A Hat in Time Review

A Different Hat-Based 3D Platformer

Between Super Mario Odyssey and Yooka-Laylee, 2017 is slowly ushering a return of the 3D platformer collectathon. But not many people may realize that another game was planting seeds of the genre’s revival years ago.  A Hat in Time was Kickstarted back in 2013 by the developers at Gears for Breakfast, who were hoping to tug at the heartstrings of a generation who grew up with the Nintendo 64 and GameCube. I was excited about the game’s initial development, but it soon disappeared from the radar, and I had assumed the project was a bust. Thankfully, A Hat in Time made it out just in time to celebrate the genre’s return, and it’s worth the wait.

Here’s the Video Version for your viewing pleasure!

You play as the unnamed Hat Kid, a bright-eyed girl who flies a time-powered spaceship. When a mafia member breaks in, the spaceship’s hourglass-shaped Time Pieces fall out onto the various planets below. Thus begins Hat Kid’s journey to retrieve the macguffins, I mean, Time Pieces. The story is fluff, but the characters are extremely likable. Hat Kid is an absolutely adorable platforming mascot. She may be silent, but she is expressive. Her actions speak for her personality, whether she’s jumping in a pile of pillows or hiding from monsters. I couldn’t help but smile at her playful expressions. The supporting cast is just as endearing, particularly the contract-obsessive ghoul and the cunning Mustache Girl.

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Hat Kid is just plain adorable!

At first glance, the game looks like any other 3D platformer from past generations. And to an extent, it is. From your spaceship hub, you travel to self-contained planets to search for collectibles. New areas open up with every Time Piece. There are only five chapters but they feature incredibly diverse worlds. In fact, other than the first world, which is a formulaic giant sandbox area, I was surprised by every unique challenge the game offered. One moment, you could be stealthily sneaking around a movie studio, while another may require you to solve a murder mystery by finding clues scattered around a train. And those missions take place on the same planet! On one hand, jumping from one conceit to another gives the impression that the developers were just throwing ideas around. On the other hand, the numerous gameplay changes kept the adventure fresh throughout. No chapter ever dragged, and they constantly provided exclusive locations per mission.

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Not often you see the mafia in a 3D platformer.

Unlike in Super Mario 64, you can only acquire the Time Piece associated with the current mission, so it’s almost pointless to sequence break or go out of your way within a stage, which is unfortunate. Perhaps it’s for the better, since I found it easy to get lost in the more open-world areas. Luckily, the linear areas were spot-on and even delivered a strong Super Mario Galaxy vibe. As such, I enjoyed them more than the sandbox segments.

A Hat in Time also avoids some of the major action and camera pitfalls that dragged down platformers from the past, presumably thanks to years of hindsight and evolving game engines. Hat Kid controls smoothly and is equipped with a helpful double jump, wall climb, and jump dive for both wide vertical and horizontal movements. You can also combine these actions to ensure that you safely land on any platform. I always felt confident controlling her, and as a result, I was compelled to make more death-defying jumps. Not to mention some level layouts suggest the necessity of these advanced maneuvers, which made it all the more satisfying to successfully land them. And the camera is just as smooth. I had no issues whatsoever keeping the perspective focused on Hat Kid, which helped immensely for all my crazy leaps.

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I also leapt from my seat during these moments.

The platforming is excellent, but combat is more on the basic end. Your primary weapon is an umbrella for whacking enemies, as well as a dive bomb attack. I found it difficult to accurately land hits before getting hurt myself, at least for the smaller enemies. The large bosses, on the other hand, were amazing feats of skill. Each boss utilizes patterns while hiding vulnerabilities. It’s a decidedly old-school formula, and one that brought me back to the heyday of tough end-of-level boss encounters that required the utmost patience. I won’t spoil the details, but each boss fight was better than the one before it, and helped the otherwise underused combat shine.

