Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac
2017 was meant to be the year of the platformer, with titles like Yooka Laylee and Super Mario Odyssey destined to mark a nostalgic return to the classic collectathons that ruled a lot of gamer’s childhoods. It didn’t quite pan out that way in the end though; whilst Super Mario Odyssey was outstanding, the much-hyped Yooka Laylee left a sour taste in most gamer’s mouths (even if I actually kinda liked it)…
Who would’ve thought then that a title with a lot less buzz from a smaller and relatively unknown team would prove to be the saving grace for gamers? A Hat in Time recently released on PC to critical acclaim from gamers and journalists alike, with its old-school style proving to be a lot of fun and certainly ticking a lot of boxes for platforming fans everywhere. Now, it’s finally made the move to consoles, allowing Playstation 4 and Xbox One gamers to get in the fant-hat-stic action! Don’t worry – there aren’t any more awful puns.
A Hat in Time puts you in the shoes of Hat Girl – a young adventurer who is making her way home via spaceship. Disaster strikes though when she’s attacked by a mafia thug and all of her hourglasses fall out of her ship and onto a strange planet. They just so happen to be the fuel she needed to get home too, so, of course, she’ll have to go find them. This means facing off against the mafia, a mixture of other bizarre inhabitants, and even the antagonist of the tale Moustache Girl!
So whilst A Hat in Time has fairly memorable characters (I love Hat Girl and Moustache Girl) and environments, the story isn’t really too exciting. It’s a bit run of the mill as far as platformers go, but hey, I guess that’s intentional given the old-school nature of the game anyway. The most important part of a platformer is found within its gameplay, and A Hat in Time certainly delivers there.
The main gameplay aspects of A Hat in Time are pretty simple as far as platformers go; you’ll be running, jumping, bashing enemies, and unlocking all new abilities as you progress through a series of different levels. Everything feels tight and responsive, and the platforming action remains fun throughout – the developers have certainly played it very safe. However, the further you progress, the more A Hat in Time will charm you with its platforming fun. It does plenty of neat and clever things and whilst it does keep things simple for the most part, it always makes sure the player is having a good time.
But If I’m going to be totally honest, my first impression of A Hat in Time wasn’t a good one. Whilst I liked the introduction and Hat Girl’s little spaceship, the first level just felt a little dull and overwhelming; I had barely any abilities, whilst the level design itself just seemed a bit bland. However, by the time I spent my first hour or so with the game I was totally sucked in. The later levels simply get better and better each time, whilst Hat Girl’s growing skillset ensures that you’re always doing something new. You’ve really got to look past the restrictive opening, because A Hat in Time is so much better than it initially lets on.
Each level you visit seems to improve upon the last, with the likes of a haunted forest, a deadly alpine skyline, and even a chaotic movie studio making up the later levels. Each level pushes you in different ways and always has you doing something clever; it really keeps you hooked in and ensures it’s never just a case of beating down enemies or jumping between platforms. Each level is full to the brim with personality and you’ll really feel like you’re off on this grand little adventure. Plus, they all feature some really fun boss encounters, which is nice seeing as the standard combat mechanics themselves aren’t too riveting.
You earn new abilities through the game by crafting new hats with yarn (Mario Odyssey, eat your heart out) whilst you can also equip a variety of badges to unlock secondary skills. There’s the likes of the ‘Sprint Hat’ which, obviously, allows you to sprint, the ‘Brewing Hat’ which allows you to throw explosive potions at enemies, the ‘Ice Hat’ that allows you to freeze up and perform a ground pound, and even a ‘Time Stop Hat’ that allows you to freeze time. The badges are just as useful though, granting you skills like being able to hover, use a hook shot, or simply have your abilities recharge quicker.
Each ability you unlock through the game is vital; not only to take out your enemies, but to progress too. Levels are littered with secrets and inaccessible areas to find, some of which you won’t be able to make your way to until later in the game when Hat Girl is much better equipped. It encourages exploration and ensures that your first visit through a level is never your only one.
For the most part, A Hat in Time isn’t the most difficult of games, though there are some moments where you’ll really have to get your thinking cap on… literally. The game demands you use your mixed abilities carefully if you want to find everything, though fortunately the variety of them all ensures it always remains fun. Still, once you’re used to the game and learned how everything works you’ll rarely ever feel too challenged.
Those who do like a bit more of a challenge will be happy to know that the game has a few unlockable levels that offer a sterner test though, all whilst rewarding you with extra tid-bits of lore too. These were neat to play through and give players something extra to work towards, though in honesty they still won’t really push your platforming skills too much.
Whilst A Hat in Time is of the highest quality for the most part, it does have a few issues here and there. The camera could be a little fiddly at times with it not always offering you the freedom to see everything around you. Typically, you can get away with this kind of thing in a video game, but when you’ve got to make precise jumps and utilise a variety of different abilities, not being able to hit the sweet spot with the camera could prove to be quite a hindrance. The game isn’t always too sharp visually either, with the simplistic visuals feeling a little lacking at times when compared to recent platformers like Super Mario Odyssey or even Yooka Laylee. Fortunately, these issues are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things and won’t stop you having a good time with the game.
A Hat in Time might not have had the same amount of buzz or media coverage as Yooka Laylee leading up to its launch, but it has managed to do something that the aforementioned title couldn’t: offer a highly enjoyable old-school platformer that manages to re-capture the nostalgic vibes of those classic 90s titles.
Everything about it will resonate with gamers who enjoyed the classic Nintendo 64 platformers, whilst some gamers will see plenty of similarities to the likes of Super Mario Sunshine or Jak and Daxter too; it really ticks all boxes and offers the kind of platforming experience that gamers have been yearning for.
It really is a lot of fun and whilst it does have its own little flaws here and there (including a pretty dull start), none of them stop A Hat in Time from being an entertainingly whimsical platformer that just about anyone will enjoy.