An Interview with Sunblink’s Chelsea Howe and Tom Blind on ‘Hello Kitty Island Adventure’

TouchArcade Rating:

I think it’s safe to say that Hello Kitty Island Adventure () is at the very least one of the more unexpected mobile hits of the year. I don’t think anyone expected much out of it, let alone a huge exploratory adventure game with puzzles, side quests, and platforming challenges. But here we are, and the game is great. It just got a very spiffy new update for the Halloween season, in fact. After enjoying this Apple Arcade game so much, I needed to talk to some of the people behind the game over at Sunblink. Luckily, such an opportunity was available. What kinds of games inspired it? Which character would they most love as a guest on the island? What are their favorite pizza toppings? All these answers and more can be found in this interview.

TouchArcade (TA): Thanks for answering our questions today! Can you introduce yourselves and explain your role in the development of Hello Kitty Island Adventure?

Chelsea Howe, Chief Product Officer (CH): I helped bring a longer-term lens to the game, so we could plan where we want Hello Kitty Island Adventure to be in months and years. I also did odd jobs like deciding how many Coconuts spawn each day and writing visitor dialogue.

Tom Blind, Game Director (TB): I designed and prototyped the initial concept, and oversaw the development throughout production. I may have also contributed some code here and there.

TA: Per TouchArcade tradition, I must ask: what are your favorite pizza toppings?

CH: Margherita! Especially if there are big fresh crunchy basil leaves.

TA: What came first, the idea of the game or the idea of making something with the Sanrio characters?

TB: The opportunity to work with Sanrio came first, but the idea of a blend between cozy and adventure was something we had talked about previously and instantly came to mind as the perfect match for the brand. Applying typical cozy simulation gameplay to Hello Kitty was an obvious thing to do, but we wanted to add a layer of depth (literally, in the case of diving), that hasn’t been done in these types of games before.

TA: The Sanrio brand is of course absolutely massive globally. How did it feel to be working with these beloved characters?

CH: Our whole team fell in love with the characters as we learned their little quirky details. Did you know Hello Kitty is not actually a cat, but a little girl? Did you know Hangyodon fell in love with his pet fish when it briefly turned into a woman? The visual designs are delightful, but learning the little nuggets of lore really hooked us, and we strove to include similar nods for the fans throughout the game (including the ultimate character you find in the game!)

TA: Hello Kitty Island Adventure has a lot going on with its gameplay. I expected, at most, something similar to Animal Crossing but got a lot more. Can you talk about some of the inspirations for it and how it came to be the game it is?

TB: Early on, one game we played a lot and took inspiration from was A Short Hike. It really demonstrated how exploration could be fun without the need for combat or other forms of action. We thought we could take that idea and expand on it by creating a huge world to have adventures in, as well as make into a new home

Since friendship and gift giving are important themes for Sanrio, we wanted to make those key elements of progression in the game. We took some inspiration from games like Stardew Valley in this regard. By engaging with the different characters you not only learn more about them and become better friends, but also unlock new quests to go on together.

It was a constant struggle throughout development to ensure we properly balanced these different aspects into a cohesive experience. We didn’t want it to feel like two different games glued together. I feel like we succeeded pretty well in this regard. Exploring, adventuring, hanging out with friends, and customizing the resort all feed into each other so that players never feel like they are just doing the same thing over and over.

TA: Which of the characters in the game was the most fun to work with and why?

CH: My personal favorite is Cinnamoroll, but when it came to telling stories in game, the most fun were Badtz-maru and Kuromi. Badtz-maru has an edginess to him: he’s always trying to get ahead and will make up wild explanations for things. Kuromi is the resident conspiracy theorist; she’s the first one to assume there’s something big going on at Friendship Island, and her love for all things spooky made our Halloween event a delight to write.

TA: A lot of people enjoyed the Snakes on a Plane reference in the opening. How much freedom did you have to make those kinds of self-aware or referential gags?

CH: One of the brilliant parts about the Sanrio characters is that they appeal to a huge audience – they’re truly cross-generational. It was important for us to be able to reach out to those different age groups and ensure that players felt seen and heard as early as possible in the game. Sanrio had ultimate approval on the entire script, and we actually worked with some of the writers from Supercute Adventures, so it felt like that cross-generational goal was really shared.

TA: What aspect of the game are you most proud of and why?

CH: So many people play this game and say something like “I didn’t expect it to be this GOOD”. The fact that we’ve made far-and-away the best Hello Kitty and Friends game is a big accomplishment, but I also think it speaks to the tremendous quality we were able to pack into this mobile title. There’s so much more than folks expect, and seeing them fall in love with it just makes the whole studio delighted.

TA: If you could have access to characters from any other game to visit the island, who would you pick and why?

CH: Legal nightmares aside? Wander from Shadow of the Colossus. Partially because I (very selfishly) want to see a colossus in our art style, and partially because Wander deserves some time with friends, and what better friends than Hello Kitty and her crew?

TA: Thanks again for your time! If you have any message you’d like to give our readers, consider this your free space to do so.

CH: If you’re interested at all in open world adventures or cozy life sims, we hope you’ll try out Hello Kitty Island Adventure!

And that’s a wrap! Thanks to Chelsea and Tom at Sunblink for answering my sometimes-ridiculous questions, and to Sydney at fortyseven communications for facilitating the interview. If you haven’t checked out Hello Kitty Island Adventure on Apple Arcade yet, you really should. It’s the kind of feel-good fun you don’t see too often, especially on mobile where bright colors and kind words usually come with a gem-sack shakedown. Thanks for reading!

  • Hello Kitty Island Adventure

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