It’s funny how wildly wrong your first impression of a video game can be. Before I actually played Mr Sun’s Hatbox and was just taking a glance at some screenshots on Steam, I figured it was just another roguelite platformer that didn’t do much to change up the formula. And after I played it? It stands out as one of the most unique, creative, and fun action-platformers that I’ve played.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Mr Sun’s Hatbox sees players placed in charge of a delivery company that was supposed to make a delivery to the titular Mr Sun, but it goes wrong when the package is hijacked by some villainous thieves led by Mr Moon. Mr Sun is actually pretty cool about the whole situation, but there’s no WAY your company can let it go, with a pledge made to recover Mr Sun’s stolen goods. What does this mean? Forming your own military-like base to build up the resources and workers to complete the job. It’s a very extreme turn of events, but it’s befitting of the absurd vibe that remains across the entirety of the experience.

The main gameplay loop revolves around 2D action, with players traversing across a range of levels as they complete a variety of objectives. Sometimes you’ll simply have to get to the exit, sometimes you’ll have to gather some important object, sometimes you’ll have to take out a specific target, whilst other times you might have to kill EVERYONE – there’s a heck of a lot going on and there’s enough diversity found in your objectives to ensure you’ll always have a lot of fun. Add to that the varied level design that keeps introducing new surprises and you’ll quickly find that Mr Sun’s Hatbox gets all of the basics right.

You’re also well-prepped for the job, with the playable characters not only efficient at sneaking around (stealth plays a heavy role in the experience) but also well-versed in killing. Yeah, Mr Sun’s Hatbox may look family-friendly on first glance, but you’ll blast enemies with a variety of weapons, snap plenty of necks, and bop plenty of heads to knock foes out on your journey to recover the stolen package. Enemies can be just as formidable when taking you out too though, whilst the variety of hazards and alarms found in each level ensures you’ll always be kept on your toes when getting around.

“There are over fifty hats in total that each offer something zany, whilst they also add an extra level of strategy to the approach you can take across each level – more importantly, they’re all super cool to use.”

There’s an extra twist to the gameplay: hats. Both you and your enemies can be equipped with hats that offer a variety of different buffs, whether it’s protecting the wearer from jump attacks, unleashing poison to stun enemies, blasting out bullets, launching any enemies that touch it across the map, or even swallowing enemies whole to knock them out, just to name a few. There are over fifty hats in total that each offer something zany, whilst they also add an extra level of strategy to the approach you can take across each level – more importantly, they’re all super cool to use.

The core mechanics are pretty straightforward and make for a really enjoyable action-platforming experience, so it’d be easy to recommend Mr Sun’s Hatbox on that alone. However, there’s so much more to unravel thanks to the game’s base building mechanics, which sees players crafting their own base with a variety of rooms, upgrading it to unlock new facilities, and continually building up their resources and personnel to ensure each mission is completed with minimal fuss. Remember the Fulton Recovery System used in Metal Gear Solid 5 where you could place balloons on objects and enemies to take them back to your base? Well, you can do that in Mr Sun’s Hatbox too, with players able to grab knocked out enemies to convert them to your team or hats and weapons to utilise in future missions. It works really well and encourages players to take a non-lethal approach and preserve the items they find in levels, but be warned: you only have a limited number of balloons to take into each level, so you have to prioritise what you recover based upon what you actually need.

Gathering plenty of useful tools and characters allows you to be flexible with your loadout going into missions, with players not only able to choose who they send out but also what they take with them. The choice of hat or weapon is easy enough to understand, but the team member you send out can be a bit more complicated – especially since they have various quirks that affect how they play. Some might get jittery after making a kill, some might not to want to change hats mid-mission, some might have poor eyesight and make your vision blurry, and some might want to eat enemies for a health boost (seriously). There are both pros and cons to the various quirks they have, but that also means they may be better suited or worse off on specific mission types. Not only is it an entertaining idea that really adds a unique twist to the gameplay, but it also adds another element of strategy to the experience. The fact that your characters can be permanently killed is the cherry on top, meaning your top field agent with the best quirks can be wiped out for good if you aren’t careful, so there’s always an element of risk-versus-reward based upon the mission you’re embarking on. It can be frustrating losing your best guy, but when they get a job done and level up? It’s a damn good feeling.

Check out some screenshots down below:

I could sing Mr Sun’s Hatbox’s praises for thousands of words, because it really is a wonderful experience that blends together so many cool ideas. I haven’t even mentioned the upgrades offered by your base, the choice between main and side missions, the local multiplayer action, or the XP and cash rewards that add to the overall progression, with plenty of little things going on in the game to ensure players are always kept busy. Whilst you might have seen some of its ideas done in other video games, the way they are all blended together here just makes it feel so enthralling to play. With missions that get more complex and challenging as you progress as well as mechanics that continually evolve throughout, you can expect to find yourself glued to the screen for hours on end. It’s that good, even IF you might encounter the occasional physics glitch that can bug some levels out (nothing which can’t be quickly fixed).

Mr Sun's Hatbox Review

Mr Sun’s Hatbox blends together a variety of platforming, action, and strategy ideas into one brilliantly creative experience, and believe me, it’s easy to lose HOURS on end absorbed in its charming yet violent world. I’ll admit, I wasn’t too sold on the game when I first checked out its Steam page, but after playing it? I was all in.

It’s fun and zany in equal measure, with Mr Sun’s Hatbox easily standing out as one of the more unique action-platforming roguelites that I’ve had the joy of playing.

Developer: Kenny Sun
Publisher: Raw Fury
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch