REVIEW: Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

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Hot Tin Roof | oprainfall
Title Hot Tin Roof: The Cat Tat Wore A Fedora
Developer Glass Bottom Games
Publisher Glass Bottom Games
Release Date February 20, 2015
Genre Puzzle/Platformer/Adventure
Platform PC, Mac, Linux
Age Rating Not Rated
Official Website

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora has an impossibly long name. Other important information is this: It was originally funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, developed by Glass Bottom Games and self published, and then was accepted though Steam Greenlight. They were able to make this game based entirely on the enthusiasm of their fans and the gaming community, and that influence shows in the game. Does that make it good? It certainly can’t hurt.

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora is a puzzle/platformer with some adventure game elements. The developer describes it as “Metroidvania-ish gameplay in a side-scrolling 3D world.” All of these descriptions are completely inadequate to describe what this game actually is. Hot Tin Roof is a noire-ish detective story with a “chip noire jazz soundtrack” (quoting the developer again, that’s about how I’d describe it, as well). You play as Emma Jones, a PI with a cat sidekick called Franky. You and Franky go to crime scenes and investigate, then track down leads and find more clues. If there’s an obstacle, you use one of the many non-lethal revolver rounds you find to get past it. You save your progress by going to the bathroom and get your health back by washing your hands. You wear a fedora, and so does your cat.

Hot Tin Roof | Snooty Butler

Snooty Butler Man

The art style in this game is probably the most stand out feature for me. The colour palette is just absolutely spot-on for what it needs to be. Since the game has such a simple look, the colours are what give each region its character. The office in which you start needs to look distinct from the lobby of the Ossified Egg (the swanky apartments in which your first investigation takes place). The impressive thing is that the world looks good from any angle. It’s a side-scrolling game, but, as you come to a corner, the whole map turns so that you can move down the next street. You’re always moving left or right, but the compass directions you’re traveling are constantly shifting around you. It means that, instead of cheating and just modelling the fronts of the buildings, they had to do every side. More work, yes, and the game is better for it.

That’s not saying that the system is perfect. The constantly-shifting map means that, until you’ve played enough to remember the layout of the map, you’re constantly having to backtrack to find the area you’re looking for. There’s no quest marker system and no mini-map, so you’re relying on memory the whole time. It also means that, as the entire world spins around you, sometimes your relative position changes, so, when you were heading left, suddenly you need to go right, and, if you don’t catch that in time and accidentally go back, the map shifts back again suddenly. It’s a bit disorienting, and, after a while, started making me just a bit dizzy.

Hot Tin Roof | Bubble Round

Revolver with Bubble round

All right, let’s talk about guns now. Like all Metroidvania games, there are certain areas you can’t go until you get items later in the game. Unlike most Metroidvania games, however, these items are all bullets for your revolver. All of them are non-lethal, but they can be used to mess with Franky (not because she’s an enemy, she just has a bad habit of standing in front of your gun). You get a basic one early on that just hits things and breaks them, then you start getting upgrades. There’s one that acts as a hookshot, one that shoots bubbles that reveal hidden objects (because bubbles are clean, so they clean things, also Franky chases them), there’s even one that pushes you back and can be used as a sort of double/triple/quadruple/etc. jump. There’s also one that shoots explosive bubble gum, which you ignite with the bullet that shoots fire. It’s an interesting take on the style, and it works really well with the noire feel of the game. It’s not too hard to use, either. Movement controls are standard WASD, Space to jump, E to interact. The gun is aimed with the mouse, fired with the left mouse button. You reload and switch rounds by pressing R, switching to the type of bullet you want, then clicking the cylinder to clear the old round and load a new one. You can also hold R to quick reload with the exact same loadout you were using.

Let’s move away from the mechanics and talk about the writing for a minute. At first, I thought the writing was a bit iffy. All the dialogue is done through text bubbles, and reading each character talking with an inflection seemed awkward to me. After I played the game for a bit, I found myself enjoying it. That’s less to do, I think, with the writing being awkward, and more with me not being used to the noire genre. After a couple hours of gameplay, I genuinely cared about the story and the two characters I’d spent (by the end of the game) about 9-10 hours with (if Steam’s play time counter can be trusted). The story isn’t the most complex, but it is well put together. You’re investigating the theft of a dead man’s will from the Ossified Egg building. As the investigation goes on, the Rats (actual rats, pushed to living in the dump by the oppressive rich people in the Egg) become the main suspects. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it there. It’s a short enough game that any small story element could spoil part of the game. It’s also quite funny, in parts. Humour is subjective, and a few of the jokes just didn’t work for me, but I really enjoyed the fourth wall-breaking moments between Franky and Emma.

Hot Tin Roof | Closing

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora is available now in Steam, GoG soon, available for PC, Mac and Linux, for $14.99 USD. I have no problem recommending this game. It’s a fun, well-written, well put together noire adventure with characters that are very likeable, music that is absolutely spot-on, and an art style that’s probably the best I’ve seen so far this year. There are some small issues I already mentioned, and the menu is almost hilariously awkward (Escape to get to the visual options and control rebinding. Click to the next page to get to your current clues. Really awkward), but those are very small complaints compared to the amount this game gets right. I really hope that this game does well, because I want to see more from this developer.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the developer.