Idle games are fairly common on mobile devices now, but back in 2014 Neko Atsume really helped kick off a trend. Set up some stuff in a virtual environment. Go about your day. Pop back in when you remember. Boom! Cats! Nine years later, pank0 appeared with Usagi Shiima, a similar sort of idle simulation inspired heavily by Neko Atsume. However, in many ways it feels like a much different and open version of what we’ve come to expect from these types of titles.
As the title suggests, Usagi Shiima involves spending time with bunnies. You start with access to a shop that sells items (for carrots and gold carrots), vegetation (for carrots), and buildings (for gold carrots). You get a single red ball as a toy to start. Rabbits pop by and tip you with carrots after visiting or if you interact with them upon “request.” As you earn more carrot currencies, you can expand your yard, leading to up to 30 bunnies (so far) who can visit, be befriended, and even move in as a permanent resident.
As with similar titles, the gameplay loop is familiar. You open the app. Various bunnies will be there, with a special highlight if a rabbit is visiting you for the first time. I recommend taking photos of them first, in case you haven’t gotten any pictures for newcomers for their Bun Book profiles. Once you get settled, you’ll start seeing requests to feed, brush, pet, or play hide and seek with some of the rabbits. Doing so ticks items off your daily tasks list, netting you more standard and gold carrots. There’s also a daily login reward, with a building showing up among the items. (I was able to get a farm in the first week by logging in each day.) It’s all free to play, though you can offer tips and such for currency and to remove ads. However, everything can be earned without paying anything, so long as you keep coming back.
It’s the interactivity of Usagi Shiima that makes it superior to Neko Atsume. The photography element is handled in a fashion that’s nearly identical. It’s the other time with the animals is different. If a bunny is hungry, you can shake food from a bag to a bowl to feed them. If they want to play hide and seek, you briefly look around the screen to see where they went. The brushing and petting interactions both involving rubbing them. Only the hide and seek one would qualify as an actual minigame, but they all feel like there’s some kind of connection with the bunny. Especially since you earn hearts with them to build up an actual relationship. Also, once Mako the hatmaker rabbit arrives, you can also get and put hats on the little buddies, which is charming.
That interactivity extends to the environment. While other, earlier games like Neko Atsume involved choosing a specific spot for certain items, Usagi Shiima offers complete freedom. You choose where everything goes. You can flip its perspective from left to right, to better arrange building and items. While overlapping isn’t possible for things like buildings or toys that the rabbits will use, you can do some with the vegetation to customize the look. It’s like you really have your own little island and get to inject more personality into everything.
But also, even with all of these extras, Usagi Shiima remains laid back. It never demands your time. Pank0 understands this is meant to be a cozy game that revolves around your life. The aesthetic and design direction both reflect that. While you can get involved with the rabbits and play with them, it isn’t required. You’ll still get the joy of having them around. The standard carrot currency seemed to be doled out very freely, and I was more than happy to kick in some real cash of my own for gold carrots.
With pank0’s Usagi Shiima, it really feels like the developer understood why people loved Neko Atsume and designed the game to build on that.
Usagi Shiima is available on Android and Apple iOS devices.