And of course, what would a good collectathon be without collectibles? Aside from the important Time Pieces, you can also collect yarn balls to knit together new ability-granting hats. And you can use orbs, the in-game currency, to purchase badges to enhance those abilities. This simple power-up system made way for interesting puzzles and platforming challenges, though the fact that certain hats were required to beat the game put a halt to the otherwise stellar pacing.

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You could say my hat is off to you.

With five chapters consisting of up to seven acts each, the game only takes about seven hours to beat. But I was compelled to keep going past the credits and collect every single thing I could find, easily increasing my playtime by several hours. The most fascinating hidden missions involved finding a Time Rift hidden within a level. Encountering it led to a hardcore platforming bonus stage reminiscent of the water-pack-less levels in Super Mario Sunshine. Needless to say, these extra areas were some of the best parts in a wonderfully designed world.

Though, the actual visuals are a bit underpowered. This totally works for the N64 nostalgia, but the textures were overly jagged, basic, and blurry. But as far as the aesthetic design is concerned, the world is vibrant and colorful. Every area is excellently themed, and I love the effort that went into creating a whimsical atmosphere. The music is equally compelling, as if it was lifted out of Banjo-Kazooie or Super Mario Galaxy. Every song fits so well, from the magical catchy main theme to the more melancholy and downright scary tunes in the haunted planet.

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Aurora Borealis?! At this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within A Hat in Time?!

Conclusion

A Hat in Time is that rare Kickstarted game that had a lofty goal and succeeded. Not only does the game live up to the 64-bit collectathon nostalgia that so many of us have been craving, but it also revamps the standard formula. Every level feels completely different from the last, and a diverse mission structure keeps the adventure from growing stale. It’s a wholly charming experience that made me smile silly. Hat Kid controls like a dream and is also a ridiculously cute mascot whom I’d like to see more of, along with more adorable hats. Anyone who has fond memories of the 3D platforming genre would do well to check out A Hat in Time.

Score: 9/10

A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally written in October 2017 for DarkStation.

What are your thoughts on A Hat in Time? Were you interested when the game was first revealed? What are your favorite 3D platformers? Please share any thoughts and questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

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74 thoughts on “A Hat in Time Review

  1. My hats off to you and this review! This looks like a really cute and fun platformer. I’m a fan of all the different hats and outfits that Hat Girl gets to wear. It certainly reminds me of another game with lots of hats and platforming and mustaches… Hehe. I get the retro appeal, but I think you can still retain that sense without compromising visuals, especially on an HD system. It’s cool that there’s some puzzle elements too. Hmmm, I think I need to add some spiffy hats to my wardrobe. You did a hatastic job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks as always for your kindness and encouragement! 😀 I love that you went with the hats off theme haha! Between Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat in Time, I’m all hatted out, especially since I was playing both within weeks of each other. Either way, I’m glad to have had both experiences, even if I enjoyed Super Mario Odyssey considerably better. Though to be fair, it’s one of the best 3D Mario games so A Hat in Time is still an amazing achievement in 3D platforming. We need more hats! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to hear of a modern platforming game with good boss fights; for some reason, I’ve found Western developers aren’t as good when it comes to conceiving boss fights as their Japanese counterparts. I might end up checking this one out if it’s as good as you say.

    Also, I totally got the Simpsons reference.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The boss fights felt like old-school 2D bosses conceptualized in 3D. Granted, there aren’t a lot of them since the amount of worlds is small, but they were great highlights to already interestingly designed levels. Between this and Super Mario Odyssey’s bosses, Mario’s takes the cake, but A Hat in Time’s overall experience is something that I wouldn’t overlook if you enjoy 3D platformers.

