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Ripple Island is an adventure game where you are shown a scene of the game as you move throughout the world and interact with the objects and people in it. You will meet many animals that live in the world, along with a young girl. As you do, you may attempt to talk with them or provide them with items that they are requesting. Often times, giving an item to an animal will get you another item in exchange, or access to an area that you have been otherwise unable to visit.

When the game begins, you must select one of the icon commands shown below the current scene. If you would like to move, any of the four possible directions available to you are shown, and you press the control pad in the desired direction. Speaking is automatic, you do not have to select a target. However, to take an item, use an item, or push or pull something, you must direct a cursor to the location on the screen where you wish to perform the action. In the case of using an item, you must also first select an item to use.

The game is fairly linear, in that you must go through each area, one at a time. However, while you are within an area, you are free to move about it as you please. Do note that it is possible to make mistakes and wind up at the ending without the proper items for the best ending. Try to pay attention to all the objects around the screen, and think of ways in which those objects can interact. Sometimes you must use objects on other items visible on the screen to make things happen. If you can read Japanese, be sure to listen to the animals and people that you speak with. They don't often provide very obvious clues, but you can learn something if you pay close attention.