It’s odd what passes for rare these days. Take Hello KItty Kruisers, for example; released physically on the Wii U in limited numbers, it can be bought on the Wii U eShop for a mere ten bucks and yet the boxed version regularly sells to collectors for upwards of $60 online.
Thankfully, the game has now meandered over to the Switch eShop too, so you can now easily buy it here if you’re craving your fix of Sanrio-themed racing goodness. Not that you should be, when you consider that what we have here is actually a fairly rubbish game.
Hello Kitty Kruisers with Sanrio Friends (to give it its formal weekend name) is a kart racing game, because of the unwritten law that decrees that all licensed characters from Mario to M&Ms have to get behind the wheel at some point in their lives. There are 10 Sanrio characters to choose from here, ranging from Hello Kitty herself to the likes of Keroppi, Badtz-Maru, Tuxedosam and Hangyodon.
If you’ve heard of all those characters before you may already have one hand on your wallet, but cool your jets: it’s all downhill from here. The fact that you even have a wallet in the first place means you’re probably older than this game’s target audience, but we’ll get to that in a second.
A karting game would be nothing without vehicles (unless it’s Sonic R), and there are a decent selection here. The game actually takes place on land, air and sea, so you’re actually given a variety of cars, planes and boats to choose from. Each category consists of ten different vehicles, and although many of them are similar in design, their garish colours are varied enough that they do still feel like distinct choices – even if we couldn’t really notice a difference in performance between any of them.
The game’s structure is standard: you’ve got 16 different tracks in total, split into four cups consisting of four tracks each. Although that seems like a reasonable number, it’s worth bearing in mind that many of these tracks are based on the same locations and simply modified for cars, boats or planes. For example, four of these tracks are based on the same Town Centre environment. In total, then, there are only five different locations, each with multiple track or vehicle variations.
As well as the normal racing there’s also an Adventure mode, which consists of 20 different missions. Again, that number seems more impressive than it actually is, because it’s really just four different tasks split across the five environments: collecting a set number of cupcakes, collecting a set number of apples, going through a series of gates or finishing a lap within a certain time limit. You’re looking at around 45 minutes to complete this mode (which is needed to unlock some of the vehicles).
As is always the case with karting games, then, it all comes down to how it handles on the track, and this is where things go down a gear. The handling is functional enough, but the power sliding feels a little off. You hold down a shoulder button to drift, and when you let go the kart will immediately zip off in that direction; in principle this is a perfectly fine way of doing things, but the problem is that the camera doesn't turn along with you – as your character drifts you continue looking straight ahead the same way you were looking before.
Worse, though, is the game's speed. This is one of the slowest racing games we’ve ever played. Whether you’re in car, boat or plane, your top speed is about in line with that of a turtle crawling through quicksand, and the few moments of relief you get driving over speed boosts are nowhere near enough to make up for the painfully mundane pace you usually have to suffer.
This would be all well and good had this just been the initial speed setting, almost like a 50cc equivalent in Mario Kart. The reality, however, is that there are no speed or difficulty settings in Hello Kitty Kruisers: what you get is what you get. And given that a large portion of the audience for this game will (understandably) be young children, that means anyone with a modicum of racing game experience is forced to play at a difficulty level that caters primarily to 7-year-olds.
The problem is that Hello Kitty is a brand that’s been popular for decades. In 1990s America in particular, Hello Kitty was massive, with the likes of Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Tyra Banks endorsing Sanrio merchandise. There are a large number of Hello Kitty fans who aren’t young children, and the needs of these fans simply won’t be met here. Unless you’re happy to play a game that moves at a snail’s pace and can be 100% completed in around two hours, this is going to feel severely lacking.
Let’s be clear, though: if you have very young children then this is a perfectly suitable choice for their first-ever kart game. It may not have the handling or acceleration assists that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does, but the pace is so slow and the AI so hapless that they’ll never feel too overwhelmed. Its bright colours and sharp, cel-shaded visual style will also appeal to children who already love all things Sanrio. If your age is in the double digits, though, you’re seriously going to struggle to get much out of it.
We like Hello Kitty as much as the next guy, but unless the next guy's 7 years old they're not going to be able to squeeze much fun out of this one. Nothing it does is particularly terrible (other than its odd drifting mechanic), but everything's so slow and so easy that a huge proportion of the Hello Kitty fanbase will be bored to tears within the two short hours it takes to unlock everything.
Hm, guess I'll get it when I turn 100 then.
Does it have an unused texture of Kitty's bloody, stitched-up face through?
What took you guys so long to review this?
(After watching the gameplay from Youtube)
Oh, wait. 60fps for this Hello Kitty games with Cell shading style ??
Hm.... I think i will consider it somehow.
A wide range of Sanrio characters.
But probably doesn't include an unlockable Aggressive Retsuko.
@RupeeClock I would buy this game if it had that. Although I've heard something about an Aggretsuko game on switch somewhere recently.
You race like the snail
It’s never good when one of the characters on the cover looks like it’s considering suicide.
@Mr_Pepperami You can’t judge a game by its cover all the time, but the package seem to match the contents here. This packaging is giving My Riding Stables some competition.
Every other kart racer is rendered redundant by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's quality and QoL features (especially auto-acceleration and smart steering options).
@Mr_Pepperami : That's okay. Hello Kitty will have eight more lives to spare.
Sorry Chris. Sorry for having to play this for our entertainment. I feel bad for you.
@Silly_G I meant the black bird thing behind ol kitty. He looks seriously on his last thread.
@NotTelevision Hahahah my riding stables is much worse than this. It’s like they put a generic stock photo on the cover.
@Mr_Pepperami Badtz-Maru always looks like this. I think he is upset with his existence and creation into the Hello Kitty universe in general.
Love the first courses' minimap ;]
@Jayofmaya I would be too if I was put in stuff like this😂
Well, Hello Kitty Roller rescue will probably remain the only HK game I ever buy then. I got it for £2 on ps2, though... The weird part is I completed it.
@Mr_Pepperami 😂 True. It’s like the photo that comes with the discount picture frames at K-Mart. Classic stuff.
@NotTelevision exactly that. It’s a photo that comes in a frame you’ve bought😂
As a lover of kart racers, great and potentially crappy, fun & flawed, thank you for the review It's tough sorting out which Kart Racers are potentially fun for me or kids in the family, and which are too flawed to serve their function. It's great to know something about these games.
It's better than Garfield...
Europe is only getting this now? This game's been out forever!
If they add Mia then I might buy it.
You can't judge a book by its cover but you sure can judge a video game by its cover. Wow that's some lackluster art.
Some great kart racers coming together.
Hello kitty. Garfield kart and the best race with Ryan.
So, what Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival is to board games this is to racing games?
Maybe that should be the marketing slogan:
If you enjoyed AC:aF, do we have the karting game for you!
Well at least it's still better than that awful Garfield kart racing game right?
@TheDragonDAFan Quality takes time.
@retro_player_22 How dare you call perfection "awful". Do you truly understand the impact Garfield Kart has had on humanity?
@AxeltheCorvikni Please please please be a reskin/sequel to Human Resource Machine featuring Aggretsuko!
@TheFox No, we've had the retail release here for some time (since 2018 I believe), unless this is a new version?
@Mr_Pepperami Whilst one looks like he’s licked a toad whilst out main cover star could be giving us the last stare before lodging an axe in our head.
But is it better then Garfield Kart racing and that Ryan racing game ?
@ohako actually it's closer to a visual novel, but the whole story is done as if you are texting the characters. Your idea sounds better though!
@Anti-Matter yea it runs at a stable 60fps but I’ll wait for a Digital foundry review
Well it's no Mario Kart 8, that's for sure. lol
Ha! Serves it right for trying to go up against the titain of racing: Garfield Kart! Bow down before his fat orange grace, baby kitty.
@KitsuneNight Nothing, NOTHING compares to the might of Garfield kart. Didn't you know it's a federal law now that Garfield kart must always be The GOTY champion?
But but Mario Kart 8 !
Weird, I thought this had already been reviewed. I was sure the review included a scene from The Fast and the Furious, with Hello Kitty and another character replacing Dom and Brian.
@RupeeClock That's correct. This game was made before Aggresive Retsuko was even a thing.
Not for adults. Got it.
I think it for me as 35 years old man.
That blackbird’s look of dead, lobotomised soullessness in the cover-art must be a kind of emotional projection from the developers.
Those eyes say:
“Have mercy and kill me now. There’s nothing left of me to save—I sold it all.”
@Anti-Matter Your ‘unconventional’ taste is a genuine human wonder. Whenever I see something and think, “Who the hell buys that stuff?!”
I think of you.
Clearly a game of the year contender.
Regardless of how bad the game is, it still earns points for not having Mario's voice.
What a joke when the best kart racer is already on Switch and also stars a cat. Garfield!
There are literally hundreds of games that I could with a review of from the eshop, why review this?
I was thinking that it wasn't TOO bad until I saw one of the cars go over a boost, and it just barely registered any difference in speed, then it shot a projectile which is probably one of the worst graphical things I've seen in a game. It looked like someone was dragging a picture of a pie away from the car with their mouse in MS Paint.
This whole game looks like someone starting to get used to Flash. Shame, because I have no qualm with getting this type of game for my little one. I'll avoid this though.
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