      Happy to see a fellow Simpsons fan! May I offer you some steamed hams? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha that’s awesome! I’ll be sure to check it out soon! The Simpsons is my favorite TV show, well, at least, the classic episodes. I still quote a lot of its lines in everyday conversation!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hat Kid’s choice of weapons and power-ups is so cute! She’s a great choice to want to be! Her facial expressions crack me up. 😀 The platforming isn’t too hard, but it can get tricky. You might like the more explorative levels more, and there are a good number of them. Who knows, Hat Kid may be your calling. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a blast! I was interested in it before, but didn’t pay too much attention to it. I guess I didn’t think the developers couldn’t recapture the magic of my old favorite N64 platformers. But wow, this game blew me away. And for a 3D platformer to impress me during the hype of Super Mario Odyssey is really something haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, you beat me to my review of this one! I am working on one right now as I just beat it 100% with all achievements and collectables (that the community knows about at least, I checked) obtained! Best 16 hours I’ve spent in the past decade on any game even remotely like this. Easy to recommend this one. Enjoyed your review as usual 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh I’m very much looking forward to your review then! Yeah, I did this before Super Mario Odyssey launched because I just felt I wouldn’t enjoy other platformers as much after Mario. But going back to A Hat in Time after Mario, it is very much its own style that I appreciate on a different level from Odyssey. I’m glad you had such a great time playing this! It’s a big deal, for sure, that this was the best 16 hours you’ve spent in the past decade! That’s so awesome! Thanks again for your kind words and comments! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Odyssey seems cool, I can’t play it, but from what I’ve seen of it A Hat in Time is definitely the better game for me personally. It was a very streamlined experience with logic of progression that made sense to me. Mario is kind of all over the place and that is a bit off-putting.

        Between this and The Sexy Brutale, I’ve been pretty impressed by more games than I could have anticipated this year. My review should go up either tomorrow or early next week so ya know, hope you enjoy it 🙂 I know I did yours!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I loved the exploration of Super Mario Odyssey, and it reminded me so much of fond experiences that I had with Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64. A Hat in Time, of course, was also reminiscent of those titles plus Super Mario Sunshine, probably due to the bonus levels or the unique challenges each time you begin an act. But there’s definitely a magic connection I felt in each level of Mario that I didn’t quite get with A Hat in Time. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I loved HiT and found it utterly charming, but SMO has so many spectacular moments that pushed it over the edge for me. I agree with you that 2017 has been amazing for games. So many heavy-hitters and nice surprises! I look forward to your review! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I have hope that it will come out on the Switch. For one, it was originally slated to come out on Wii U. Obviously, it missed the timing, but it’s still headed for PS4 and Xbox One this Winter. It’s very possible that it will follow the trend of so many other indies going to Switch. It would be a perfect system for it! Then it could join Super Mario Odyssey for a double helping of 3D hat fun! Who knows? Maybe it will also beat Yoon’s-Laylee to the punch. Wondering if that game is even going to make it to Switch at all…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah, I’m still looking forward to playing Yooka-Laylee on the Switch! I’m happy I didn’t miss out on A Hat in Time, though. I remember hearing stuff about it way back when, but not to the extent that I’ve heard about Yooka-Laylee. Maybe that’s a good thing because the developers of HiT did what they wanted and it worked for them and for me. So now I’m on the other end, hoping that Yooka-Laylee will live up to this awesome resurgence of 3D platformers that have been popping up this year!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I had also heard of A Hat in Time quite a while ago (2015, maybe), but it has always been more low-key than the hyped Yooka-Laylee (for obvious reasons). I am glad it is out now and it is awesome!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Honestly, I’m not sure what took this game so long to come out, but it’s great to see it resurface. I’m wondering how Yooka-Laylee will compare when I finally play it. The two have completely varied development histories!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I truly, truly hope that fixing any issues is the reason why Yooka-Laylee game is delayed for Switch. Because if it turns out that the Switch version is just a delayed port for no reason………

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This game looks like a lot of fun, and the protagonist is adorable! Like you said, it reminds me of 3rd party action/adventure games from the N64, like Mystical Ninja and Chameleon Twist! Glad to see they’re making a comeback!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh! I have big related news to tell you! Super Bomberman R now has a Goemon Bomber unlock! It’s amazing. A Hat in Time did remind me of those lesser known underrated games from the N64. In a sense, this is also an underrated 3D platformer of its time, especially under the shadow of Super Mario Odyssey. Thanks for your comments buddy! 🙂

