By Jakeums / January 8th, 2020
|Title||A Hat In Time|
|Developer||Gears For Breakfast|
|Release Date||October 18th, 2019|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac|
If you read some of the online buzz for A Hat In Time, you’ll see people openly comparing the huge Kickstarter success to the hugely lauded Super Mario Sunshine. One might be initially confused by this statement, but once you play it, you understand exactly what they mean. Obviously excluding the famous Italian plumber, Hat takes a majority of its cues from the Gamecube classic, improving on almost every aspect and adding a layer of its own flavor on top of it. As the game’s marketing implies, it is indeed a cute-as-heck adventure, and I enjoyed almost every moment.
You play as Some Girl, or Hat Girl, or Weird ‘lil Girl, just whatever that particular level wants to call you at the time, who’s been in her spaceship traveling and exploring the universe. However, through a Mafia related shenanigan, her ship loses all its fuel and hourglasses, which get scattered all over the world. So in true video game protagonist fashion, it’s your mission to get them back and power your ship back up. Along the way you meet a wonderfully colorful cast of characters, from fellow girls with a moustache, to a glitchy badge seller, to a ghostly contractor, everyone you come across is so wonderfully written and varied that every time I met someone new, I was always smiling. Because I knew I was in for another charismatic encounter. My favorite is the ghost who inhabits the third level, called The Snatcher. How he starts as a dastardly devil that snatches your soul away, but after a while gradually turns into a passive aggressive observer, which leads to a fantastic conclusion to his arc that won’t be spoiled, but left me chuckling much more than once and very satisfied.
Speaking of charisma, the writing in Hat is fantastic all around. The game is absolutely hilarious and very self aware as to what it is, and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and the genre it belongs to. From witty quips to entire gameplay segments, it plays to its strengths and is aware of what you’re expecting and sometimes plays with your expectations. Hat Girl is usually silent throughout her adventure, with the exception of little grunts while performing stunts, but there’s also a clever little easter egg where you can enter a pillow fort and be able to read her diary and get there thoughts on the many situations that she gets herself into. I found myself returning to said diary after ever level to see if there was a new entry, and each time I was pleasantly surprised. A great little twist to the usual silent protagonist trope.
Graphically, A Hat In Time is gorgeous to look at. Every world has its own pops of neon colors and wonderful mixtures of primaries and it always resonates positive feelings within both me and anyone who was watching. There’s so many little details in all the levels and a lot of secondary objectives. From miscellaneous interactions with NPC’s to kicking cans, there’s never a shortage of little noticeable intricacies slipped into each level. They also have tokens that you can spend that will provide you with different outfit colors and different styles of hats. My personal favorite detail is the chairs that Gears have put throughout the levels that, when sat on long enough, will give you a small scenic tour of whatever environment you’re in. It’s the small things that matter. The only thing which could be considered slightly lackluster is that, at least on the Switch, the character models are a bit blurry at times. This probably isn’t helped by the unique motion blur it adds to the camera movements to smooth it out a little, but it’s really only noticeable in handheld mode. When playing docked I rarely ever noticed it. Even with that though, the characters designs are so differentiated from each other and full of so much character that the blurs don’t really matter, and are a minimal complaint. The framerate is maintained throughout so there’s also very little stammering and only really happened once when a lot of things were happening on screen.
The music is definitely a treat as well, with each level having a great score to accompany it that really helps build the atmosphere. With the main hub world being space related, it has spacey synths and spooky strings in the forest. Each track adds to each level excellently and was even enough to get me to buy the soundtrack, which is very much a rarity! Primary composer Pascal Michael Stiefel did excellently, and some tracks even have guest competition from the well known Grant Kirkhope. I may or may not have hummed some of the level tunes as I wrote this.
In addition, gameplay is really where the comparisons to Super Mario Sunshine come in. Not only does each level start by giving you a small sneak peek as to what to do to complete the objective, but the general platforming feels very tight and responsive. You have your general abilities like a ground dash and an air dash, but with the help of a glitchy salesman, you can purchase more abilities in the form of Badges that get placed on your hat. Each badge varies, with one giving you the ability to have magnetism pull most of the collectibles around you, to a hook shot ability, to a sprint ability, to a charge beam you can shoot out of your umbrella (which serves as your primary weapon of attack), to the ability to soften any deadly fall with a quickly float just before impact. Some of them are more useful than others, and some are required to progress through the game, but each one feels like they have an appropriate spot in your arsenal.
Really, my only point of contention with the entire experience was the voice acting. In these kinds of platformers, I usually prefer the method of characters making beeps and bloops as voice clips with subtitles listed below for dialogue. They even put in a badge meant specifically to do that, albeit much more expensive than the others, making every character mumbled and more akin to the stylings of speech to games like Banjo-Kazooie. But also, you have full control over the volumes of each sound, so you can just turn them off regardless. Though the badge is preferred.
The Switch version of the game also contains access to the previously PC exclusive DLC “Seal the Deal”, which is an extra world added to the post game that features an illustrious cruise ship map. As it is after the primary campaign, I found it to be slightly more difficult than the rest of the levels, with the platforming needing to be a little more precise. It’s nothing one can’t handle with practice, but it’s a noticeable uptick in difficultly. The Switch version also has the new DLC “Nyakuza Metro”, which is also a post game world, but is s LARGE uptick in difficulty. Since the world mimicks a metro, there’s a lot of speeding trains and calculating your jumps just right. It also adds a new character to the mix, The Empress, that acts as the head of the feline Yakuza. Another great addition to the already plentiful cast and to the game as a whole (Pro tip; don’t hit her).
All in all, my time with A Hat In Time throughout was exceptional. From the great characters to the fun controls, the fantastic soundtrack to the wonderful visuals, I found myself really enjoying the whole experience throughout and it made me very nostalgic for classic platforms of old. It really is a love letter to them, and it’s very much appreciated. They could’ve easily charged the full $60 price tag and it would be worth it, but with the reduced price of $40 ($32 for the DLC included digitally), this is the easiest recommendation I think I have ever given. Go pick it up and have a jovial, cute-as-heck good time… in hats!
Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
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