‘Hello Kitty: Day at the Park’ Is Surprisingly Complex
Summer may be ending, but you can still visit the park and have the best day ever—via the new Maestro Media board game, Hello Kitty: Day at the Park, designed by Roberta Taylor. This tile-laying game allows players to craft their own park map and score points by traversing tiles, collecting items, attending events, and going on adventures.
Designed for 2-4 players ages 8 and up, Hello Kitty: Day At the Park is a medium-paced, strategic game that offers multiple ways to score points. Plus, you get to play some of your favorite Sanrio characters: Hello Kitty, My Melody, Badtzmaru, Keroppi, and Chococat.
Breaking down Hello Kitty: Day at the Park gameplay
Hello Kitty: Day at the Park has a few core mechanics. To start, players choose their Sanrio character of choice, then collect the character piece (for moving), the score token (for the scoreboard), the character card (for special abilities only you can do), and a nap token (which determines whether you can use your character-specific special move based on how it’s flipped). Then turns take place clockwise, starting with the person who most recently went on an adventure.
Turn order gets a bit more complicated. First, the player lays tiles to create the park map, and as they go they also lay down event tokens. Event tokens are claimed when players land on those tiles, and each one provides a special action or boon that can be used at any time during the player’s turn. Simultaneously, players also gain items as they move across the map, which can then be turned in to complete adventure cards and score points. To end their turn, players draw tiles and adventure cards to replenish their stock, then play continues with the next person.
At the end of the game, everyone adds up the score bonuses on their completed adventure cards. The person with the most points wins!
The best parts of Hello Kitty: Day at the Park
Hello Kitty: Day at the Park is a complex, multiplayer board game with several potential winning strategies. The item collection mechanic at first seems wildly overpowered, but begins to make sense within just a few turns. It’s up to players to determine whether they want to score points by rapidly completing easy adventure cards with small item requirements or go for higher-requirement, higher-yield medium and hard adventure cards with score bonuses that could add up significantly at the end of the game.
In our four-player test game, it seemed as if one of us would end far behind the other three—but because they chose to mine easy adventure cards for a score bonus in the end, we all landed within a few points of each other. The previously yards ahead, obvious winner still took the trophy—but with a much tighter margin than we expected. Day at the Park had more competitive tension than we could have predicted, especially since it’s ultimately designed for kids.
Although it took us a couple rounds to hit our stride, by the end of the game, we all felt fairly confident in our understanding of the rules and how we wanted to play our individual games. At no point did we feel thwarted by the game’s mechanics, nor did we necessarily feel forced to make choices that would hurt us in the short- or long-term. Since Hello Kitty: Day at the Park is still technically in development and the rules could change before it’s released to Kickstarter backers and retailers, it was impressive to complete the game with minimal confusion and frustration.
What can be improved in Hello Kitty: Day at the Park
However, Hello Kitty: Day at the Park is still a prototype, so there are aspects that could be improved. First on the list is the immersion of the game.
Although the turn order seems simple at first glance, as the game carries on, each round takes a bit more time as players reconcile multiple components and attempt to score as many points as possible to keep up lest they be left at the park gates, alone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean we spent more time thinking about how to maximize our item economy and adventure completion, which became less about “having fun at the park with Hello Kitty and friends” and more about calculating bonuses and planning for future moves.
This game certainly isn’t chess, but it’s at least as complex as Wingspan, which I personally wouldn’t try to play with anyone younger than 12 (though the box says it’s for ages 10 and up). Removing one or two components from Day at the Park, or even just reducing how many different types of items, adventures, and events are in the game could improve how approachable it is and lower the complexity so kids can play it by themselves, without adults. It would also make for shorter gaming sessions (it took us approximately 90 minutes to complete a four-person game) and better attention throughout.
It’s worth noting that once you figure out the rules, you have a fairly smooth experience, but there are enough small details and exceptions to trip up most adults, let alone kids. Streamlining these elements would offer a shorter, tighter, faster-paced gameplay experience that still caters to multiple play types but doesn’t do too much.
Plus, if the mechanics are streamlined and the components cut back, Hello Kitty: Day at the Park could focus more on immersion. As it stands, the adventure cards are somewhat specific to the characters on them, but there’s no flavor text or storytelling to remind us that we’re playing a game with Hello Kitty and friends, not just with each other.
It would be amazing to see adventure cards where certain characters can work together for a bonus, or to see cards line up with event tokens somehow. Right now, everything seems so tooled toward the item economy and adding up score bonuses that it’s hard not to get trapped in the math of it all.
Is Hello Kitty: Day at the Park worth the investment?
Yes. Although the prototype of Hello Kitty: Day at the Park isn’t perfect, it’s still pretty damn good. Plus, as noted in the review materials, designer Roberta Taylor and the team at Maestro Media can still make changes to the ruleset or game mechanics.
Kickstarter backers will get to play the game before it becomes available for retail, which is really exciting, and I expect there will be lots of great backer perks available. If you or your loved ones are fans of Sanrio and enjoy strategic board games, look no further.
Hello Kitty: Day at the Park launches on Tuesday, September 26 on Kickstarter. The finished game will be sent to backers first, then made available for retail in 2024.
(featured image: Sanrio/Maestro Media)
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