A Hat in Time Review: A very successful throwback 3D platformer
Whats colorful, fun, bouncy, and just a little bit over the top, in video game form? Did you answer Banjo Kazooi, or maybe Donkey Kong 64, or even Conker’s Bad Fur Day? If you did your probably going to love A Hat in Time, the Zaney new platformer from Humble Bundle who it turns out also publish games, in addition to helping charities the world over. A Hat in time is their first major publication, out now for Xbox PC and Play Station 4.
3D platformers have a long and and mostly good history on consoles, so a Hat in Time has a lot to live up to. It continues the grand tradition of over the top characters, silly collectables, and non-sensical dialog, along with a huge number of collectables, and a cute but bad-ass main character! All the players are there, and surprisingly A Hat in Time Delivers. For a first try I would even say its good.
A Hat in Time starts off with a spaceship, a soft and fuzzy spaceship, powered by hourglasses, but a spaceship none-the-less. Our heroine (who is of course wearing a hat) and her spaceship are crusing around the galaxy just minding her own business when suddenly there is man floating outside the panoramic glass window of her ship. Identifying himself as mafia, the man asks for a toll, our fearless heroine is not to be discouraged, and refuses! In a series of silly events a window gets broken and all of the hour glasses that power our ship are sucked out and fly down to the planet below!
So that’s the set up, a floating man in space, 40 missing magical hour glasses, and just our wits, jumping, and various other abilities to recover them. This formula should sound familiar to anyone who has ever played Mario or any other 3d platformer, but getting it right is all about the details, and boy does A hat in time get those right.
Like many games before, this is a sort of hub style open world game. Think Mario 64, but with a bit more linear progression. Each of the games “levels” is an open world environment where you can battle baddies, collect collectables, explore exciting places, and purchase upgrades for your hat in the form of adorable pins. You start each “level” on your ship, where you can choose which mission you want to embark on and then transport to it.
Levels aren’t linear at all, just like SM64 there is an objective but if you want to just run around collecting things, or fighting enemies you can. That’s not the only shade of SM64 here, fans will recognize the the games many similarities to it and other call time classic platformers like Banjo Kazooi, and Crash Bandicoot. There are collectables everywhere, from little gems to balls of yarn that you use to sew in to hats. It’s a delight for anyone who loves finding every last shiny thing in a game. I was reminded of searching out Jinjos, and puzzles pieces at every turn, and that wasn’t a bad thing at all.
One of my favorite things about this game is that it doesn’t really have a story. In an age of story driven experiences that Shepard players from one place to another forcing them in to rigid spots even in the open world games, A Hat in Time says “meh, youll get there eventually” and just lets you explore. Enemies start out difficult to defeat but after some upgrades you’ll be mowing them down like they never existed. There are a fair few different abilities and powers in game, all conferred by your hat and the buttons on it.
A short aside about hats, they do not in fact time travel in this game, despite the games name. What they do is in fact grant you some really neat powers. The first one I unlocked for example allowed me to sprint, the second gave me a potion throwing ability, that did damage. It goes on from there, but hopefully you get the idea. Hats are complimented by pins, which when placed on them give our titual hat girl various enemy defeating abilities. Combine the two and you have a fairly diverse system for navigating all sorts of obstacles. And you will need to navigate all sorts of obstacles, because this game throws all sorts of different challenges at you.
Lets talk about those hats, one of the games collectables is yarn, and you use yarn to knit more hats. Hat Girl you see, gets her powers from Hats. Remember when I mentioned that the first hat I got was sprint? The second was a potion, and it went on and on from there. The cool think about the hats, is that they enable different movement based abilities, allowing you to get places in a level you weren’t able to access before. Because the worlds are basically open you can use these additional traversal abilities to find more hourglasses or unlock areas previously locked. In Addition to the hats a vendor sells pins, and a few inherent abilities that Hat Girl can use. One of the most useful prevents fall damage. After getting that one I was no longer afraid to climb high to the top of mafia town to explore its heights. The hats also help you fight which is something this game does so well. With extremely limited health (just 4 hits to death) fight are tough and engaging.
From basic fights with enemy mobs that require different attacks to kill, to some stunning 2D fights, one thing that A Hat in Time does right 100% of the time is the combat. The first time I was kicked from the 3D platforming to a 2D side scroller where I needed precision dodging and pixel perfect timing I was a little bit thrown off. But, I immediately feel in love with the diversity of view points in game. Technically speaking its not the first platformer to do this, but I really appreciated the effort and throw back feel of those 2D boss fights. Even the first mafia boss was no slouch either, every fight felt fresh and new, and that kept me interested.
Overall A Hat in Time deserves a 9. I am so sorry I just couldn’t resist that pun. But really this is a great game, anyone who is a fan of early 2000’s 3D platformers and likes an over the top style, will feel right at home. I loved the games quirky graphical style and cute over the top environments. For a first try at a serious game, Humble have done a very good job here, and so I give this game a solid 9/10.