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A Hat in Time review


This is the second 3D platforming collect-a-thon from Kickstarter this year. We had Yooka-Laylee earlier in the year and that got a pretty mixed reception, mostly negative from what I’ve been seeing post-launch.

A Hat in Time had a much lower budget than Yooka-Laylee did (plus Y-L had an actual publisher while AHiT remained an indie game), and a much smaller team behind it, and 2 more years of production time, but people have been fairly excited for it all the way through.

So is this the better collect-a-thon game? Let’s go and see!

Disclosure: I kickstarted this.

Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Publisher: Gears for Breakfast
Date of Release: October 5th 2017
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbone (PC version reviewed)
Genre: 3D Platforming Collect-a-thon

Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10 (lol okay?)

Presentation

Graphically I quite enjoy this game, even if technically it’s barely above something you’d see on a PS2. It’s colorful and bright, there’s cool character design, there’s areas that are absolutely beautiful. Each level offers a completely different visual style and there’s really interesting. I don’t know why the Owl Movie Director has no eyes though.

On the music side it’s all really fun. I believe one or two of the songs were made by Grant Kirkhope, and those specific songs are pretty obviously in his style and they’re pretty good. The rest of the songs are also pretty solid. One cool part of the game is that there’s actually voice acting. I didn’t expect that after Yooka-Laylee, despite its much bigger budget, had Banjo-Kazooie-style mumbling noises.

On the story side, you play as Hat Kid, a little girl in a spaceship on her way home who runs into a mafioso who makes her hourglasses (called Time Pieces), which fuel her ship, fall onto the nearby planet, as well as her and the mafia dude… and somehow they both survive that fall. So your quest as Hat Kid is to find your Time Pieces and go back home. You meet a bunch of weird characters, some of which you see several times though they’re mostly relegated to their own world. The ending kinda comes out of nowhere and is pretty unsatisfying.

Gameplay

So this is a classic-style collect-a-thon 3D platformer. You have a hub world, which is pretty small and easy to navigate, and portals to different areas of the planet. You start off in Mafia town, which is a town where everyone looks the same except for Mustache Girl and a few people the Mafia bully. You get to visit a bird movie studio, an evil forest of evilness and a really cool mountain area with goats through your travels to find all your Time Pieces.

The gameplay is a mix of Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64/Sunshine. Hat Kid has a melee attack once she gets her umbrella, a weird homing air dash attack, a horizontal dive just like you can do in Sunshine and Mario 64, double jumps, and lots of hats. Hats are actually extra skills. You can switch between those on-the-fly with a weapon wheel thing. The first one you get lets you run, another lets you throw explosive potions, another lets you do a ground pound. There’s a few more as well. The controls are mostly really smooth, I’ve had very few issues and the ones that did happen were mostly my fault. The platforming is solid too, especially with the wall-climbing making missing jumps less of an issue.

The collect-a-thon aspect isn’t just to find Time Pieces, but there’s also gems which you can use to buy badges (basically buffs or new skills), yarn which you use to craft new hats (each yarn ball is for a specific hat at first, but you also need a certain number of extras of any type for each hat). Each level may have other things to gather as well, like vault codes in Mafia Town and paintings to throw in fires in the forest. Thankfully there’s no Time Piece in each world for grabbing all the gems, that shit is lame and they’d be pretty impossible. Some of the worlds are pretty huge after all.

There’s some Time Pieces that requires you to have certain hats or skills (such as the grappling hook), but the game is gracious enough to let you know when a mission isn’t possible with your current equipment.

There’s a couple boss battles in every level and they’re damn fun. Plus some levels aren’t just collecting stuff or trying to find the time piece. There’s stealth missions, solving mysteries and several other things. There’s a really cool level where you sort of free-roam through it to find time pieces, and getting them all unlocks the final mission there.

Overall

I had a lot more fun with A Hat in Time than I did with Yooka-Laylee. Surprisingly it gave me a Super Mario Sunshine video more than a Banjo-Kazooie vibe. It wasn’t JUST made to emulate another game and partly failing at it, but rather to be its own thing while taking inspiration of some classics. The hub was smaller, the levels were nicer and didn’t require unlocking them twice to get everything in them. It also had the Sunshine thing of levels sometimes changing entirely depending on which chapter you go for (one covers Mafia Town in lava, for example). Plus the levels themselves are pretty interesting.

It might not be technically great graphically but it has a lot of personality, and the gameplay is good enough that I don’t think anyone cares about the graphics. It’s all really smooth, there’s really interesting levels, fun platforming, lots of unique level objectives… It does about everything right in its gameplay. It took me a few levels to get in the groove of things, but when I did I basically didn’t stop playing until I was done.

If I had any complaints overall, it would be that there’s not enough content. When I was done with it I just wanted more.

Also note that the current patch of the game is what I’ll call partly incomplete, as there will be free DLC for 2 more areas.

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