+Extremely well-designed levels and control schemes
+Cartoony graphics take away from the need for ultra-realistic graphics
+Each level feels like an entirely new experience
-Minor clipping issues in the terrain in Mafia Island can cause you to fall through the map.
Some days, everything seems absolutely normal, that is unless you are the diminutive spacefarer known as Hat Kid, who was on her way home in a rather cushy wood-paneled and pillow-filled spacecraft stocked with fuel, stuffed animals, and all things kid related. That was until a rather burly and rather bald Mafioso from a place known as Mafia Town decided to float through the void of space, tap on her window, and attempt to collect local taxes by force.
After a rather short, but heated conversation turned altercation later, he busts out her ships windows only to end up causing her fuel to fall scatter about the world below along with Hat Kid herself. Unfortunately for her, she is going to need her most reliable pair of Nike’s as her quest before her is going to involve a lot of running, jumping and collection lots of random shiny objects in order to save the day and once more begin her journey home.
Unlike many modern games, A Hat in Time isn’t your basic platforming title. It’s one that combines some of the greatest elements from past titles such as Super Mario 64, Banjo and Kazooie, and the astonishing PS2 platformer Psychonauts. But how can one such game draw inspiration from such classic titles? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss!
Much like Super Mario 64, A Hat in Time follows it rather systematically using both its design structure and movement as key pieces to the overall experience while joining the other two for their offbeat humor, playful tones and their serious moments when you realize your leading lady is in dire straights.
Her goal to achieve? Recollect all 40 Times Pieces that have fallen from her ship and serve as the source of the ship’s power. As she finally sets her boots upon each of these odd little planets that serve as each of her zones to explore (much like the castle in Super Mario 64 as a central hub and the paintings that serve as the zones), each come with their own unique setting.
That’s what grabbed me from the start. A Hat in Time doesn’t hold back from its inspirations by any means. It’s one that jumps onto the screen and tugs at the strings of your heart. Its standout character designs are things of unique beauty, which are uncommon in today’s generation where graphical prowess is a must. In the game, as you already know, take the role of an unnamed girl who simply goes by Hat Kid.
Upon landing on Mafia Island, a place where that Mafioso is from, your adventure is set to begin. Just as you would imagine, A Hat in Time ventures forth like its predecessors, using enemies that could easily be considered clones of one another with their ridiculous dialogue that deserves a roll of the eyes, and the inevitable run-in with your characters frenemy (that is a thing, right?).
Just as you would expect, A Hat in Time wastes little-to-no time getting started. Just as suggested by Mustache Girl, whom literally has a mustache, you are quickly put to the test to see how well you adapt to the games platforming mechanics. Many of these include you double-jumping, wall-climbing, belly-sliding, and before not-too-long using your umbrella as a parasail. For those unfamiliar with such mechanics, Super Mario 64 would be a solid place to start.
Like the titles that inspired it, A Hat in Time uses Hat Kids ship as her central hub, allowing her to jump between worlds as they unlock and continue her journey to collect all of her Time Pieces and begin her trip home once again. But what’s more admirable about the games overall design is as well as the use of implementing “special powers” that Hit Kid has. Just as you would expect, the hat part of her name plays a huge role since this is where her “powers” come from.
The best about this all? A Hat in Time doesn’t just hand these abilities to you. You actually have to earn them, rather, make them by collecting yarn throughout every map put before you. Each of them can be enhanced with various accessories, which enhance Hat Kid’s abilities. Toss in a bit of sprinting, double jumping and an air-dash (belly-sliding as I call it) mechanic, and Hat Kid is a no-holds-barred kid filled with the determination that moves her from one area of a sandbox to another.
But that’s what makes the game so charming. It’s a game about collecting, it’s a game about moving from one point to another in various ways. It’s a game about a little kid, one so innocent, so determined that you can only imagine what is going through her head when running into the likes of a brutal Mafia or a studio filled with owls and penguins that are caught in the middle of a popularity contest.
But oddly enough, it all comes together quite well even with all the absurdity it brings with it. The situations caused by this level of absurdity is fun, it’s enjoyable, and its a breath of fresh air in an age where the news is littered by predatory practices of loot boxes and adult themed games. That’s the charm really, that’s what makes this game the golden goose. It’s bright, it’s beautiful, and its control scheme is solid in every means of the word solid.
Thanks to the tunes of Pascal Michael Stiefel, a composer who brings the game to life through his musical masterpieces that seem like fond memories of Super Mario 64 and Psychonauts seems rather fitting for a game of this type. Luckily as someone who comes off as a bit of a tightwad, I have to openly admit that I’m actually enamored by this Kickstarter title, one that was delayed for many a good reason, but ultimately comes off as a finely polished classic in an age of Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s.
A Hat in Time – PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Publisher: Gears for Breakfast
Release Date: Now Available
But what’s more surprising is the fact I’ve fallen in love with this game during my ten-hour endeavor and could easily latch on to generate another five more in order to collect every single item. Unfortunately, some parts do come off feeling a little rushed and seemingly unpolished areas. There were times when I couldn’t latch onto a ladder or a wire-like line if I had needed to. There were even moments when I quickly found Hat Kid tumbling through various pieces of terrain only to fall through the map in an untimely manner.
But that doesn’t speak for the game as a whole. These are minor irritants, ones that can easily be looked over thanks to how charming A Hat in Time really is. This hat wearing selfless girl isn’t just a small character, she could easily be seen as a role model for young gamers female and male alike. She’s one that takes subtle queues from loveable heroes such as the Doctor from Doctor Who or the lovable misfits from the show The Librarians led by Noah Wiley and his ragtag group of misfits. The game even draws inspiration from great pieces of literature such as Murder on the Orient Express and gives its own topsy-turvy twist.
What’s even more admirable is that this game makes me smile. It’s one that has glued me to my chair and made it almost impossible for my eyes to peel away from the screen. I love it and even my four-year-old nephew has become enamored by Hat Kids endeavors through all space and time. Whatever the magic is that Gears for Breakfast used to make this game a solid title, they should continue doing so and should be handed a solid round of applause for such an ambitious title in an age where games are cloning one another in hopes for receiving high scores on Metacritic.
With all this said, A Hat in Time is a solid title. It’s a title that everyone that loves a solid 3D platformer should give a chance whether young or old. Whatever your reason is for giving it a whirl, I can easily promise one simple thing: You won’t be disappointed.
Our review is based on a retail version that was provided to us by the game’s publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.