Plenty of games have released recently fueled by the nostalgia of early 90’s 3D platformers. Fans of the genre remember exploring worlds and uncovering secrets as they worked their way towards both the end of the game and to completion. This wasn’t just because of an achievement or bonus content, but because it was just fun to do. A Hat In Time is another game that’s intent on bringing back that classic formula, providing players with large levels, interesting challenges, and just the right amount of collectibles.
Hat Kid (yes, that’s her name) is on her way home in her spaceship when a representative of the Mafia decides to attempt stealing it. After Hat Kid politely declines the theft, the Mafia member decides to crash through the window in a rage, causing a sudden loss of pressure that flings the Mafia member, Hat Kid, and all of her ship’s fuel into outer space before hurtling towards the world below. Upon landing in Mafia Tow, Hat Kid realizes that she needs to collect all the Hourglass-shaped fuel before continuing on her voyage. Getting home isn’t the only reason for collecting them, as breaking the hourglasses distorts time, a power that shouldn’t fall into the hands of those who would abuse it. Hat Kid gets to explore out past Mafia Town into strange lands like the haunted Subcon Forest, Movie Sets with competing directors, and the floating Alpine Skyline.
The story for A Hat In Time is simple, charming, and funny. Each world you visit has its own overarching plotline culminating in a final act, usually allowing you to set right the injustices of the land. The story for these worlds plays out over different acts of a chapter, dividing out the events of the world into substantially sized chunks that allow you to pick up the game and play for 10-15 minutes while still accomplishing something. You get to meet the main players over the course of the story, but wandering around every unexplored corner lets you learn extra (and usually comedic) information about the kinds of people you’re dealing with.
The platforming controls in A Hat In Time work well. Tight inputs and various move combinations allow you to maximize either height or distance depending on the situation. Combined with the standard double jump are a dive and wall climbing abilities. How you want to move around the world depends on which of these moves you choose to use, and in what order you pull them off. A dive on the ground into a jump will give you ground speed, and you’re able to cross a larger gap by chaining together jumps into dives into yet more jumps that send you scrambling to safety. While a simple double jump will work in most situations, the ability to work in more complicated moves always rewards players with a sense of accomplishment.
The worlds aren’t just your playground to jump around and explore either! You’ll encounter a variety of local residents who don’t take too kindly to your intrusion on their planet. Sadly, combating these foes in A Hat In Time is not a strong point. Hat Kid is able to hit enemies with her umbrella or initiate a homing attack if she’s jumping over them. Most enemies in the game are defeated in one hit, which makes combat feel more like a nuisance than an obstacle. Each of the bosses is a bit tougher, requiring you to dodge their attacks until they settle down for a brief moment of vulnerability. This traditional approach to boss fights highlights the backseat that the combat took in this title.
Each Act in A Hat In Time takes a Chapter’s overworld and changes up your objective within it. To begin, a lot of these goals are quick changes like simply reaching a point, or talking to a certain number of people in the area. Some Acts both change up the world and introduce a completely new style of gameplay. You get to know all the different alleys and rooftops while spending time in Mafia Town, but an active volcano could turn a familiar alley into a lava-filled deathtrap. Another great example is infiltrating the ice palace of the heartbroken Queen Vanessa. Suddenly, you’re not allowed to use any skilly and must stay quiet for fear of the Queen discovering you. You need to navigate your way around the palace, collect keys and clues to Vanessa’s sad past, and hide under chairs or pianos if she is near. Within moments this cheery adventure takes a terrifying turn, complete with musical stings that add to the tension.
It’s not just Hourglasses that you’re collecting either. The worlds are also filled with balls of yarn, relics, and tokens. You can use the yarn to knit other hats that give you different powers. Your beginning hat simply allows you to see exactly where the goal of the level is but you can also get hats that let you sprint, throw exploding potions, and even slow down time. Each hat takes more yarn to knit and some hold abilities that are required to complete levels, so you’ll need to seek them out through the world. You can combine related relics, like crayons in a box, to unlock bonus stages in each world, and the tokens are redeemed for remixes of level tracks, paint jobs to change up your look, and different styles for each of your hats. While many of these bonuses are just for aesthetic it’s always something to keep pushing you to explore the worlds.
A Hat in Time combines 3D models with 2D illustrated features that give the title an extremely approachable and friendly look. Instead of polygonal faces, each character and their hand-drawn eyes look straight out of a cartoon. The detail to the aesthetics of each world is extremely clear. The seaside Mafia Town has cobblestone floors, waterfalls, and seaside houses that are perfect for a sunny day. The sets you travel to in the Battle of the Birds perfectly encapsulate movie sets of train heists and busy city streets. Each of these worlds is instantly recognizable for what it is, it immediately makes you comfortable with what you see, and you can then begin exploring and immersing yourself as you poke around every nook or cranny for collectibles.
Each location’s visual aesthetic is helped along by a wonderful audio backing. While many of the tracks are remixes of the theme for A Hat In Time, each of the added instruments completely changes the tone. With a strong strings section, light percussion, and even a whistle included the main theme immediately alludes to the adventure that is in store for the player. Each location’s tracks blend in with the world around them enhancing upon an already immersive world. This game is also fully voice acted giving the cast of characters more personality. whether it be the disco-loving penguin telling you how fabulous you are or the spooky snatcher trying to scare you away.
A Hat In Time is another title brought about by the revival of 3D platformers. Where others are trying to carry on the legacy of those games, the team at Gears for Breakfast were able to forge their own. You can see where the inspiration for such a title could have come from but that doesn’t matter as much when playing. With a sizeable range of difficulty across Acts and more to explore beyond that, 3D platformer fans will have a great time with what this game has to offer. In short, A Hat In Time is an extremely enjoyable experience that you’ll want to keep returning to.
A genuinely enjoyable experience that will have you going back to levels past story completion just to have fun in the colorful world Gears for Breakfast have created. A definite recommendation for fans of 3D platformers of yore.
- Light-Hearted and Funny Story
- Tight Controls
- Beautiful Worlds
- Underdeveloped Combat