Who better to review a Hello Kitty game than a middle-aged Ohioan, right? Well, believe me; I’ve reviewed plenty of games even further removed from my immediate demographic. It’s just part of the job.
It helps that Hello Kitty and Friends Happiness Parade is not bad, depending upon what you’re looking for from either Sanrio’s Hello Kitty herself or rhythm games in general.
I don’t have to tell you who Hello Kitty is, right? We’re all familiar with her? Good, because the game doesn’t tell you anything, either. There’s basically no introduction or story here, just the premise that Hello Kitty and her friends are holding parades to spread happiness around the world. I find this ironic considering parades have the exact opposite effect on me. Maybe that wouldn’t be the case if they involved fewer local politicians in convertibles and more furries tripping over fences.
The gameplay centers around Hello Kitty and a couple of friends as they march down a street to the beat of the music. They move forward automatically throughout each level, but it’s your job to help them avoid traps and obstacles that are being laid out by Kuromi. There are a couple of ways to do this. If you want to move along with Kitty and friends, you can swing the Joy-Cons up and down with each beat like drumsticks, flicking them left or right to make the lead character switch lanes.
The other option is to press the B button with each step as you march forward, then Y to move left and A to move right. I found this version to be more accurate, but perhaps not as engaging.
Each of the characters you’ll unlock through the game has a different ability. You can take three total into the parade, but only the parade leader’s ability can be used. So, if you want to turn coins into hearts to replenish your health, you have to move My Melody to the front with the L button, then hit the R button to trigger her ability. There’s a cooldown period, so these special abilities cannot be used all the time.
Success requires a combination of rhythm skills and quick thinking to avoid obstacles and enemies along the way. Finish a level, and you’re presented with a quick bonus round where you can mash a button for additional skill points. During levels, you can occasionally engage in timing-based photoshoots.
That’s really it for gameplay, but it’s approached in an oddly roguelite manner. You can push forward across multiple levels, choosing your route by difficulty level. Characters disappear as they’re eliminated, and you’ll have to start from scratch if all three are wiped out. Of course, you can level up your characters’ skills as you go, making it easier to push further with subsequent playthroughs. The main benefit here is the reduction of the cooldown time for each character’s special skills. Play long enough, and you’ll be able to summon Pompompurin’s invincibility enough that you’ll be able to just walk through many of the rolling bombs, swinging hammers, etc.
The replay loop does get repetitive, but it’s mitigated somewhat by allowing you to choose the song you want to hear while playing; having to start from scratch with the same song would be maddening. The vast majority of the game’s 40 songs just sound like cheerleader competition music, but there are bound to be a couple you won’t mind cycling through on your way to the end.
Fans of Hello Kitty will surely delight at the game’s presentation. The graphics are bright, but soft, and everything about the interface is friendly and upbeat. Unlocking familiar characters will push players through, as will the various rewards you can unlock to accessorize them.
However, there are only 23 levels to the game without much replay value. Multiple endings can be reached by taking different paths, but they’re neither rewarding nor varied enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.
Also, I feel the difficulty won’t challenge older fans of rhythm games, while younger audiences may find it a bit too frustrating. There’s a sweet spot between the two, and I’m too far removed from it to know how large it is.
Those issues aside, Hello Kitty and Friends Happiness Parade succeeds at being an upbeat, breezy, and bouncy rhythm game that’s enjoyable enough to spend some time with. If you’ve got a Netflix account, you can try it out for free on your mobile device. I suggest doing so before agreeing to attend this particular parade.