Hello Kitty Island Adventure review – Reach for the stars

Hello Kitty Island Adventure is a robust adventure game buoyed by its cast of beloved characters.
hello kitty island adventure sanrio sunblink

Every day I wake on Friendship Island, my pals are there to greet me. Hello Kitty runs a bakery and teaches me about apple pie. Cinnamoroll delivers my mail, and surprises me as I’m romping through the Spooky Swamp, hunting frogs and looking for hidden secrets. Kuromi demands pumpkins. I give her pumpkins. At the local comic store, Badtz-Maru and I exchange a quick prank. In Hello Kitty Island Adventure, life moves at this rapid clip – and there’s so much to do.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Island Adventure is certainly spicy. While its nature as an Apple Arcade-exclusive licensed game may spark fear in the hearts of Sanrio fans, it manages to defy expectations with fresh action, mystery, and adventure that elevates moreish gameplay.

Life on the Island

There’s always something new to do in Hello Kitty Island Adventure, thanks to activities hinging on character relationships and a formal quest line. You can spend your time on the island taking part in cosy gameplay – catching fish and critters, cooking, crafting, and decorating various guest cabins – but the impetus for waking every day and exploring more of the game’s biomes comes from completing a central storyline, hinged on a mystery.

hello kitty island adventure exploration
Image: GamesHub

You play a custom Sanrio-style character hauled onto a trip to ‘Friendship Island’ by My Melody, who has been granted a shop in this former theme park. But when you arrive, you discover the island is broken down and seemingly haunted by strange beings – including a hologram named TOPHAT who has broken memories of the island.

This mystery can’t be solved alone – so it’s up to you to corral the main Sanrio cast, including Hello Kitty, My Melody, Kuromi, Badtz-Maru, Keroppi, Cinnamoroll, Pompompurin, Chococat, Retsuko, Tuxedo Sam, Hangyodon, and Pekkle – to help out. Each plays an essential part in the game’s main quest, which will send you to a number of unique environments, where you’ll find items for crafting, puzzle-solving, and eventually, restoring the island to its former glory.

The power of friendship is behind this revival. Kuromi may want pumpkins delivered, but this act of friendship will also unlock new avenues. Her help re-power the ghost train, and eventually, you can learn special skills from her, like deep sea diving.

deep sea diving hello kitty island adventure
Image: GamesHub

Getting Kerropi on board opens up the nearby Nature Preserve, where critters can be collected and stored for display – much like the museum in Animal Crossing. Tuxedo Sam’s outfits may be cosmetic-only and cute, but his costumes can also be given to the island’s friendly ghosts, to make them more approachable.

Every Sanrio favourite has a place on the island – including Gudetama, who can be found lazing about in various corners of your island, soaking up the sun – and you’ll need to befriend them all to realise the true potential of your surrounds.

With plenty of dialogue and questing shared between your new friends, they feel like well-rounded companions, and there’s a drive to keep them happy as more plot unfolds.

Importantly, as your friendship grows, the world evolves around you. While you will need to wait real-life days to level up character friendships – patience is key for reaching those higher mountains, and lower seas – it means the adventure on the island keeps you enthralled, particularly in those wondrous early hours where you’re discovering every new reef and jungle for the first time.

The Haunting of Friendship Island

What makes this gameplay loop so compelling, beyond getting to evolve friendships with Hello Kitty and her beloved pals, finding giftable favourites, and crafting new surprises, is the game’s sense of mystery and adventure. There’s an inner darkness in this tale that feels at odds with the cutesy nature of Hello Kitty – one that will likely be most appreciated by more mature players.

Much of this strangeness emanates from Kuromi’s plot lines, which revolve around ghostly beings, and a mysterious haunted mansion filled with puzzles, but there’s a head-scratching weirdness in other parts of Friendship Island, too.

Gameplay maintains a wholesome air, but you also spend your time in this game exploring odd dungeons filled with puzzles and treasure, and contending with the ghostly beings that plague the island. Who invited My Melody to open a shop, and why you’re compelled to settle into an old theme park, remain tantalising mysteries, teased in quest lines as you advance the plot.

hello kitty island adventure puzzles
Image: Sunblink / Sanrio

There’s something a bit weird about Friendship Island – and like Stardew Valley before it, haunting questions about the past drive the action forward.

Advancing days

Naturally, however, there is a wall to this action. The early days of Hello Kitty Island Adventure blast by in colourful shades, as you meet your troupe of companions and learn their desires for the Friendship Island theme park. By the time you learn to swim, you’ll have uncovered multiple unique biomes – each as big as a single Animal Crossing: New Horizons island, for reference – and become a quest-receiving veteran. You’ll learn how to craft better and more exciting items, and how to level up friendships in the most effective fashion.

Then, you’ll unlock more stamina, Breath of the Wild-style, and be able to reach further into mountainous and lava-filled biomes, each with their own unique dilemmas, and friendships to be made. In Mount Hothead, you’ll discover Retsuko. Beneath the sea, Hangyodon demands your company.

Eventually, this blistering pace resolves, as you settle into a daily rhythm of giving gifts, exploring each biome, and solving any daily or main story quests along the way. Around 10 hours into Hello Kitty Island Adventure, the breakneck pace begins to resolve – as quests require greater friendship levels, and more patience building relationships.

hello kitty island adventure
Image: GamesHub

While you can usually unlock a new quest every day, after a certain point, these quests become more reliant on daily grinding to bump up friendships and unlock new story quests. And with many individual character quests hinging on the requirements of other quests, you can occasionally get stuck simply because you can’t find one particular item, or because an essential character won’t accept any more gifts for the day.

This pacing issue may be resolved in future, as Sunblink has expressed enthusiasm for adding in more characters and content that may help round out the eventual slow down of quest-giving – but pre-launch, the game’s later, quieter stretches are fairly obvious, and stand out against earlier chapters.

Life moves on

Still, Hello Kitty Island Adventure presents strong reasons to return daily, with story hooks, moreish quests, and fun bite-sized puzzles to romp through.

It struggles to retain the excitement of its opening pace in later-stage gameplay, where quests become more reliant on higher, more difficult-to-obtain friendship levels – but beyond this foible, it maintains a warm and wholesome charm that should keep fans of cosy adventure games enthralled.

Four Stars: ★★★★

Hello Kitty Island Adventure
iOS via Apple Arcade
Developer: Sunblink Entertainment
Publisher: Apple Arcade
Release Date: 28 July 2023

A preview version of Hello Kitty Island Adventure was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.