A Hat in Time is a new 3D platformer reminiscent of N64 classics like Banjo Kazooie & Mario 64, created by Gears for Breakfast, and releasing 5th October 2017.
The game follows the character of Hat Kid, a small person with a fine taste in hats and spaceship design. Our adventure begins with our protagonist passing over a strange planet. A balding individual with a curious accent demands a flying boat tax. Cue some destruction of property and all your precious fuel (time pieces) being blown out of the window and sprinkling the planet below.
Almost immediately you’re introduced to fur-faced Little Red Riding Hood, Mustache Girl along with more of the curious and gruff Mafia.
I’ll be up front, I Kickstarted this game, I also got a review copy, so… do what you will with that information.
Now, crowdfunding for this game ended in June 2013 and delivery was estimated to be February 2014. Clearly, we’re a teensy bit behind schedule. However, Gears for Breakfast, have been nothing but transparent – as far as I could tell as a backer – with regards to what they’ve been doing with their time. My inbox has pinged with fair regularity regarding the progress, and I’ve always been happy with what I’ve seen. Perhaps things were different for those more closely following the project, those who bought in to get Alpha or Beta access, but I couldn’t say.
I’ve been pretty lucky with Kickstarters, all the games I’ve backed have actually come out, some of them were even good and worked on my system. I’m happy to say A Hat In Time ran perfectly. The one issue I encountered was patched out the day after I ran into it, and well before release.. No complaints there. The same, however, could not be said for another 3D platformer that came out this year.
I’m talking, of course, about Yooka-Laylee. The “Rare-vival” game by Playtonic. A group of former Rare staff. Firstly, that game featured a bug that meant that I couldn’t even play it for about a week after release, and even then it was by copying someone else’s save file over with the first section completed, not through a patch to actually make it work. The game was pretty boring and in many ways and felt like a naff re-skin of Banjo.
Before I get anyone jumping in saying “you probably just never played the classics, Banjo/Mario 64/Spyro” I did, I loved them, even when the camera controls made me want to hang myself with a controller, I loved them. Yooka, was just not that interesting. A Hat In Time, is that interesting. It’s pretty, it controls really well, it runs well, I wasn’t fighting the camera, the enemies are well designed and interesting, the music is delightful and the level design is wonderful.
Hat Kid’s ship serves as the main hub for the game and as you recover more time pieces, you can access new areas. Each world, or chapter, features a number of individual levels. some of these are played out in modified versions of the same location, while others are more complete levels in themselves. Mafia Town – the first world – for example, is played exclusively in the large open town level. This is modified later when it becomes flooded with lava and you must carefully make your way around to turn off giant faucets.
From the second chapter onwards, level design is much more varied. A mixture of finding key items, pure platforming and tricky but fun boss battles. The second
As is typical for the genre, there’s plenty to collect, from the basic gem currency, to safe codes, artifacts, yarn, and more. With all this, there’s plenty of reason to dive back into areas. Thanks to the way most of the worlds are laid out, you can find the rest of the collectables in any variant of the main area.
As the game progresses you encounter more types of yarn, allowing you to sew new hats and unlock abilities. You start with the stylish and fancy purple top hat that Hat Kit is usually shown in, but will quickly find enough material to sew a shiny new speed hat. This allows you to run like the wind, well… jog like the wind.
In addition to hats there are badges to be bought from a mysterious figure who looks like the spirit of an Ubisoft launch day (you’ll know who I mean when you meet them). Just hand over the required number of gem pons and you can adorn your hats, allowing yet more abilities. Examples Include an upgrade to the speed hat that lets you ride around on a cute little moped and another that lets you fire a beam of energy from your umbrella.
When pre-Alpha footage was shared along with the Kickstarter, the game already looked pretty good, but 4 years in, it’s shined up beautifully. The levels are large and interesting, what you’ll see is bold, bright and colourful, and scenes are well dressed.
As mentioned before, the music is a delight. It’s exactly what one would expect from the genre. From the bright and cheerful electro capering Mafia Town, to the spooky ambience of Subcon Forrest, and driving metal for the boss fights. These aren’t too obtrusive or repetitive and that is particularly important when you’re struggling with an area (not the game’s fault, I’m just not great at speed and precision sections).
I played all the way through with my 360 controller and found it very comfortable and intuitive. However, for the sake of review I tried out keyboard and mouse. It was far less fun. Though still manageable, finding important controls on left shift and control while moving with WASD, did not make for a fun time. At the time of writing, there is no option to redefine keys.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this, and while I managed to get through the bulk of the game in about 12 hours, I’m keen to get back in and gather up the last few time pieces and see what else this gem has to show me.
If you’re looking for a good blast of 3D platforming nostalgia that still has something unique to say for itself, you can’t go far with this cute and vibrant new edition to the genre.
- Great music
- Nice level design
- Good Variety
- The C.R.O. agents were rude about my CUNT
- I could not beat that final boss on Subcon Forest
- Felt a little short
Final score: 8/10
A Hat in Time releases 5th October 2017 on PC, Mac, Xbox One & PS4