Around the World with Hello Kitty and Friends for the 3DS is a Cooking Mama/Peppa Pig style collection of mini-games aimed at young children, all featuring the super-cute cat herself and a smattering of her equally adorable animal friends.
Divided into six countries, from Japan to Kenya, each location features four games. The games vary, and there's a good amount to choose from, with a selection of memory games, puzzles, cooking games and many more in between, each with simple, easy to understand controls. With each mini-game's instructions being read out loud as well as being displayed on screen, even children who haven't yet managed to get the hang of reading should be able to get along here.
In what we feel is a smart move, each game also has a selectable difficulty level (Easy or Hard), meaning that children can practice and get used to the individual games before moving on to more of a challenge. It's a decision that this works very well in practice, as we found our five year old play-tester felt quite proud of herself after successfully tackling some of the games in 'Hard mode'.
Although the mini-games form the bulk of what’s on offer here, there are a few additional distractions too. There's a camera function included, which lets you use the 3DS' camera to take photos featuring Hello Kitty herself thanks to an included AR (augmented reality) card. This is a fun addition, and children will love having the character in their own photos - but like the 3DS' own camera app, you won't get the world's greatest photos out of it.
The game doesn't make great use of the console's 3D display, with the main menu actually allowing you to deactivate the 3D effect. As the stereoscopic 3D visuals of the 3DS are not recommended for the game's target audience of under sevens, the option to disable the effect is welcome (of course the 3DS' 3D can be switched off system-wide, but it’s useful to have the option within the game).
Around the World with Hello Kitty and Friends is a solid entry in a very crowded genre. If you’re looking for a something to entertain a Kitty-mad child then this is a good bet. The games are simple enough to be accessible, even for very little ones, but the adjustable difficulty means that older players can have a bit of a challenge as well, to a degree. Aside from the mini-games there's a dressing-up mode and jigsaw puzzles, and the collectible souvenirs provide some bits of geographical trivia. From an educational standpoint, there's actually a lot to like here, as some games require counting and number comprehension, while others reward quick reactions. In all, a solid bundle - and one even the younger Hello Kitty fan should be able to cope with.
Other than an overdose on sweetness from the sugary bliss of the whole affair, there's nothing whatsoever for parents to be concerned with here.