The Nintendo Switch does not have many digital board games yet. Sure, there is Monopoly, but there have yet to be many family-friendly, minigame-filled endeavors for folks to enjoy. Unless you happen to be in Japan or have a Japanese account on your system, that is. Nippon Columbia has released Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso for the console, complete with sample demo. While it is entirely in Japanese, it is fairly easy to understand and is remarkably relaxed for a competitive game.
First, let’s go over what Sumikko Gurashi is. This is a line of adorable characters from San-X, a Japanese company. Basically, they inhabit the same space as Hello Kitty and Rilakuma. All of these characters are rather sad little animals or animate objects called Mummuchus that like to gather with friends and sit cozily in corners. In the Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso demo, people can play as Polari the polar bear who ran away from home to get warm, Pinguinosh? the penguin? river spirit who might actually be a kappa, Gattinosh a shy cat with social anxiety, Mosztrozo, the Loch Ness monster’s son who is terrified of being captured, and Capucine, a piece of pork cutlet that is mostly made of inedible fat and was left on a plate after a meal. Essentially, they are all creatures who want to be cozy, happy and safe together. All points that the board game attempts to highlight.
Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso borrows its basic formula from the Mario Party series. Four people choose characters to represent themselves and go around a board that encompasses four areas in an amusement park. The cluster of critters move as a group of four from space to space, with the one in the lead rolling the dice to determine how many spaces the group moves. If you land on a space with Sumikko Coins on it, the person who rolled gets the points. If the group lands on a space with a minigame, everyone gets to play. In the full game, there are 27 minigames and the Sumikko Coins you earn can be put toward clothing items for characters or furniture for their in-game room. The demo is far smaller, going through one portion of Sumikko Park and three minigames.
With the way Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso’s board is organized and the characters move, I really felt like it was more about enjoying a casual match. There isn’t as much pressure as there is in a Mario Party game. If anything, it felt a bit more like Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, though with a bit more of a point to things. It is like the game wanted me to sit back and savor the experience, rather than really work to decimate my opponents.
The three minigames present in the Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso demo are more cozy than cutthroat. The first one I played when going through the trial involved attempting to find seats on a bench. The four players stand in the foreground, awkwardly holding their hands and occasionally looking at the three benches filled with people in the background. Every once in a while, it looks like someone in the back is going to shift. When they do, it is up to you to press a button at the correct time to take their spot and get points. Only three people can sit. It’s an identifiable situation, one that requires careful observation and exact timing, but isn’t too competitive.
Another minigame involves getting in position for a picture. A place your face standee only has room for three people to pose. Your goal is to make sure you are one of those three people. This is accomplished by shoving your way to the front and hoping someone doesn’t displace you. There is no punching or violence involved. You just attempt to be there and not pushed out of the way. You definitely find yourself jockeying for position, but not in a way that ever feels forceful. The goal is not to force other people out, but to try and assure a position for yourself.
People do need to be aware that Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso has a very particular control scheme. You must use the Joy-Cons to play. This is because certain minigames require you to hold the controller in a different way. The third minigame in the demo shows why this is necessary. It involves the characters getting to a spinning cup ride. This minigame forces you to hold the Joy-Con vertically and move it in circles to spin the cup. You spin, the cups spin and the one who did best gets the points. It is something you could not have done as easily with a standard control scheme.
Sumikko Gurashi: Sumikko Park he Youkoso comes across as a very low-key game. Even though you are competing against other players and attempting to win, there isn’t that brutal nature present in other video game board games like Mario Party or Dokapon Kingdom. Everyone is here to relax and have a good time. I felt like it was all about finding a happy place and chilling out together.