Lately, when it comes to platformers it’s hard to find an exciting game where its colourful, cute exterior is matched only by its well-designed interior. Obviously, bigger games such as Nintendo’s exceptional 2002 adventure platformer Super Mario Sunshine on Gamecube had this combination nailed down perfectly and more recently, Super Mario Odyssey on Nintendo Switch won over critics and players worldwide with its incredible charm, but could that perfect balance of gorgeous visuals and wonderful design really be replicated on Xbox One or PS4 games nowadays? Well, Gears for Breakfast’s A Hat in Time has given it a pretty good shot.
A Hat in Time: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, PC, Mac
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Release Date: 6 December 2017
Price: £23.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The game begins in a girl’s bedroom, but this is no ordinary girl, this is Hat Girl, and she’s aboard a spaceship on her way home where everything is going smoothly until she passes Mafia World. After one of the less bright mafia thugs comes to collect some tax and breaks the window on her ship, Hat Girl and all of her special hourglass fuel go flying out, scattering across the various locations below. And so begins your adventure, to wander around the various areas scouting out the time pieces and collecting them up so you can be back on your way. There are 40 of these to collect in total, which doesn’t sound like an awful lot, but it will more than take up your time along with everything else the game has to offer.
The spaceship you are flying on serves as a hub, and you must collect a certain number of time pieces to unlock each new area adjacent to it. This is a well-tested way of stopping the player getting too far ahead of themselves, and allows them to explore each location for a decent amount of time before rushing to the next. Each world that you can visit offers different acts, each of which has a single goal that needs to be completed in order to earn the time piece. The worlds also serve as mini hub levels too, that can be accessed by any of the acts, and can be wandered around freely to interact with NPCs, pick up jewels and look for other extras such as relics, yarns and new hats.
The most important of these extra things to keep an eye out for is the new hats and yarns, which go hand in hand. Each of the hats has a special power, giving you a bonus on your journey, and can even be improved further still with the addition of badges, allowing you to attract nearby jewels, save you from a deadly fall and other helpful things. Each world has a new hat to find, and if you collect the same hat again you instead get yarn, which means recollecting things is definitely worth it. The better the hat, the more yarn it needs to make it, and you’ll be able to sprint faster, turn into an ice block and even stop time with your fancy new hats. These are even needed for certain levels and tasks, so collecting them is a necessity if you want to complete the game.
When you aren’t running around collecting things, you’ll be fighting off enemies and trying to beat your friend/enemy Moustache Girl to the time pieces. Each world is amazingly unique, offering new baddies and level layouts, yet each is as fantastically designed and beautiful to look at as the last. Whether you are helping solve an owl murder on a train, leading a band in a parade, signing over your soul or climbing to the top of a volcano, I can guarantee you won’t be able to guess what or who you’ll meet in the next level.
One of the highlights of the game, one of many, is the boss fights that greet the player at the end of each world. Each is tremendously well designed and a genuine challenge, which is nice to see as sometimes levels are well designed and the boss fights an afterthought. There are multiple phases to each boss, and they will require some serious firepower and willpower to overcome them. The same can be said for some of the more fancy levels too, and even when you are struggling it’s a joy to watch the colourful world come to life around you. The only time A Hat in Time isn’t a joy is when its annoying camera gets the better of you. For the most part, it follows you around well, but a fast-paced platformer needs a camera to match, and sadly this isn’t always the case. I personally fell off a high tree plenty of times while trying to climb it after the camera let me down, but this was also partly to do with the fickle controls.
Again, mostly the controls work fine, but sometimes they simply don’t respond quickly enough or allow you to jump accurately. Some of your time will be spent traversing telephone wires and other thing lines like pipes and tubes, so be prepared to fall off them a lot and miss landings even when you think you’ve got it spot on. This may be part user error but some of it also comes down to controls that only seem to let you down at these crucial times. A Hat in Time does offer you help with where to go in these situations but it also lets you find your own way, and going off the beaten path a little bit may earn you extra rewards.
The cute charm that A Hat in Time oozes makes it a pleasure to play through from start to finish, and the bright and exciting look is matched by an equally dazzling soundtrack. There are different tracks everywhere you travel too, and they accompany the game so well. It’s as charming as it is good, and there’s something new to be found around every corner. Sure, it has minor problems, but it is easy to overlook them when the rest of the game is so good. Do yourself a favour and buy A Hat In Time because it’s a perfect fit.