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Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures DS is an oddly sterile resource management game that may nonetheless strike a chord with younger, female players.
I don't know about you, but when I was at school boys didn't buy each other presents unless they were being frogmarched to a birthday party as a little kid, or exchanging ironic tat in the pub as a teen.
I looked upon the arcane rituals by which girls passed each other tiny, carefully wrapped presents in the school corridor, and the tears and recriminations whenever a gift was given incorrectly or poorly chosen, with the bafflement that I otherwise reserved just for everything else girls did ever.
Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures takes this youthful obsession with fastidious gift-giving and builds an Animal Crossing-style cultivation game around it. Essentially the core mechanic is managing relationships by walking around a small town talking to friends, playing games with them and, when a task is completed successfully, being given information on what they might like for their birthday.
Yes, Kitty's reward for helping her friends is to be told out what gift she should buy them. Kitty's friends are nothing if not self-absorbed.
It lacks the warmth and sense of community of Animal Crossing.
Not that Kitty herself shows much signs of having a personality. It quickly becomes apparent that Hello Kitty isn't a character, she's a design, that she belongs on the side of pink tote bags and easter eggs, not at the centre of a narrative. She is essentially unknowable, as are most of the supporting cast - a couple have simple characteristics like 'thinks he's really cool', but most are as bland as Kitty herself.
It's all very synthetic. In spite of references to wholesome activities like long country walks, and rural mini-games like catching fireflies, the world of Birthday Adventures feels as plastic as much of the merchandise Hello Kitty's image is stamped upon. It lacks the warmth and sense of community of Animal Crossing, the feeling of worth that came from managing your crops and expanding your house: fussing over presents for narcissists is a much colder activity.
As cold and clean as a high street card and gift shop.
Appropriately for a game focussed on birthdays, Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures feels as cold and clean as a high street card and gift shop, a game trapped within the mentality that such places prey on, a blank materialism that prioritises the exchange of over-priced, slickly designed but ultimately throwaway cards and gifts over any meaningful gesture.
Of course, if you like that sort of thing then you might like this. While Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures is an efficiently tooled kids game, it left me very, very cold.
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