In the recent trend of nostalgic indie games comes A Hat in Time, a 3D collect-a-thon platformer by Gears of Breakfast, recently released for PC. It’s adorable, it’s nostalgic, but how does it hold up? Let’s find out.
It’s Mafia Time!
The plot opens with you traveling through space when a member of the local planet’s mafia decides you need to pay a toll and forcibly tries to take it, in the process depressurizing your ship and sucking you and all your fuel (In the form of “time pieces”) down to the planet below. You then explore the planet’s four worlds on a quest to get your fuel back so you can get home.
The overarching plot, which encompasses the first and final worlds of the game, is a little weak: You run into a rebel down below who wishes to beat up the mafia and take back the city. Upon defeating the local mafia boss it’s discovered that your time pieces can rewind time. The ecstatic rebel decides she can use their power to stop the mafia from ever taking over the island in the first place. You, on the other hand, decide that burning these powerful artifacts as fuel is a far better use of their power, thus setting up the rivalry and the main conflict.
Needless to say, I didn’t find the hero very relatable. As for the other three worlds, each one has its own contained plot: A battle between rival film producers in world 2, a shadowy demon that tricks you into signing a contract in world 3, and a weird infestation of plants in world 4. These are all fairly self-contained, and manage to be charming and cute in their own way. Especially the shadowy soul-stealing demon.
A Varied Venture
Unlike many other collect-a-thons, A Hat in Time actually makes each world feel quite unique, to the point that some worlds feel like different games. While world 1 feels a lot like games like Super Mario Sunshine in having a smallish explorable area that’s altered slightly depending on your selected mission, the same cannot be said for the other three. World 2 is comprised of more linear levels entirely separate from each other, feeling more like a 3D platformer such as Sly Cooper or Sonic Adventure. World 3 is an oddball, having a world that begins small, but you unlock more and more segments of the level by burning paintings. You need to find “traps” to unlock more quests to do, which (except for one) can be done regardless of which one you selected upon entry. Finally, world 4 is pure open world, with no objectives listed until you’ve already done them.
The variety really helps the game stay feeling fresh even several hours and many time pieces later. No matter what style of 3D platforming appeals to you, you’re likely to find a world that just tickles your fancy (My favorite being world 2!)
Too Much Sunshine
Now, that all said, the comparisons to other games earlier was deliberate. A Hat in Time’s biggest flaw is that at times it feels it’s trying too hard to be Super Mario Sunshine/Galaxy. It’s all little things – a little musical cue here, a smidgen of art direction here. Most of them are small enough that on their own it wouldn’t feel off, but added together it builds up. Then we have a world literally called Subcon and special worlds that feel straight out of Sunshine. While not enough to ruin it, it does cheapen the feel of the game.
First off, A Hat in Time is gorgeous. It has a simple, bright, cartoony aesthetic to the levels and characters, and each level opens with a brilliant art piece. Many of the hats and enemies are simply adorable as well. The game has a great soundtrack, with memorable tunes that shift as you move throughout the level, as well as unlockable remixes.
The few downsides I would have to say about the presentation are the occasional graphical bugs, a camera that gets a bit too skittish around walls, and a few areas that are way too dark for their own good. These have a tendency to yank you out of the fun-loving atmosphere the game is trying to provide.
A Good Time
Overall, A Hat in Time is an adorable, vibrant, and varied romp that fans of 3D platformers will enjoy. What flaws it has do little to change the fact that the gameplay is satisfying and the characters will make you smile. The title is a little on the short side, at around ten hours, but it’s ten very enjoyable hours that don’t overstay their welcome.
~Final Score: 8/10~
Review copy provided by Humble Bundle for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.