A Hat In Time
Developed By: Gears For Breakfast
Published By: Humble Bundle
Category: Platformer, Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date: 10/18/19
The 3D Platformer revival is upon us! Over the years this genre of colourful, action packed, jump, double jump, climb, attack games have captured the hearts of gamers. 2019 has already seen the resurgence of some of the biggest of all-time stage their remastered comebacks. These include Spyro The Dragon and Medievil to name a few, however now we can count A Hat In Time as part of the gang.
A Hat in Time originally launched to market in 2017, following a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2013 that doubled its fundraising goal in the first two days. It promised inspiration, style and hopefully the substance that followed the path of classics such as Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64. The developer Gears for Breakfast self published for PC and Mac early 2017 followed by a publishing tie in with Humble Bundle for PS4 and Xbox One a few months later.
Given the span of this timeline from funding to release, there were early rumblings of a port for the Wii U also in the midst, alas it wasn’t to be. With the Wii U winding down in 2016/2017 ahead of the Nintendo Switch launch, and after a very long wait, the Nintendo Switch now finally has A Hat In Time for late 2019.
The player assumes the role of Hat Kid an interstellar-traveller responsible for collecting time pieces that fuel her spaceship and maintain order in the universe. Whilst travelling past a neighbouring planet she is attacked by the mafia, who through a moment of brute force damage her ship and disband the time pieces. Each of these 40 time pieces are scattered across multiple sectors of the planet and must be recovered, as you do battle with your friend turned nemesis Mustache Girl.
There is an instant sense of familiarity as you dive into the hub section of Hat Kid’s spaceship and begin to familiarise yourself with the controls. As expected there are jumps, double jumps, attacks and ladder climbs galore, and a wonderfully vibrant colour palette that adds a depth and warmth to the early game experience.
This hub section where you collect time pieces allows you to unlock new sections of the spaceship, which is a similar approach to that used in Super Mario 64. This system cleverly avoids the player having to complete every level in each chapter to progress, instead just requiring a certain number of time pieces to be earned. Each new section hosts the next chapter of the game, with lots of variety in each environment.
The variety in art style keeps the game feeling fresh throughout, such as the seaside resort of Mafia Town, a 1950’s movie set, and a spooky forest to name a few. I suppose what’s really refreshing about this environment change is how the game adapts alongside it, initially a devout collect-a-thon that evolves into a more complex hide and seek with clever puzzle elements.
The tone of comedy is fun and engaging throughout, and the voice work at times genuinely made me laugh out loud. The balance is absolutely right and I can appreciate the script was a craft of love on the developers part.
The game is made unique by the role of the hat, well, multiple hats that you have the opportunity to rotate throughout the game. Each one brings its own unique abilities, helping you to conquer the ever changing landscape of the world itself. The default hat simply points you in the direction of the missions objective, with others that allow you to throw explosive potions, ride scooters and pound the ground with Ice. Each new hat opens up the world, freshens up the gameplay and allow you to revisit previous chapters to unlock new collectables only available with these new abilities.
Often a perk when buying a PC and console port for the Nintendo Switch, the game comes bundled with DLC, the addition in question here is Seal The Deal. There are two parts to extend your experience with the game here, with an additional Chapter containing 3 more acts as well as a harder difficulty option that transforms previously completed levels to a different environment called Deathwish. DLC is always welcome, and with the aforementioned Chapter set on a Cruise Ship in the Arctic, surrounded by a Noahs Ark of animal characters and a smoking walrus, it adds some dark comedy and belly laughs that really tip the experience forward. Thumbs up for the addition!
As always is the case with a 3D platformer like this, the camera angles can be jaunty and enough to make most developers have sleepless nights, but they did an okay job with A Hat In Time. Sure as expected the right analog stick gives you sweeping control of the camera itself, and when imposed by a piece of landscape it turns invisible to ensure it does not encroach on your ability to move forward. Where it lacks is sometimes the height and positioning of the camera, you can move it but it still looks a little awkward.
Something that unfortunately niggles a little at the flow and experience of the game, are performance issues found throughout, and these do appear to be Nintendo Switch specific. The frame-rate is locked at a certainly reasonable 30 Frames per second, however it often slips well below this, and at moments the game freezes for several seconds (as though its crashed entirely) before picking up where it left off. Talk about an immersion killer. Fingers crossed these performance concerns can be fixed through an update but as it stands, there are just occasional wobbles.
Despite these small concerns, I must say that A Hat In Time is really charming, and makes me smile every time I play. It screams nostalgia and looks incredibly pretty throughout, yet has a complex and well designed platforming core that keeps the player challenged and explorative from beginning to end. This formula has the power to live on through 3D platformer’s in the future and credit to the developers persistence to finally make a home on the Nintendo Switch, it was worth the wait!
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*