If you grew up in the 90s, you will most definitely have been exposed to the golden generation of 3D platformers. Crash, Spyro, Mario World 64, the decade was awash with games in this new genre, and they really define most people’s entry into the gaming world. With the prevalence of Steam over the year, it has brought the 3D platforming genre right to the forefront again, with games such as Rime Yooka-Laylee coming out this year with polar opposite reactions mind you.
You play as a little girl, who is traveling around space in her spaceship, however your adventures soon come to abrupt end when she loses all her fuel, due to the Mafia breaking in trying to get their share of space tax! (Because that’s a thing now). The fuel is released onto the nearby planet’s surface, and it is your mission to get it all back. The little girl, who remains nameless for the course of the game wears a tophat throughout. There is no backstory as to why she does, it’s just a thing! The story is basic but you meet some interesting characters along the way, my favorite being Mustache Girl.
Whilst the look of the game may give a childlike impression, the dialog between characters is anything but childish. Gruesome murder is a common topic of discussion, with some fairly decent laughs to be had too. The game’s cartoonish look can be deceiving both in terms of the content of the game, and the gameplay mechanics too which I’ll talk about later. However the game looks and feels great to play. It really took me back to my childhood of playing Croc and Spyro, it just felt like I was playing on the PS1 again. Tons of colourful environments for you to explore and the cheery soundtrack fitted in well with the whole feel of the game too.
I wasn’t really expecting there to be much in terms of quality voice acting, but A Hat in Time surprised me there. Whilst the main character doesn’t have a voice, all of the main characters you interact with in the story do, and this for sure takes the game to a new level over other 3D platformers on Steam today.
When adventuring around the word, you will find items you can interact with in many ways. The amount of depth that has gone into animating these interactions is well worth mentioning too. For instancing, when jumping on a bed, you don’t just get a flat moving animation; there is a bit of a bounce to it. It was this attention to detail that particularly stood out to me as being one of the game’s strongest points.
Whilst the game does look impressive, I did notice that loading times were a bit on the longish side. Even when installed on an SSD I was often at a loading screen for 15-20 seconds. The music also seemed to stutter a bit on the loading screens, however when the level had loaded, the performance was silky smooth with no hitching to be noticed.
The aim of the game is to collect four hourglasses, which is your spaceship’s fuel source. Your spaceship is the game’s hub world. After every level you will be transported back to your ship. As you progress in the game you will be able to unlock more areas of your ship as you find more hourglasses to power it.
Throughout any level you will find plenty of green orbs to collect. These orbs can be used at shop keepers to buy new badges, unlock new missions and a few other miscellaneous things. You will also find balls of yarn too. Collect enough yarn and you can craft a different hat. Different hats have different abilities which will aid you in certain levels. None of the abilities are really needed to complete levels, but they do indeed help you a lot. They can range from making you run faster, ground stomping or making hidden objects appear in the world.
The meat of the gameplay comes in the platforming though. All of the levels you come across are quite large scale, and are essentially a giant playground for you to explore for collectables. Even though the game is split up into levels and chapters, you can always backtrack to previous stages at your will to continue finding orbs if you missed some out or maybe a new ability will allow you to reach that unreachable ledge before! I liked this approach more than being funnelled into a large world map that you then select the level to play. It allowed for a much better flow and more freedom for you to do what you want.
I also felt like the game’s controls were much better than any other 3D platformer that I’ve played in a while. I have seen some people describe them as “floaty” which is a perfect description for them. You can pretty much climb up any structure in A Hat in Time, with hanging onto ledges, wall jumping and double jumps all making climbing a much better experience.
The game should take between 10 and 15 hours to complete, the overall goal is to find the 40 lost hourglasses which to me felt like just enough content to keep me wanting more at the end. Also do not let the childish look of the game to make you think it will be an easy ride. It is actually a really challenging game. No it’s not the Dark Souls of platformers, but it will give you enough challenge to make you take notice on certain levels or bosses. It remains to be seen just how popular the modding scene will be but I have seen some creative work on the Steam forums with different costumes for the little girl to wear, such as Link from Zelda. The game clearly has a following judging from how well the project was funded on KickStarter, but whether that popularity will turn this into a cult modding scene, well only time will tell.