Howdy Kitty Island Journey is all the things I would like in a repetitive, enjoyable open-world life sim of its variety. The Animal Crossing inheritor, made by Howdy Kitty’s large merch firm Sanrio and small recreation studio Sunblink, is a honeycomb-sweet mixture of caring for pals and a surprisingly massive, secretive island; it’s the proper cozy recreation for summertime.
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It’s not reinventing any of Harvest Moon’s well-oiled tractor wheels—it follows lots of the conventions established by almost twenty years of video games prefer it. However I’m impressed with how fast-paced Island Journey feels. Many life sims, like Ooblets or Espresso Discuss are slow-burned sugar, ensuring gamers have invested in watering their backyard or steeping the identical lemon tea for just a few days earlier than letting them into the particular sauce, a brand new recipe or piece of furnishings, or one thing. In simply my 5 hours with Island Journey, although, the sport already seems like reaching right into a full Christmas stocking with no backside.
Howdy Kitty Island Journey stands out
Its plot makes ample area for exercise. It’s someplace between a typical life sim origin story (it’s as much as you to revive a abandoned, however charming, amusement park) and the inscrutable timeline of the live-action 2002 Scooby-Doo film. Howdy Kitty and her pals—which embrace her animated sequence companions pink-hooded rabbit My Melody, big-eye frog Keroppi, and portly pet Pompompurin, in addition to extra area of interest Sanrio characters like moaning egg yolk Gudetama and tap-dancing duck Pekkle—have been instructed to maneuver to an deserted island.
In, I assume, an effort to enchantment to all ages (the Apple Arcade unique is rated 4+ within the App Retailer) the sport appears sometimes not sure of how unsettling that’s alleged to be, including unmarked graves to the map but in addition making it so your character by no means has to sleep and might by no means die.
Its dialogue can also be generally incongruously self-conscious, coming throughout as a family-focused Millennial. Like, when Howdy Kitty’s plan to supply me with a aircraft snack leads to underbaked dessert splatting onto seats and faces, grumpy penguin Badtz-Maru shouts a reference to the 2006 film Snakes on a Airplane (“I’ve had sufficient with the muffins on this aircraft”) earlier than leaping out the emergency exit with a bouquet of balloons. Later, when a wierd, talking hologram seems after opening a locked gate, Chococat wonders out loud if it makes use of “neural networks to course of info.”
The title Howdy Kitty Island Journey, too, appears to name again to 2006, borrowing from a South Park episode the place Butters says he’s not on his PC enjoying World of Warcraft, he’s enjoying Howdy Kitty Island Journey, a recreation that didn’t exist earlier than its launch on July 28. These fourth-wall breaks are sometimes off-putting to me, a grown-up Sanrio fan who prefers its characters to be clean canvases for kawaii projection. Like, canonically, should you can name it that, my favourite character Pompompurin has few outlined qualities other than the truth that “he loves milk” and is steadily depicted with a star-shaped butthole.
I feel that’s surrealist artwork. Island Journey, regrettably however understandably, for the advantage of its friendship and present programs, chooses as an alternative to hook Sanrio characters and their dialogue to concrete actuality with outlined persona traits and utility.
Howdy Kitty is my greatest buddy
Whereas the sport limits you to giving three presents a 24-hour interval (in-game days transfer faster than that, denoted by both a glittery little moon or solar on the prime left of your display screen, subsequent to a painterly mini-map) per character, I like how simply friendship slots into the remainder of the sport. In related life sims, it could actually appear to me that I have to disrupt instinctive gameplay by discovering an merchandise a personality would possibly like. In Island Journey, although, presents might be simply acquired via intuitive open-world exploration and play.
Taking selfies with Gudetama is a crucial a part of the method.Screenshot: Sanrio / Sunblink / Kotaku
Due to this, I stage up my friendship with a number of characters nearly instantly, receiving themed furnishings, coloration palettes to customise my character, and sidequests in return.
Additionally, plenty of tofu. In between friendship ranges, I depend on the constant friendship bonuses I get for presents, which, for Howdy Kitty, is blocks of jiggly tofu. My Melody at all times offers me luggage of flour, and I finally come throughout unfastened pineapples prepared for slicing whereas strolling across the seashore. I’m going to Howdy Kitty’s bakery to experiment with its oven, and I find yourself with a layered pineapple cake Tuxedosam, Sanrio’s bowtie-wearing penguin, apparently likes to eat and get as a present.
Glad accidents like this make friendship in Island Journey really feel inextricable from its core gameplay, which is heartening. Different facets are equally breezy. Island Journey permits me to discover almost each a part of the mysterious island from the second I step onto it. Vital objects, like sparks that energy ziplines, and instruments, like strawberry-colored crates that enable me to open up customer cabins for attracting new characters to my island, are all instantly inside attain.
There’s loads to take a look at, too, from pumpkin-lined swampland to sophisticated gemstone cave networks, to volcanic rock mountains which can be effervescent with magma, to kelp mazes rooted deep within the glittering ocean.
I rotate my fast merchandise instruments to carry out the entire commonplace life sim hobbies as I navigate these mountains and rivers. Once I’m feeling leisurely, I stroll round completely peaceable seashores to seize coconuts or pink sand greenback disks, the sport’s predominant forex. I could spot a rainbow fin I haven’t seen earlier than, and I yank out my fishing rod for a easy minigame (press proper and left to verify a white line stays throughout the limits of a inexperienced bar). There are tropical bugs to catch with a internet that by no means fails. But when I’m bored with the solar, I can at all times take to the flowery cave networks with mine carts to journey over stalks of iridescent stone.
Screenshot: Sanrio / Sunblink
Once more, there isn’t a lot that units these commonplace life sim qualities other than different video games that did them first, particularly for gamers who aren’t alone thrilled by Howdy Kitty gracing them together with her elegant presence. They play out the way you anticipate them to—an undiscovered guppy so as to add to your assortment, one other recipe beneath your belt.
However they’re all so painless to carry out, and in contrast to different video games with extra trial-and-error, it’s uncommon that I ever fail in no matter I got down to do. Nothing is tough or resists once I push, and that’s what I like—forging forward, discovery, meditatively following My Melody wherever she leads me.
I’ve sufficient complication to weed out in my very own life, so I don’t get bored when Island Journey seems like a hands-free, mowed path to victory. It balances ease with exercise, and I preserve checking duties off what appears like an iPhone 4, which homes the menu and quest progress.
There are many collectibles and bonus actions. Slate temples disguise puzzles, and I sojourn in them to resolve in trade for quest objects, meals, and decor, and there are buttons within the floor that launch minigames when stomped on, depositing a flurry of cherry blossoms to gather earlier than the clock runs out. The complete island additionally presents, so far as I can inform, infinite sources to gather, blueprints to appreciate at Chococat’s work desk, and Sanrio characters to help to find out why we’re on the island whereas serving to it flourish.
The latter aim is evaluated by one other hammer thrown on the fourth wall; I ask My Melody for a “vibe test,” and he or she assigns me an Island Vibe Rating based mostly on how properly I’m revitalizing my new residence by finishing duties like serving to Keroppi reopen a Nature Protect to retailer all of the critters I catch.
Gameplay mechanics like this make Howdy Kitty Island Journey really feel, sometimes, ridiculous, however not more than every other Animal Crossing offspring the place you get to place speaking animals in a sundress. My few hours with Island Journey have been promising, and entertainingly instant-gratification. It to date appears easy and enjoyable, a summer time with none heatwaves, however with a cartoon canine that has a butthole.