Title: A Hat in Time

Platform: Windows, PS4 & Xbox One (Planned)

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Platformer

Players: Single player, Co Op (Planned)






Written by Whistler 5th November 2017




















Captain of your own wooden spaceship, you play Hat Kid on her way home when a run in with the mafia breaks the window of the craft (for y’know, letting in some air...in space) and causes all her precious Time Pieces to scatter out onto the local planet. These hourglasses carry magical time properties and served as the ship’s fuel so now Hat Kid must gather up all 40 of the buggers while getting into many adventures along the way to make it back home.


If you couldn’t tell from the set up, A Hat in Time is a 3D platformer that emulates the collectathon stylings of titles like Spyro, Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64 and it’s spiritual successor, Super Mario Sunshine. Some of you might be feeling your stomachs churn as the last notable entry in this genre was the gratuitously underwhelming Yooka-Laylee. Fear not as perhaps due to its influences deriving more from the red capped plumber and not the bear and bird, have made A Hat in Time a far more enjoyable and charming title.


To get the ball rolling you’ll find yourself landed right in colourfully messy Mafia Town, a multifaceted portside island with plenty of space for you to adjust yourself to how Hat Kid controls in this sunny playground. Thankfully there isn’t much adjustment needed as Hat Kid controls very smoothly, even using a keyboard and mouse set up feels decently natural as you go about taking on each platforming challenging. Much like in the 3D Mario titles, platforming is simple but the combining of platforming abilities really make the gameplay shine. Creatively mixing and matching of the likes of an air dive, canceling into a jump for added airtime or using a dash before landing to avoid fall damage make for plenty of naturally smooth and enjoyable platforming.
























You’ll also find as the title might have gave away, that Hat Kid’s hat plays a vital role in the journey as you collect balls of yarn in order to stitch together new hats to unlock more options for traversal. The Witch’s Hat for example allows you to brew up explosive concoctions to destroy crates or the rather spooky Dweller’s Mask allows you to temporarily interact with non-corporeal platforms and objects. It is a shame though honestly the hat mechanic feels rather underdeveloped as a whole. In spite of a relatively small pool of hats to use throughout the game, several feel like they’re barely needed or see little use outside of their given platforming function. What’s more the switching between hats on the fly is the one part of the controls that does feel incredibly clunky. Sadly cycling through the hats always felt disgustingly sluggish and bringing up the radial menu never seemed to work as intended. That all being said though there is an equal argument for how the game handles the Hat mechanic as it has been designed with challenge and speedruns in mind with No Hat runs already being a rather popular choice.


Once you’ve amassed a small collection of Time Pieces from Mafia Town, A Hat in Time truly comes into it’s own as it steps out of the proverbial comfort zone. Each of the three other areas offer refreshingly different themes and gameplay quirks that make each chapter an exciting reveal to see how the game usurps your expectations with it’s colourful offbeat humour. Battle of the Birds for example condenses the levels to a more linear design in favour of telling a story chock full of characterful humour across several drastically different yet thematically linked stages. Then Subcon Forest takes a more Banjo Kazooie approach, taking the Mafia Town training wheels off for a expansive multi-biomed playground that leaves you a little more to your own initiative.
























By far my favourite, Alpine Skyline is the most colourful and charmingly spectacular playground on offer as a sprawling non-linear network of interconnected platforming challenges. Alpine Skyline’s completely off the rails approach coupled with the fantastic environments offer some amazingly organic exploration with a vast sense of depth and gleeful verticality. All of which is complimented by the absolutely calming and yet energetic musical ensemble composed by Pascal Michael Stiefel that ranges from bombastic big band swing, orchestral epics, silky smooth jazz and even some electrifying metal. A key element to what makes old school games so memorable are their soundtracks and I honestly feel I’m still underselling A Hat in Time’s soundtrack that keeps each chapter fresh. Tracks like Your Contract Has Expired and You Are All Bad Guys even create some epic boss battles akin to that of the final boss fights in Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi’s Island respectively.


Time pieces aren’t just obtained through chapters either with a collection of them nestled within hidden “Time Rift” stages scattered throughout each of the four areas. These dreamscapes offer some of the purist platforming challenges akin to that of Special stages from Super Mario Sunshine with beautiful imagery and tranquil backing music that makes them a joy to discover. While blue Time Rifts offer refined platform challenges, each world hides a purple Time Rift that along with creative imagery and collectable photos, unveils some backstory and lore for these worlds to great effect.
























All that being said though A Hat in Time does feel lacking in aspects, while it’s wholeheartedly consistent in the style of gameplay and aesthetics it delivers, the worlds often feel disconnected from one another. Each area’s stories are a joy to go through but they all, bar Battle of the Birds and the final boss area, end rather anti climatically. Repeatedly it feels like once key aspects were dropped to the cutting room floor for one reason or the other especially in regards to Subcon Forest. What’s more in Mafia Town the primary antagonist is introduced and quickly thrown under the rug right up to the sudden grand finale even when elements of them were somewhat eluded to in other areas.


A Hat in Time is still an utterly brilliant and yet humble title that is the first to truly recapture that whimsical feeling of adventure from old school platformers. It is a shame that it feels not quite as polished or as complete as was likely initially envisioned but with two additional worlds coming as free DLC and a planned Co Op mode should hopefully remedy this (or hey I would not object to a sequel). With clever and quirky worlds and a colourful cast of characters weaving together a fantastically satisfying adventure, A Hat in Time may be a platformer that stands the tests of time.



Pros:

Colourful worlds to explore,

Refreshingly quirky humour,

Solid 3D platforming controls,

Mods allow for seemingly infinite player made levels,

Rich and varied soundtrack.


Cons:

Underdeveloped hat swapping mechanic,

So-so voice acting bar a few characters,

Feels like key story elements were dropped mid development,

Rather short.


Final verdict,

A Hat in Time scores a 7.5 out of 10.

 

Written by,

Whistler

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