Imagine being whisked away to a land of talking pink squirrels, bouncy ivory trees, and an iconic little white cat in trouble. Well that’s exactly what you’ll encounter in Sanrio Digital’s Hello Kitty Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) featuring Hello Kitty and all of her fluffy, friendly pals. Players can create a human avatar and explore Hello Kitty’s world, saving her from Dream Land and restoring peace to Sanrio Harbor and beyond. We got our hands on the Premium Edition of the game, and our review, along with some thoughts from the VP of publishing and business development on the near universal appeal of the little white cat with the red bow, is below the jump.
Hello Kitty Online (HKO) has been in development for some time, and was officially released in North America on August 24th, 2010. Alongside the free download from the Hello Kitty Online website, Sanrio Digital made a Premium Edition of the game available at game retailers across the nation. This Premium Edition sells for $19.99, and include a HKO disk, full-color guide, postcards, a limited edition in-game pet, and $15 worth of Sanrio Cash Points to spend at the online store.
The game itself is an MMORPG, with hundreds of players logged on at any given time, traipsing around the bright and colorful Florapolis or picking clovers on the beaches of Sanrio Harbor. I got to try the Premium Edition, and so got a head start with my ultra-cute fire lizard pet and some snazzy clothes from the Item Mall. The game is marketed as a family-friendly, fun-for-all-ages experience, and I think it lives up to this. It is pretty non-violent even with the requisite MMORPG monster hordes, and the graphics are adorably G-rated. I had a lot of fun collecting fruits, knocking out monsters to get their item drops, and building up my farm – in the screenshot, my pet lizard and I are facing off against a Chainworm in West Dream Forest. For fans of Hello Kitty, this game is almost a no-brainer, but for anyone who likes MMORPGs in general, it is also worth a test-drive.
- Bubbly, colorful graphics immerse the player in the pink and white world of Hello Kitty
- Thorough gameplay tutorial
- Encourages social interaction between players
- Some tasks can become quite repetitive
- Gameplay might be confusing or difficult for younger players or those not used to MMORPG standards
While I might be biased in my opinions of how amazing cute things are, HKO really outdoes itself on the cute-scale. However, it’s not just for kids – there are other Hello Kitty gaming titles out there solely for younger crowds, as Robert Ferrari, vice president publishing and business development, Sanrio Digital says:
“At a young age a players can be introduced to our Hello Kitty games via our DS title, Hello Kitty Birthday Adventures. For the tweens, teens and parents they can experience Hello Kitty in our upcoming Wii title. Now with our recently launched Hello Kitty Online (HKO), a massively multi-player online game, our teen and adult fans can enjoy a truly social gaming experience.”
The gameplay relies on point-and-click interaction, but includes traditional MMORPG keyboard shortcuts to bring up maps, character information, inventory and more. The screen might be confusing to a young player or someone who had never played a MMORPG before, as it features a number of buttons, tabs and info boxes. However, once these are figured out (and it really doesn’t take long), they become an integral part of the game.
There are a lot of activities to do in HKO, and most of them revolve around completing quests from non-player characters (NPCs) like Keropi the frog and Pochacco the pup. To complete quests, players have to harvest or chop plants, mine resources, farm, whack monsters (which doesn’t kill them, only puts them to sleep), and use their production skills. The great thing about these activities is that they can all be done by yourself, but players are encouraged to help each other.
The graphics are cute, pink, and cuddly, just like Hello Kitty herself. My character to the right is wearing a Beautiful Prom Dress that I bought from the Item Mall, and is fully equipped with stats-boosting shoes, crown and necklace. The characters are fully customizable with hundreds of clothing, hair and accessories, so it’s rare that you see anyone who looks just like your avatar.
All of the monsters, NPCs, resources and backgrounds are presented in bright, detailed, and adorable graphics. Going from Sanrio Harbor to Florapolis, I was surrounded by bouncing green Clover bunches, walking orange and yellow Starfish, and a sparkling blue Hello Kitty lake. So cute!
Friendly interaction is one of the most fun aspects of HKO. The general atmosphere is very friendly and helpful, and older players often go out of their way to help newbies. A lot of tasks can be done quicker if friends help out, and the Sanrio Harbor chat box is always buzzing with player questions and answers.
Sanrio Digital often incorporates charity events to encourage players to interact with each other, forming guilds and helping raise money for different causes. Ferrari described the current HKO charity event to us:
“One fabulous HKO activity we are very proud of is our recent Hello Kitty Online charity event, Chocolate Harbour Rescue . Players interact with the event and their efforts are rewarded by Sanrio Digital by donating to Oceana and UNICEF. This current event ties in nicely with our past and ongoing mission of supporting charities within HKO. Last year we did this with our food bank donations, Toys for Tots, and earlier this year for Haiti relief efforts. Both Sanrio Digital and our community of loyal and new fans are very proud of these in-game charity efforts.”
As a veteran MMORPG player, I loved the simplicity, adorable graphics, and introduction tutorial that makes this game extremely accessible for (nearly) all ages. The community is just what you’d expect from Hello Kitty fans – fun-loving and helpful. I really enjoyed the cooperative gameplay, outfitting my avatar in cute clothes, and talking to the Sanrio characters scattered throughout HKO. This is a quality, attractive and fun game for gamers of all skill levels – give it a shot!