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Hello Kitty Roller Rescue

Platform(s): GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Namco / Xplosiv


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GameCube Review - 'Hello Kitty Roller Rescue'

by Katarani on Aug. 28, 2005 @ 12:53 a.m. PDT

Hello Kitty Roller Rescue is a bright, out-of-this-world platform platform adventure, allowing Hello Kitty's fans all around the world to become Hello Kitty herself, or her trusted sidekick Bad Badtz Maru.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Namco Hometek
Developer: XPEC Entertainment
Release Date: August 16, 2005


Anyone who's lived in Japan in the last two decades (or anyone who's visited an American shopping mall in the same time span) knows all about Sanrio and their collection of adorable, saccharine mascots. Children across the world carry around merchandise bearing the likenesses of Hello Kitty, Badtz-Maru the penguin, Pochacco the puppy, et al. It only stands to reason, as such, that Sanrio would license video games with these characters as well. Hello Kitty Roller Rescue, however, is the very first Sanrio-based game to reach the shores of America.

Caught somewhere in the lines between the more recent Legend of Zelda games and Super Mario Sunshine, Hello Kitty Roller Rescue puts you in the shoes of Sanrio's most popular anthropomorphic feline, Hello Kitty. The planet is under attack by the forces of the megalomaniacal Block-O, who is sending his troops to Sanriotown in order to turn Earth and everything on it into cubes. No Earth-shattering kaboom, no enslaving of mankind, not even a plain ol' dictatorship. He simply wants to give the planet a makeover. You have to give him credit though – to this end, he's oddly enthusiastic, using tanks, trains, and even Voltron-esque giant robots to achieve his goal.

Kitty and her friends aren't the cast of Q-Bert, however, so it would be a real pain if everything were to turn into blocks. In order to stop Block-O, Koroppi (Keroppi's younger, nerdier brother) abducts Hello Kitty, arms her with roller skates, a wand straight out of a magical girl anime, and what could only be a Kevlar ribbon, and sends her off to stop Block-O and his evil Block Battalion in their tracks in a series of mission-based levels. Throughout the levels, she will rescue her friends, some of whom will help her, such as the flan-chucking golden Labrador, Purin or Badtz-Maru's "watchgator" Pochi. These allies can be taken along with her to other levels, where they will attack enemies or otherwise assist Kitty.

This is a children's game through and through, however, and is meant to be enjoyed by folks between the ages of six and 10. Each level starts with a quick briefing, where Koroppi tells Kitty about what she needs to accomplish, who she needs to save, or the weak point of the major enemy she's about to face.

From there on, Kitty's left to run around the level collecting coins, beating up Blockheads with her wand, saving other Sanrio characters, and checking mailboxes to find out ways to win new pretty outfits to wear. You see, Hello Kitty is marketed towards girls, and girls want nothing better than to play dress up with their heroines, right? Right? Yeah, I think it's a crock too. Either way, you get new sporty dresses for Kitty to wear, as well as a few changes to her bonking stick, and all it takes to change is a quick trip into the closet. It's purely cosmetic, however, which is a tad irritating with the weapons, as one would expect even the slightest upgrade to take place over the course of the game.

The irritation is hardly noticeable with that, however, as the game can easily be breezed through in just under 90 minutes. I repeat, once again, that this is a game for younger children, and as of such, the difficulty is laughable and the levels almost distressingly short. The levels come at you in sets of three, requiring Kitty to bonk her way through two action levels before fighting a boss machine, typically defeated by an easy, yet oft annoying, gimmick. One requires you to throw bombs back at it, while another requires … well, most of them typically involve shoving the boss' explosives right back in their face. It's a refreshing break, however, from the simple smack-smack-triple-combo action of the runabout levels. Kitty has a three-hit combo and collects stars from fallen Block soldiers to power up one of two screen-clearing special moves. Aside from that, the only moves in Kitty's arsenal are running and jumping.

While the controls are simple, the camera makes even the most mundane movements torturous, a fact only complicated by Kitty being on roller skates, making her slide around on platforms a bit. The game's camera seems to borrow mechanics from the true black sheep of 3D platformers, in this case Super Mario 64 and Sonic Adventure. It refuses to stay in one place, often lodging itself in walls or hiding enemies just out of your sight. That's probably the game's biggest flaw, though. The graphics engine is surprisingly sound, and the character models are beautifully rendered and sufficiently pink, making it feel as if you're under control of a Hello Kitty cartoon, albeit one filmed by the folks who brought us The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The sounds, likewise, are decently minimalist. There are a few bright little ditties for any given situation, but they fade quickly into the background as you play. The one exception is the stage introduction music, which is delightfully bouncy and cheery despite whatever situation may be shown on screen. In one particular case, the game makes you watch a giant block robot demolish a town while your speakers belt out a tune which would better remind one of picking daisies and going out for picnics. Sound effects consist of cartoony bonks, thunks, and the occasional "nyao" from Kitty herself.

The replay value is moderate, considering the whole game can be overcome in the span of a lunch break. Kitty has approximately 5,000,000 outfits to unlock, making her Japan's new Malibu Barbie. In addition, you can use hard-earned coins to unlock the game's cut scenes, music, and character profiles for every single Sanrio personality you meet. There is also a second play-through mode after beating the main game, which lets you control the just-as-popular and probably more boy-friendly Badtz-Maru. He won't be unlocking dresses, but will instead concentrate on bonking the enemies with an oversized frying pan. That in itself allows for a bit more value, as it lets boys and girls alike to enjoy the game with only minimal teasing. Unfortunately, the point of the matter stands that this is an incredibly short, incredibly easy game, especially considering the recent influx of "too hard for children but not appealing to adults" titles. All but the most Sanrio-loving fan will quickly get bored with this game after a few days, and those that don't will last perhaps a week.

Despite the few flaws, this is an incredibly good "gateway" game. If you want to take a child away from their Dora the Explorer and Barbie games and guide them into the more difficult, more rewarding games that the older children play, Hello Kitty Roller Rescue is the game to do it with. Look to see if you can find it at your local rental store, though; with the incredibly short play time and few but glaring flaws, this title falls just short of deserving a purchase.

Score: 6.8/10

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