It’s no secret that I was excited for the release of A Hat in Time. After this game devoured my schedule for a few days, and at points even frustrated me in the best ways possible. I’m pleased to say the game was everything I wanted from it and then some. This game is a cute as heck 3D Collectathon Platformer in the vein of Psychonauts and Super Mario Sunshine. As my article about nostalgic game design mentioned, this game hit a nostalgia bomb for me. And it really managed to deliver, though not in the ways I initially expected. Normally I break a game under review down and take a close look at three places where I think it really shines. For A Hat in Time this is really difficult, because everything works together so well that it is greater than the sum of its parts. But as a 3D Collectathon Platformer I chose three common areas of that genre to look at: Gameplay, Power-Ups, and Level Design.
As a 3D platformer the gameplay is really straightforward. You jump, run, and weave your way through each of the worlds to complete different objectives and find collectibles. The main goal is to collect the Time Pieces that have been scattered about the world so that you can fuel your ship. Gameplay is simple and consistent. If it looks like you can make the jump, you probably can. Once you get a good grasp on the controls it’s even possible to jump past small sections by maximizing your jump distance through the correct sequence of inputs. Most of the time I’d find myself forgetting about the objective and getting caught up in trying to jump to someplace random just because I thought I could. Sometimes I’d find myself able to bypass obstacles, other times I’d find hidden collectibles that I didn’t know were there. It was so simple, but simplicity is something fundamental to this type of game. It’s reminiscent of the games I enjoyed when I was a kid. And when jumping around begins to feel a bit dull, you can always stop and literally sit down and appreciate the striking visuals (and snag a nifty little achievement for it too). Or go around and hitting that smooch button at anything you see. Yes, there is a smooch button. It’s personally my favorite button.
While not a necessity to the genre, Power-ups are quite common in 3D Collectathon Platformers because it adds a sense of progression and mastery to the game. Usually power-ups come in varieties like extra jumps, reduced fall damage, faster movement, etc. Sometime’s there’s a strong attack, and normally there are power-ups that will help you progress to different areas in the game. A Hat in Time delivers on all of this. While most of the power-ups aren’t the most unique, they do enhance the playing experience experience. Two of them I find very imaginative. Most specifically the Ice Hat and the Dweller Mask.
Ice Powerups aren’t anything new in video games. But none of them I’m familiar with work the way the Ice Hat does. This hat works when you’re on special platforms marked with a snowflake. When you stand on them, you can use the Ice Hat to turn into an ice statue. The new-found weight will push down on the platform slightly and cause you to fly across the map to a designated point. You can also switch to this statue form just to be a heckin’ cute statue for a while.
Likewise the Dweller Mask allows you to see things the way a Dweller would. Once again, power-ups that let you see new things aren’t new. But what the Dweller Mask does is that it allows you to jump on platforms that are normally unavailable to you. These types of platforms are introduced with a bell that you hit that project a field where you have what I call “Dweller Vision” and are able to interact with them. But it throws you on a timer. The Dweller Mask still puts you on a timer, but you can use the two in tandem to extend that time.
The levels in A Hat in Time are simply beautiful. The world are all reasonable large with multiple sections that can be explored in different ways. There is plenty to do in each world, and there is always a reason to go back to them as you gain more power-ups. Everyplace is different, with unique charms and characters. There is really not much else for me to say about this. This game is an example of amazing Level Design. These worlds are fun to play in and explore, and I always found myself coming back for more. I’ve even booted up the game just to run around Mafia Town for an hour just to look around and see if I could find any neat little secrets. Or, at the very least, to die playing patty-cake with some of the guys in Mafia Town.
If I did scores, A Hat in Time would be a personal 12/10. I love this game, and it is truly amazing. I’d recommend it to anyone who just needs to relax or who wants to try something fun. I think speedrunners would especially love this game, same with anyone who grew up with games like Spyro, Super Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie. If you’ve ever enjoyed a 3D platformer you will find something to like in this game. A Hat in Time is everything that was ever great about a 3D Platformer. The game really nails everything it set out to do, surpassing even the relatively high expectations I had for it.