Release Date: October 5, 2017
Platforms: PC (Version Played), PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Coming soon)
I’ve had my eye on A Hat in Time since its intital Kickstarter campaign years ago, so when the game came in a Humble Bundle monthly, I finally got a chance to pick this one up! My first impressions of this game were positive, and I said I couldn’t wait to play more. Now that I have rolled credits on the game, here are my thoughts on A Hat in Time!
Similarly to a number of other 3D platforming titles, A Hat in Time has an absolutely insane story, but one that isn’t the primary focus of the game. The player controls a girl dubbed Hat Kid who comes from an alien planet where time is used as the primary fuel. Unfortunately, Hat Kid loses all of her time pieces and they scatter to the planet below her, so she must collect the pieces if she ever wants to get back to her home planet!
The premise is thin, but A Hat in Time just needs enough of a push to get the ball rolling and get to the gameplay. The story is supported well here by a variety of dynamic characters. Every character in this game is varied and interesting, from a mysterious mustached girl to crows that seem a little too interested in Hat Kid’s personal life. These characters all stand out and make the worlds of A Hat in Time feel lived in and dynamic.
The worlds are similarly varied, with each of the five worlds in the game feeling unique and different from one another. While the worlds are different, I also felt like they were of varying quality, as Mafia Town and Subcon Forest felt larger and had more content within them, leaving the remaining three worlds to feel emptier by comparison. In particular, I was disappointed by the fourth area, Alpine Skyline, as it felt like an afterthought that was missing the charm of the previous areas, with fewer cutscenes and no memorable characters.
The bulk of the review about a 3D platforming title needs to focus on the gameplay elements, and A Hat in Time is no exception. Everything that is synonymous with the 90s heyday of platforming titles is alive and well, which is both to this game’s strength and detriment.
The first aspect to get out of the way is that this game is fun to play. The controls are responsive and feel fluid. A Hat in Time is at its best when Hat Kid is running, gliding, and zip-lining her way across the varying environments. There is also combat, and enemies encountered can be attacked by either a melee smack with an umbrella or an aerial belly-flop on top of them. Every aspect of Hat Kid’s movement feels good and I often had a smile on my face while traversing the worlds.
In addition to the typical platforming duties of Hat Kid, she can also use her titular hats for special abilities. In addition to the game’s main goal of acquiring all of the time pieces, Hat Kid can also collect yarn balls that allow her to stitch new hats with special abilities. These abilities vary from running faster to throwing explosive potions at enemies, but all of these abilities can be used to explore new areas of levels. I personally enjoyed the puzzle elements that the hats brought to the table, as I would sometimes have to determine how to get from point A to point B using a variety of different hats in rapid succession.
Of course, with all of the good from this game comes some bad. The controls are responsive, but the camera shook around and tried to go through walls so many times that the rapid angle changes sometimes made me slightly nauseous. There was also a glitch in one level in the second act that meant I had to play through it four times before I was actually able to retrieve the time piece, which made me put the game down in frustration for a while. In addition to that, there were a multitude of smaller glitches of varying levels of severity, including a random inability to step on one specific spot in the level, slipping through the world and falling to my death several times, and many instances of pulling myself onto a cliff ledge and instead glitching through the cliff and dying. Nothing permanently broke the game for me, but the glitches were frequent enough that I would have enjoyed the game more without them.
A Hat in Time does a great job at portraying the childlike vibe through bright colors and a cartoon-style aesthetic. Characters talk using comic book dialogue bubbles, and everything just looks like a child’s dream. Even the sinister Subcon Forest level has a non-threatening looking ghost and some adorable spirit foxes haunting the area, which makes the area feel like a child’s harmless nightmare more than anything else.
The music and sound design here is absolutely spot-on, and similarly to most other aspects of this game, feels reminiscent of older platforming titles. Every level has memorable music and I would sometimes run around an area of the game for a while just to listen to the music. One minor complaint about the sound design, however, is that I found the voice acting unnecessary. It isn’t bad, but it didn’t really add anything to the game and I generally skipped past the voice acting in favor of just reading the dialogue and moving along to the next task.
A Hat in Time is often mentioned in the same breath as Super Mario Odyssey, and that’s probably unfair. Ultimately, this is an indie title that doesn’t have the budget or staffing to make a AAA-caliber game, and expectations should be set accordingly. For what it is, I think the game does a great job, but the scope of the game is probably a little too grand for an indie outing, which shows in some of the glitches and uneven world design.
Personal Enjoyment: 7/10
Technical Review: 8/10
If you like this review, check out the others that I’ve written. Let me know in the comments if you’ll be picking this one up, or if you’ve played the game before!