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    1. A Hat in Time is currently only on PC and Mac. It’s supposed to be coming out on PS4 and Xbox One this winter, though. And I hope it comes out on Switch sometime too! It would be such a cute, fun fit for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For that reason, I think it would do great on Switch! But any console support is great for it since not everyone games on PC. I’d love to know what you think if you pick up the PS4 version when it comes out!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words! 2017 has been so good for 3D platformers. I can’t even believe it. We got Super Mario Odyssey, A Hat in Time, AND Yooka-Laylee all within the same year after barely any new 3D platformers for almost a decade. I’m so happy as a huge fan of the genre!

      Like

  5. Well, I really want to play and review A Hat in Time, and Gears for Breakfast even sent me a review copy… except I only have Mac and the review code only worked for PC. So then I bought the Mac version…and it doesn’t run very well for me. So now I’m patiently waiting for its PS4 release, and I can finally play it. It looks charming, and I’ve waited a while for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! Sorry to hear the Mac version doesn’t run well for you. :/ What about it didn’t work? I hope the PS4 version comes out soon because this game could use more traction. Of course, I would prefer it for the Switch, especially since the game was in the works for Wii U at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It just moves waaay too slow for me. I can make adjustments in the options, but that just changes it from “dead stop” to “snail’s pace.” It takes several minutes just to boot up.

        I too would like to see A Hat in Time come to Switch. It just feels like it belongs on a Nintendo console.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww that’s a shame. I wonder if it’s a problem with the Mac version. Games don’t normally run well on Mac for me. :/

        A Hat in Time AND Yooka-Laylee both feel like they belong on the Switch. It’s a shame they’re both missing…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I hope you enjoy it TSN! Keep in mind that currently, A Hat in Time, is only on PC and Mac. It’s supposed to come to PS4 and Xbox One soon, though! Also, I think you’ll be interested in my next review this week! It’s gonna be one of the most important for me so I hope it goes well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha! Yes! What’s his is definitely yours! 😉 I just got my wife a new MacBook Air for Black Friday. And I think I might use it for some fun haha. 😉

        Thanks a lot!! Honestly pretty nervous about this one but also excited!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely! Especially since MacBooks aren’t particularly cheap (that gaming laptop was a pretty penny). This holiday season feels weird tbh. I feel like I have more of a jump start from prior years. Maybe because Thanksgiving was early rather than late so there’s almost a whole week before December.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I so agree. I’m so happy we get that extra week of November. I feel like I have breathing room and am actually getting quite a lot of prep done. I don’t know…I just can’t think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over, but since it’s a day of the week based holiday and not a date based one whereas Christmas is, that can be either a good or a bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I can’t think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over either, and yet stores demand to play Christmas music before then sometimes. I’ve heard Christmas music on the radio in October once!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It’s almost worth it for the free shipping alone! I definitely get my money’s worth during the holiday season. I don’t really use the streaming service since I have Hulu and Netflix, plus Amazon makes you pay additional for certain things, but I know lots of people like the music streaming service.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I just wish Prime weren’t so expensive usually! And they lock their exclusive anime streaming behind a second fee, which would be one of my draws. I don’t actually know much about the music streaming service, but interesting that many people are drawn to it!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Ugh really? I only really like it for the free shipping. I think it’s a bit of a wash besides that. You have to still pay to watch some things, and I just think Hulu and Netflix are so much more accessible in terms of price. Hulu has a really good anime selection, and it’s only $13 a month and that’s without commercials :O

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I’m not a huge fan of Amazon’s seedy pricing structure for its streaming services. Hulu and Netflix are definitely much more accessible, though I only have Netflix between the two. I wish I had Hulu for all the shows they have, not just the anime. For anime, I usually go with Crunchyroll and Funimation, and their joint platform VRV. I end up following a bunch of shows per season!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. We had Hulu then got rid of it because we weren’t using it. Then when Netflix started cutting shows, we got it again, because many of them were moving TO Hulu (like Futurama). Amazon, while super convenient, definitely has some not so great business practices. I honestly think if you have Prime you should get free streaming for everything along with the free shipping. Otherwise, why are you paying so much? I mean I’ll be honest, I probably get my money’s worth for free shipping in December, BUT that only takes affect for items that Prime applies to, so you have to be careful with it.

        I keep hearing so many good things about Crunchyroll. I…er well I have other ways of watching things, too :p

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Yeah, which is probably why we’ll let our free trial of Amazon Prime end. Most of what we get online either doesn’t need to get here immediately or we just go out to buy it. Crunchyroll is a great platform for anime! And before I say this, I want you to know that I’m not judging you at all. I go to a lot of anime cons to meet a lot of the people who work on the anime, and they usually end up losing money due to piracy and the like. They work very hard to put that stuff out, and without support, they might not release anime officially anymore. :/ So I personally make it a point to support the industry because if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t want my hard work to get stolen.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. No no I don’t feel judged at all and you’re right! I feel the same way about music. I haven’t really utilized those sources for anime, only for things I can’t watch by any legit means like seeing the newest rosters of latest cartoons that aren’t on Hulu or Netflix. Since Hulu has a good anime collection, I’d more than likely use that! Since I am a creator, I really have to check myself when it comes to that and not just piracy that might affect me 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Yeah, that all said, I wish Netflix and Amazon were more anime-fan friendly. Amazon has that double gated price structure and Netflix holds off on showing its anime until it’s finished in Japan, so that viewers can binge. However, that goes against what every other platform is doing – releasing anime exactly when they come out to attract fans. And worse, Netflix gets exclusive rights to shows and calls them “Netflix Originals” (seriously, Netflix?), so there are entire shows unavailable to the West from every season as a result. There’s my anime-specific Netflix rant hahaha.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Netflix seems to be built for the binge, but then they judge you every three or so episodes. What’s up with that?? I don’t know much about how Hulu is with it. I just know they offered subtitles before Netflix did. They’re just another big business 😦 I remember when they were smaller, they were way more customer oriented, but now that they’ve made it big, they’ve forgotten who got them there (the viewers). Ah! I always wondered about that title! I know things like, well, Stranger Things is a Netflix original, but I never really thought about what that meant. I know they had some beef with Fox so shows like Futurama and American Dad are no longer on there.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Hahaha yea I know what you mean! I’ve always wanted to see Stranger Things. I should check that out sometime. Shame the Fox shows aren’t on there. They’re all so funny! Maybe they’ll go on Disney’s streaming service now that Disney owns them… 😮

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Stranger Things is sooo good. Game of Thrones…well, it was better in the earlier seasons. I feel like the show runners have lost their focus since Season 5, and it’s hard to ignore that that coincides with them running out of book material.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a gem as far as modern 3D platformers go! I had been following it back when it was Kickstarted but then word about it got quiet. Even when it finally came out, I doubted it would live up to my nostalgia of N64 platformers. So happy that A Hat in Time exceeded all my expectations. I would be ecstatic if it came out for Switch, especially since it’s scheduled to come out for the other two big consoles soon! It would be a great fit!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks great! Thanks for bringing the game to my attention. I really hope somebody else can make platformers at least somewhat as well as Nintendo. I don’t have Switch, and I’m bored of relying on them for excellent platformers. Some diversity in the genre would be greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your great comments! Platformers are one of my favorite genres, and I’m always excited to see diversity as well, like Jak and Daxter on PS2! I mean, I love Nintendo and Super Mario Odyssey, but A Hat in Time is a genuinely wonderful gem that you don’t always see from non-Nintendo developers, especially on the 3D platforming front!

      Liked by 1 person

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