Preview: Hello Kitty Island Adventure Could Be the Best Alternative to Animal Crossing on PS5, PS4 1

The likes of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have ushered in a new era of the life sim, thanks to their low-pressure gameplay and seemingly unending content. While PlayStation has seen a fair few examples of these cosy titles the last few years, there aren't too many standouts, with ConcernedApe's influential indie still perhaps one of the best examples. However, another contender is on the approach. Hello Kitty Island Adventure is coming to both PS5 and PS4, and after spending some time playing it, we can tell it has big potential.

Already a major success on Apple Arcade, the game is heading to consoles in 2025, and it's an interesting blend of genres, bringing elements of open world exploration and adventuring to your typical cosy life sim. Add on top the Hello Kitty universe, which we're told is the "number one IP in the world", and you have a winning recipe already.

The hands-on demo is essentially the very beginning of the game, after Hello Kitty, your custom character, and the wider Sanrio crew arrive on a mysterious island. We're immediately put in mind of Animal Crossing thanks to the top-down perspective and other presentational choices; while it's somewhat derivative of Nintendo's series, it's a natural fit for the Hello Kitty characters. Thanks to the fun dialogue, too, we're quickly charmed by the game's vibes.

While it very much looks and feels like Animal Crossing, there are some major differences in how it plays. Firstly, there's no monetary economy in Island Adventure; you don't owe anybody money, you don't earn it, and you don't need it. Instead, the whole game is balanced around exchanging items with the island's inhabitants. The way to progress in this title is by giving gifts to Hello Kitty and her Sanrio pals, which will improve your friendship with them and, more often than not, they'll give you something in return too.

This is closely tied to quests, which is another major difference. As you level up your relationships with each character, you'll steadily unlock new quests, in addition to typical rewards like cosmetics or key items. Becoming close friends with everyone on the island is the main thrust of the progression and the story; we're told there's approximately 50 hours worth of game just tied to this aspect.

The quests we take on at this early stage are very straightforward, gathering simple materials from the ground and handing them over in order to unlock basic features. Each main character is who you'll go to for specific mechanics; My Melody is in charge of furniture and general upgrades to the island, for example, while Tuxedosam is who you'll turn to for outfits.

The demo is essentially the tutorial portion of the game, but within that space you're also able to explore freely. Hello Kitty Island Adventure borrows from The Legend of Zelda as much as anything else, with short, puzzle-filled dungeons to solve as you go through missions, and the ability to climb for as long as your stamina meter allows. While swimming, diving, and other traversal features require specific tools, we enjoyed the freedom that climbing allows, and it's a great fit, especially as you may be searching the island for specific resources. As for the dungeons, the ones we experienced were very early and so not particularly challenging, but we appreciate the change in pace these offer.

While some aspects of the game are tied to the real-world clock, others are run by an in-game day/night cycle. This means you won't hit as many progression walls as you find in Animal Crossing; you won't necessarily need to wait until the actual evening to catch certain critters, for instance. It's all part of a design ethos that makes the game easy to get into, but again, there's a lot here to sink your teeth into.

We're shown the size of the open world map, and it's very large for a game of this ilk. As you befriend Hello Kitty and the crew and unlock more mechanics and items, you'll be able to explore more and more of the island, uncovering the overarching mystery, discovering new materials, and more. Developer Sunblink has been updating the game very regularly thus far, and we imagine that will continue once these console ports launch next year, so this has a lot of potential to eat away at all your free time.

From our limited experience, the game's various parts hang together nicely and it's just very pleasant to play. It's doing plenty to differentiate itself from similar titles, and we can certainly see it being very popular when it arrives in 2025. Our only real concern is that the demo we played was very choppy from a technical standpoint, but it was an early build running on Nintendo Switch. We imagine that the PS5 and PS4 versions will inherently perform better, and there are of course still many months to go on development.

If you're in the market for a jolly life sim but don't want to hand Tom Nook any of your hard-earned cash, Hello Kitty Island Adventure could be well worth paying attention to next year.

Hello Kitty Island Adventure is launching in 2025, first as a timed console exclusive on Nintendo Switch and then later on PS5 and PS4. Are you excited for this cutesy open world life sim? Let us know in the comments section below.