I would like to introduce myself to GameCola and its readers with one of the first games I ever played: Hello Kitty Big Fun Deluxe. If you liked bright colors, inoffensive characters, were five years old, and even vaguely liked Hello Kitty, then you had a game that you could while away two hours with—and teach you shapes!
Hello Kitty Big Fun Deluxe is a simple point-and-click activity center. There are five games: Big Fun Piano, Big Fun Art, Big Fun Shapes, Big Fun Numbers, and Big Fun Storymaking. Most people will probably remember the Storymaking and Art games, since they contain the most memorable things you can do. In Storymaking you choose between two modes: Stew-Making and Fill-in-the-Blank Adventure.
The number-one reason to play this game is making stew, with a combination of vegetables, meats, and cutlery of your choosing. You can choose to have a stew base of garlic, garlic, garlic, and more garlic. Hello Kitty then brings the vegetables into the kitchen, and if you have changed your mind from three seconds ago and want to add eggplant, you can do so at this screen. You can also add napkins, forks, and plates into the stew. Realizing that no one can eat this much garlic-and-fork stew, Hello Kitty invites one of her friends over for dinner. Once your friend arrives, they are likely to exclaim, if you made garlic-and-fork stew, “It tastes awful!” However, if you were an aspiring chef as a child, you likely wowed your friends with an excellent stew. We, the children who would later close off the park entrance and release the Spinosaurus in Zoo Tycoon, were not so accommodating.
Four activities are narrated, which would not be a problem except that each word is enunciated like each word was recorded separately. Although this approach might have been done to teach speaking and reading skills, I recall my PowerMac 6100 buffering between words occasionally, meaning that every other word may be its own sound file. Playing this game on Windows 98, I thankfully did not have any of this buffering occur, but the staccato voice definitely adds a level of annoyance to some of the activities.
The number-two reason to play this game would be the slightly less sadistic fill-in-the-blank adventure, the other option in Storymaking. Proving that the developers realized that not everything in the game had to be educational, they added the option for Hello Kitty to ride a horse to several destinations, as well as the more conventional car or scooter. Hello Kitty can then take her transportation of choice to locations such as the shopping mall or carnival, where she can take photo booth selfies or stuff her face at the mall candy store. At the end of each Mad Lib story, Hello Kitty will be shown with a souvenir from her trip, like the snapshots from the carnival or a rock from the school geology lab.
After Storymaking, the next notable activity is Big Fun Art. The narrator is absent, allowing the digital canvas to be a relaxing escape compared to the other activities. There are five template scenes and a blank canvas, with many black-and-white or color stamps to choose from. Considering the freedom granted in Storymaking, you would think you could add sheep stamps to the template of Hello Kitty windsurfing, but alas, they had to put their foot down somewhere, as each set of stamps changes with the template. I found shadowing and control glitches in this area of the game, leading to my masterpiece of Hello Kitty surrounded by hamburgers and corn dogs to be shadowed by black-and-white variants of the stamps I had used in color—just by toggling between the two stamp color options. The freehand crayon tool is clunky and does not have enough control, leading to big blotches you do not want, which lead you to discover that even though the eraser tool worked on the blotches, the underlying template sketch has been erased too. So much for recreating my childhood digital art.
The remaining three activities are not particularly notable for anyone over age six. The Big Fun Piano offers nursery rhymes via dog barks, sheep baas, and chicken clucks, but Big Fun Numbers and Big Fun Shapes left me remembering why I only recall making stew. Big Fun Shapes has you click on squares of color, asking for “find me gray”. Heightening levels of difficulty ask for “find me the blue circle” and “find me the green triangles”. YAWN. Big Fun Numbers is even more grating; you click on numbers in different colorful landscapes, and the narrator counts each duck, apple, or bunny that appears in her staggered tone of voice.
All in all, would Hello Kitty Big Fun Deluxe be a worthwhile port as a mobile game for today’s five-year-olds? Maybe, but I’m sure Hello Kitty games can probably have more overall appealing content somehow. Although a treasured part of my childhood, and an interesting relic to own if you pick it up at a garage sale, no one should really go out of their way to play this game unless they are a diehard Hello Kitty fan.
May the garlic-and-fork stew be with you.