A Hat in Time is a Classic in the Making
I caved and spent the $29.99 that I definitely should not have spent to purchase A Hat in Time awhile back. Some of you may have even seen me playing it, a lot. I’m not even going to keep you waiting for my opinions on this one. A Hat in Time is an excellent game and if you haven’t played it yet, you should because it is cute, fun, and everything a collectathon game of yesteryear in the modern age should be.
For those of you unfamiliar, A Hat in Time (HiT for short) is a Kickstarter game from way back in 2013. At the time I wasn’t even aware of this game, and even then, most Kickstarter things tend to over promise and under deliver. While some things did change slightly in the final product, the guys at Gears for Breakfast delivered on everything they promised so far. There is still a bit more to be put into the game in a future FREE dlc for all purchasers, but even still the game is more than good enough right out the metaphorical box.
Here’s a pre-release trailer for you. Fairly similar to the end product but it’ll give you a feel for the game for context.
Harkening back to games such as Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Sunshine, and even Legend of Zelda HiT has players running around several unique areas collecting an overabundance of things. There are tricky platforming sections, cool powers (in the form of hats, naturally), and a ton of nostalgia as well.
A Hat in Time opens up with our tiny adventurer, the unnamed child nicknamed “Hat Kid,” traveling back home through space. Why is Hat Kid piloting a giant spaceship and trying to get home? That really isn’t clear but neither is it very important. The game gets rolling when a member of the Mafia from a nearby planet that you happen to be passing attempts to collect a “ship toll” by opening the window to your spaceship. Why you have a window on a SPACESHIP that opens FROM THE OUTSIDE is beyond me, but hey.
Of course, this being space, everything goes flying out of your ship and all the fuel drops down to the planet below. It just so happens that your spaceship is powered by magic hourglass called timepieces. Thus begins your hunt to collect the forty lost timepieces and meet all sorts of interesting characters along the way. Obviously this is all silly and just an excuse to have all these whacky levels, but it is so charming and cute that all can be forgiven quite easily.
The first character you meet is Mustache Girl, who is a girl, with a mustache. I know, genius right? She tells you that she wants you to help her bring down the Mafia and in return will help you collect the timepieces. Of course not everything goes as planned but the rest of the story is really best experienced for yourself.
Each of the five worlds can be accessed via the hub area which is Hat Kid’s spaceship. You only start with one world but gain access to each new one when you have accumulated enough timepieces. This task is pretty easy and if you wanted to just go through the main story without getting all of them or the collectables, it would only take a few hours. This is a collectathon game though so nobody is going to do that. I sank sixteen hours into this one and got every single thing that everybody has been able to find (so far at least).
Of all the worlds I found chapter four’s Alpine open world levels to be the worst of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong, there were good parts but it was the most annoying overall and lacked the personality that the other chapter/worlds possessed. Speaking of, the other chapters each have their own town and quirky cast that make them memorable. There’s the spooky fan favorite Subcon Forest and silly bird studio in addition to the Mafia world and Alpine. Then there is chapter five, the final boss.
Each chapter has multiple levels aside from chapter five which have all sorts of mission types. Sometimes you simply do some platforming or participate in a scavenger hunt. Other times you’ll have to solve a murder mystery (set on a train of course) or sneak your way onto a movie set without getting caught. There are a lot of fun ideas on display here that keeps the game fresh and exciting, even when you replay the missions like I did.
Hat Kid herself is adorable and the real focal point of the game. As I mentioned earlier, she starts out with only one hat but can later craft more by finding yarn in the levels. This yarn system is mostly there for folks who want to get everything as the hats themselves require very little to craft. It does force you to explore around a bit and if you choose to barrel through the story, it does prevent you from accessing certain areas too early when you are missing a hat or item. This may sound obnoxious, but the game flows terrifically and should not be a point of concern for anybody.
Let’s talk about the hats. The first one is the pictured top hat you always see Hat Kid in. This hat is great early on when learning a level’s layout (some are really big) since it shows you where your objective is located. Later, you get a hat that makes you Naruto run super fast for some more advance jumps (which can later be upgraded to a scooter, with a horn and everything!), a hat that turns you into an ice sculpture, a spooky mask that is too hard to explain in this sentence, and a few more.
Each hat has several different styles that can be unlocked by finding these tokens throughout levels or by completing time rifts (bonus platforming levels). You can also customize Hat Kid and make her even more adorable with the color pallet of your preference. All of this adds up and just makes the game so much more enjoyable.
On top of all this there is also a badge seller that sells sweet badges that give you bonus abilities. One upgrades your attack to be a beam weapon instead of just an umbrella for whapping people, another one gives you the scooter (which I think is a MUST), and more. The only one of which you actually need is the hook badge though.
I feel like I’ve said plenty of great things about A Hat in Time. It is a great game with funny writing that doesn’t just bank on the nostalgia like a certain other Kickstarter collectathon game that came out earlier this year. However, there are a few issues that should be addressed about HiT.
The first is the ice hat. It’s a really good utility item. It’s even better once you realize it makes you invincible in boss fights. The boss fights are really hard so you can imagine this is quite handy. I’m sure this was an intentional design choice, but it felt a little cheesy once I found that out. Of course it’s on the player not to abuse this, but it was something that I didn’t like except for completing the One Punch achievement [insert obligatory One Punch Man joke here].
I already mentioned the Alpine world, but I cannot express enough how terrible one of the areas was. I spent over twenty minutes on just one level there. This specific segment was just bad level design. There was lots of backtracking if you wanted to get all the stuff (which I definitely did, never wanted to go back there again), enemies that were annoying, and it all just took way too long. That being said, Alpine did have some super cool moments, but it was a weak chapter.
Lastly, I didn’t care for the ending. It felt mean spirited the way it was written. Not sure how to explain it without spoilers but it really took me out of the experience. I as a player didn’t really want to win the game. Not to mention that by time I had gone there I had done all the achievements, some of which are very challenging, so the final boss is a huge pushover by comparison. It didn’t sour the experience, but it was the one big mark against the game for me, even more so than the other two points.
I’m sure I forgot to talk about how cool x was or compared it to Mario Odyssey (which I haven’t even played so…) but really the game speaks for itself very well. If you are on the fence, watching the first level or two will definitely give you enough information to know if this game is for you or not form a gameplay perspective at least. Personally, I think everybody owes it to themselves to play this game because it was easily the best game I’ve played in the past decade, and I play a LOT of games.
Sure, some other games I have more hours in and enjoyed a lot for other reasons, but A Hat in Time was a joy through-and-through. It offered me everything I could have asked for and more. I can’t wait for the free dlc to come, and you can bet I’ll be playing through that as soon as it comes out. You can get the game on Steam for $29.99 which is a very fair price for the content.
Have you played A Hat in Time? Let me know your thoughts on the game below, even if you haven’t played it yet. If you like this content be sure to let me know and consider supporting me on Patreon so I can afford to keep making articles like this one as it helps out a lot. Just click the button below for more details. As always, thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!