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A Hat in Time

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Gears For Breakfast
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2017


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PC Review - 'A Hat In Time'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 24, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

A Hat in Time is a 3D collect-a-thon platformer where time is falling apart and it is the job of the brave interstellar-traveling solo Hat Kid to collect all the time pieces and put them back together!

Most people agree that a platforming game needs good mechanics. At the very least, the platforming needs to feel competent, so it's not a chore to do basic things. A platformer also needs a good protagonist. It isn't absolutely essential, but a likeable hero can elevate even the most basic platformer into something memorable. On that note, A Hat In Time does a fantastic job of providing a hero you'll adore while also giving you mechanics that mostly work.

The story may be rather basic, but it's told in an amusing way. You play the role of Hat Girl, a mostly silent protagonist who's riding her spaceship back to her home planet. Unexpectedly, she gets a visit from a Mafioso who demands that she pay a toll for passing by the planet. She refuses, but that causes the Mafioso to break a hole in the ship's windshield, causing Hat Girl's supply of hourglass fuel to get scattered along the planet below. Your job is to grab those hourglasses from the world, so she can make it home.

Hat Girl is responsible for much of the game's charm. Her design is cute, and her basic animations look wonderful. It's the little things that she does that are really adorable. Pass by some enemies, and she'll taunt by blowing raspberries or pulling down the skin around her eye. Find a chair, and she'll sit down with legs kicking while the camera pans around the environment. Sneak around the world, and she'll pull out finger guns to pretend she's a super spy. Even having her collect an item has her counting how many she's obtained or proclaiming that she has them all. Overall, she's completely likeable protagonist.

This isn't to say that the other characters are boring. A good chunk of the characters contribute to the game's appeal and humor. Moustache Girl, for example, can come up with some pretty grizzly ways of dealing with the Mafia, which is funny in a morbid way. Engage with some of the Mafioso, and they might play a game of patty-cake before slugging you. The bird directors' bickering is funny to hear, and while you may be creeped out by the enemies in the Subcon Forest, the fact that you'll be fighting a toilet brings back the oddball humor.

It's good that the characters are likeable, since the overall plot lacks focus. Beyond collecting hourglasses, the only persistent thing is that Moustache Girl feels betrayed by you and vows to snag the hourglasses before you do. However, after that proclamation, you won't see her until the end of the game. The result is that the game is a collection of separate stories rather than a giant quest; this can be divisive, depending on how much you value the narrative in the platformer genre.

The game structure is a little different from modern platformers. The hourglasses are used to unlock new worlds, while some of the gems unlock a few of the stages in those worlds. The worlds themselves aren't open, as the stage you choose determines the configuration of the world, but you can still search to get items and unlock secrets. Finding the hourglass is the ultimate goal, and obtaining it means you get kicked back to your ship and have to return to the planet to find a new stage to locate the next hourglass.

As far as attacks go, you're quite limited. Trying to punch anyone results in you getting stunned for a bit. It takes some time to get an umbrella, which is your main weapon, but once you get it, you can swing at foes, which is useful since jumping on them does nothing. You can perform a diving attack, but only when the proper button prompt for it appears; it feels a little limiting at first, but every diving attack is a guaranteed hit. For mobility, you can double-jump, do some wall-jumps, and dive in the air. It has a bit of a learning curve, so don't be surprised if your first few jumps end up falling short of the goal or smacking into a wall.

Of course, a modern platformer feels incomplete without a power upgrade, and A Hat in Time is no different. Getting yarn balls allows you to build new hats, which grants new powers when you're wearing them. Powers include increased running speed, the ability to drive around in a Vespa, and using potions in place of explosions. The same gems that can be used to unlock more stages can also be used to get some badges. Although you can only equip a maximum of three at a time, you can get a grappling hook, long fall damage prevention, and an increased range for getting pick-ups, among other things. Interestingly, if you desire a more difficult or stranger game, you can also buy badges that either hamper your game or make odd things occur.

Everything is solid mechanically, but there are two things that make this an interesting platformer. The first is the increased emphasis on platforming over combat. The bosses are tough but enjoyable, and they're perhaps the best combat sequences in the game, but you aren't going to do much fighting. Most enemies generally ignore you unless you hit them first, and only a few actively go after you. It's an interesting direction that's appreciated by those who are more interested in jumping prowess than wasting enemies.

The other interesting aspect of the game is how it tries to add much more than combat. One stage may have you trying to employ stealth as you try to move around without getting caught. Another has you trying to become a sleuth to solve a mystery. They're good for some variety, and they're not so difficult that they hinder the game's main platforming focus.

The title has a few flaws, but none more bothersome than the camera. It's a familiar problem for even the best 3-D platformers, but it shows up very often in this game. There are times when the camera zooms in too close to Hat Girl and hides a good chunk of the environment. Sometimes, the camera zooms in tight corridors while other times, it occurs when you're close to an object but not touching it. Luckily, there are enough open areas that the issue doesn't occur all the time, but it can be very frustrating when you miss otherwise easy wall-jumps due to the finicky camera.

As in most platformers, there's not much to do after you beat the story, aside from going back and collecting any remaining badges, hourglasses and in every stage. The game provides two options that are unexpected but welcome. The first is a timer, so those interested in speed-running the game can have a better way to gauge how they're doing. The second is a developer mode console, and while you need to hunt down the commands online, those who are used to having this feature in older PC games will be delighted that this is available in a modern title.

Wonky camera aside, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous. The cartoon look means bright colors and a playful design for all of the characters. Turn up all of the settings, and the game exhibits lots of tricks, like field of view blur and loads of particles. Animations are very smooth, and the frame rate hits the coveted 60fps mark and stays there.

The sound is also quite nice. The soundtrack features a ton of tracks that are whimsical both at a normal speed and at a slower one when you take a seat and drink in the views. The effects sound fine, and the voicework is top-notch stuff. Granted, most of the time, you'll hear everyone else speak, but at least their voices are soothing enough that you don't mind if they prattle on.

In the end, A Hat In Time features enough charm to overcome its shortcomings. If you can live with the unreliable camera, then you'll find a game that offers a pleasant platforming experience, tons of secrets to uncover, and a good amount of abilities to experiment with. The variety of environments and activities is appreciated, as are some of the breaks from platforming norms. The characters may be the main reason for playing the gamefrom beginning to end, just to see what they'll say or do next. For fans of platformers, A Hat In Time is well worth your time.

Score: 8.5/10

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