The 3d platformer is a beautiful little snake in the grass. Something that only a handful of developers have the guts to take a chance on nowadays.
Despite the fact that they have produced some of the finest games ever created (I’m looking at you Super Mario 64, Psychonauts and Jet Set Radio Future) They seem to have fallen out of style. No longer in vogue, they’ve been relegated to funding platforms to even get them off the ground, as no major publisher wants to pick them up.
It’s not like that has changed dramatically considering the fact even Psychonauts struggled to get made all those moons ago, but the point still stands. Making a 3d platformer is a bold move, especially in today’s gaming climate.
A Hat in Time comes from developers Gears For Breakfast, most famous for well… this here game. To my knowledge, this is their debut title, which, when you consider how much I enjoyed it, elevates its greatness.
You see, I think the best way I can sum it up is this. A Hat in Time is what Yooka-Laylee should have been. This game pretty much answers every issue with that title, and actually feels like one of the old 3D platformers, lovingly brought up to date.
Yes, Yooka-Laylee was ok. It had some baked in nostalgia. However, the worlds were lacklustre, the controls were wack and there was something missing. A warm feeling that you were in a world created with love, perhaps. That is something that A Hat in Time provides, and it does it in droves.
All killer, no filler would be another way to put it. A Hat in Time has a wonderful soundtrack, great voice acting, memorable characters, intriguing worlds that don’t just fall into conventional categories, and the controls feel absolutely wonderful.
A useful anecdote could be that I was playing Cuphead shortly after a session of A Hat In Time and the responsive nature of the controls had me slipping up as I wanted Mugman to respond like the protagonist of this game.
The muscle memory of playing and enjoying the feeling of sliding around and hopping up structures (much like Super Mario Sunshine) had stayed with me and I missed playing it.
I don’t often miss the control scheme for a video game but whenever I clocked off of A Hat in Time I found myself yearning for the same level of design in other titles.
Whilst the story itself is passable, kooky and fun, I found myself enamoured mostly with the gameplay loop. Throwing you back into the same level for more like Super Mario 64 allows you to find hidden corners and fun tasks across each world, and they are pretty much the perfect size.
The way I personally gauge size in a 3d platformer is whether you can ‘know’ the map or not. After 5 runs through Mafia Town, I understood the map and I enjoyed it. Game worlds shouldn’t overwhelm you too much or you get burnt out by the possibility.
A Hat in Time remedies the long hallways and vast nothingness of Yooka-Laylee’s maps, and it does it with style. There are collectables, but not so many that it seems impossible to bother with them. This is one of those games you might actually 100% if you enjoy it enough, and what a rewarding experience it is if you’re following that path.
Collecting yarn balls gives you what is essentially crafting material so that you can make more hats. The hats in A Hat in Time are your different abilities. Wing-cap gives you speed. Wizard hat gives you potion explosions. Ice hat lets you… ground pound? Regardless, they all work very well and are responsive and interesting.
A Hat in Time also doesn’t just throw concepts in for no reason. There’s a stealth aspect, but you’re only doing it because you’re sneaking into a bird movie set and you don’t have your bird passport.
There’s a whole act where you’re winning points for two side characters so that they can win an Oscar. Another act throws death contracts in your face where you have to complete certain tasks to get your life back. The worlds are no longer just places to platform and proceed through. They feel lived in and full of creative magic.
One level hilariously had me creating a penguin fan club by acquiring endorsements and becoming the ultimate diva. Above all else, A Hat in Time is raucously funny through and through.
You’ll play the first act and think that this is a solid 3d platforming game, but it quickly transforms into something beyond that. This extra push helps A Hat in Time sit comfortably with the all-time greats. Pick it up and don’t regret it, and maybe we’ll see some more games within this beautiful forgotten genre.
This copy of A Hat in Time was provided by Humble Bundle PR. Our Editor-In-Chief Jordan Oloman spent 10 hours trying to figure out which head topper gave him the best fashion.