Monday, December 10, 2018

A Hat In Time Review

 Spend any amount of time on Kickstarter, and you will encounter countless projects that claim to be revivals of classic game series or genres. One of the most high-profile of these was A Hat in Time, a game whose goal was to bring back 3D “collectathon” platforming in the style of Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. After raising almost $300,000 and spending 4 years in development, developer Gears For Breakfast ended up delivering a product that I found to be a remarkable contribution to the 3D platforming genre. I played through this entire game on my Twitch channel and it really hooked me. Now that I’ve collected all the magical McGuffins, here’s a breakdown of my thoughts on the game:

In A Hat In Time, a young time traveler, Hat Kid, lands on a strange planet to collect her missing Time Pieces that she needs to power her ship. The game is structured similarly to Mario 64, with the ship serving as hub world that grants players access to Chapters that represent different locations on the planet. Each Chapter is composed of several Acts that advance the story and provide the opportunity to pick up another Time Piece. There are also bonus Time Warp stages that offer short platforming challenges with additional Time Pieces as a reward. There are a total of 40 Time Pieces in the game, however, it’s possible to reach the final boss after collecting 25. The “Seal the Deal” DLC campaign adds a new chapter with an additional six Time Pieces to collect.

  • The website for A Hat In Time describes it as a “Cute-As-Heck 3D Platformer” and it delivers on all three of those fronts (i.e., the cuteness, the heck, and the platforming).
  • The Cute: The world of A Hat in Time is full of colorful cartoon characters. Exploring the game’s vibrant world and meeting the zany cast of characters is a big part of the appeal of a cutesy 3D platformer, and A Hat In Time pulls it off exceptionally well. I was always excited to unlock a new chapter to see where the game would go next.
  • The Heck: While A Hat In Time might look like a Saturday morning cartoon, it goes to some fairly dark and mature places. For example, in one chapter, Hat Kid’s soul is stolen by a monster and she is forced to complete a series of quests through a spooky nightmare world to get it back. The monster’s taunts about the torture that awaits Hat Kid get pretty grim. Other levels don’t get as dark but feature subject matter and humor that would likely only appeal to adults (e.g. there’s a level full of commentary about cybersecurity). I got a kick out of this content, but some of it may be too scary or confusing to young children.
  • The Platforming: Most importantly, A Hat In Time gets 3D platforming right. Hat Kid is an especially agile 3D platforming character and moving her around the stages just feels good. She starts off with a double jump, diving leaps, and wall kicks that allow her to cover a lot of ground right off the bat. Throughout the game, the player can collect yarn and pons (money) that allow her to craft or buy new hats and badges that expand her arsenal of abilities. Two of my favorites were the grappling hook badge, which features great swinging mechanics, and the scooter badge which allows Hat Kid to summon a moped out of thin air. The level design features a balanced mix of items and secrets to find as well as challenging, but approachable, platforming sections.
  • Considering that this is a Kickstarted indie game, it’s quite polished, however, there are a couple of times when the game’s tech struggles to keep up with the action. I had a few occasions where the camera would get stuck at awkward angles that would throw off my jumps. I also had a case or two where a glitch would cause my character to fall through the floor. In general, these issues were rare enough to have minimal impact on my enjoyment of the main game but were quite prevalent in the DLC.
  • Some of this game's boss battles seemed overly long to me. Late game boss enemies had far more forms and took far more hits than I've typically seen in 3D platformers.
I had an absolute blast playing A Hat In Time! Its tight controls, fun mechanics, and bizarre sense of humor comfortably place it in the upper echelon of 3D platformers.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 19 hours (All 40 Time Pieces in the main campaign)

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