What a year this has been for fans of 3D platformers. We’ve had it all, from Mario stealing all the Game of the Year awards to himself, a lizard and bat (and a snake in a hat), as well as, well, a game featuring a sentient box (hey, I didn’t say all platformers this year were good!). Another great addition to this year’s collection is the recently released A Hat in Time, yet another nostalgic throwback to the good old Nintendo 64 days, but with enough content to hold its own in the modern era.
Some heavy Super Mario Sunshine vibes
A Hat in Time puts you in control of a mute but charming little girl aboard a spaceship (think of it as your hub world) which, after being attacked by a space Russian mafioso (I’m not even joking), loses all of its hourglasses (fuel for the ship). It’s up to you to explore various levels throughout the world and find all 40 of them in order to restore your ship and go back home. Yeah, after playing games featuring nearly a thousand collectibles, hunting down 40 doesn’t sound like a difficult task, and to be honest, it isn’t. A Hat in Time isn’t exactly a long or difficult game. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun game, though, as the short journey is at least a charming and hilarious one.
The game shines in its creativity. Despite not having many worlds, each one of them is as unique as it can be. Don’t think you’ll see the stereotypical grass, ice, fire and underwater levels here. The first world is a Super Mario Sunshine-esque village populated by bald mafia mobsters with Russian accents. The second world, on the other hand, is a movie studio with two films being shot at the same time, one directed by a Scottish owl and the other one by a flamboyant penguin wearing a disco outfit. The other levels are as wacky and creative as those worlds I’ve just described. Throughout your journeys you’ll also find some colorful characters, such as a moustached Red Riding Hood girl with an intense wish to brutally murder the Mafia world inhabitants (one of the game’s darkest and funniest moments), a feline chef who speaks with a southern accent, and many more.
The game told me to edit my portrait. I just couldn’t resist
Besides hourglasses, another main objective in this game is crafting various hats for your main character by the means of collecting balls of yarn. Those hats aren’t just cosmetic upgrades, however, as each one of them grants your character with special abilities, such as increased speed or a radar that can guide you to your next objective. You can also buy badges with a special currency. Those badges also grant some extra buffs to your little hero. While not mandatory to be found in order to complete the game, those extra items help extend the game’s duration a bit more.
Hey kid, play some Zep
Finally, I need to talk about the game’s sound design. Unlike most 3D platformers not called Jak & Daxter, A Hat in Time features voice acting, and a very over-the-top form at that. Everybody is voiced in such a cheesy way I can’t help but actually like most of the performances due to the game’s overall tongue-in-cheek and humorous nature. The soundtrack is also excellent. Grant Kirkhope, the man behind most of Rare’s games’ soundtracks, as well as more recent titles such as Yooka-Laylee and Mario + Rabbids, is one of the many guest composers for the game, and he knocks it out of the park, as well as everyone else. Most tunes are very catchy and very memorable, ranging from your typical shiny-happy adventure songs to even heavy metal tracks during some boss battles.
If I had to point out a flaw in this game, besides the aforementioned short length, that’d be the graphics. Yes, the game is colorful and it features a charming cartoonish vibe, but I also can’t help but think the overall graphics, especially the character models, look like they were ripped straight out of a Playstation 2 title.
I truly wish A Hat in Time was a longer game. But while it didn’t last for long, it sure was entertaining all throughout. Its levels were among the most creative I’ve ever seen in a 3D platformer, its soundtrack and voice acting were also great, and it boasted a nearly infectious amount of charm with its humor and (cheap, admittedly) cartoonish visuals. In a year filled with great collectathons, it’s never a bad thing to see yet another good addition to the roster.