sure you could do much better.
This review is based on a digital iOS copy of the game supplied by the publisher played on an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Hello Kitty Island Adventure will be available on iOS-supported devices via Apple Arcade on July 28, 2023.
Hello Kitty Island Adventure
- Sanrio characters in a social simulation!
- Tons of content to explore
- Unlocks and rewards feel satisfying
- Gift-giving system is enjoyable
- Island is huge and fun to unlock
- Light and fun management in the visitor system
- Performance stutter
- Artificial gameplay constraints
- Early game is a bit slow to rev up