You have to hand it to Gears for Breakfast for their Kickstarter-funded A Hat in Time. A nod to the 3D platformers that Rareware once ruled over, the story of a top-hat wearing girl and her quest to find her missing hourglass-shaped fuel for her spaceship delivers a whole lot for those yearning for those types of classic games. With that being said, it doesn't come without its share of flaws.
A Hat In Time has the character of Hat Kid traversing through different worlds in order to seek out her source of fuel. Along the way she makes many allies and enemies throughout her adventure, helping/hindering her chances to get her ship up and running again. As she runs through the worlds, she must aid in completing tasks that range from making movies and rescue missions to tackling foxy apparitions, all of which is presented with their own unique gameplay mechanics.
In order to collect the hourglasses, Hat Kid must have the right sort of arsenal to complete her missions. Sometimes all she needs is her trusty umbrella, but for the most part she will be required to buy special badges to unleash hidden potential or collect yarn balls to knit new & useful hats. For the former, players can be given various different powers ranging from speed boosters and safe landing techniques to even an extra fighting mechanism that'll aid in battle. New hats will also give Hat Kid an added advantage such as explosion magic and ice smash for those bigger beasts that you'll deal with.
If there's one thing A Hat in Time is brimming it, it's personality. Each world you traverse through is not only vast enough to get lost in (which I did on numerous occasions), but the people and places you run into have a lot of creative character. Mafia Town is chock full of bald baddies from the Italian/Russian side of the mob, while Death Bird Studio has movie-crazed fowls and an Irish wolfhound desiring Oscar gold. Perhaps the one that stood out the most was Subcon Forest, which not only gave off a spooky vibe, but managed to creep me the hell out in a couple of its missions. (For a game that's geared towards an all-ages demographic, I was kinda impressed with some of this level's nightmare fuel.)
Another thing that makes this game stand out is its way of mixing up genres. In one mission you might be embarking on a chase to keep a train from blowing up, and in the next you are hiding from a cursed spirit in a stealthy quest to find out what's hidden in her attic. Of course with its platformer mechanics, you'll also be fighting baddies, jumping high spots to reach the top of a level, and discovering secrets that'll add a couple more hourglasses to your total. But it's the moments where A Hat in Time thinks outside the box when the game shines at its brightest.
It also helps that it's packing a golden funny bone throughout its run. Whether it's a quip from a fellow ally or a visual gag from one of the films you help to make, there's no lossage of cheeky humor that Gears for Breakfast delivers throughout its ten-hour runtime. Although the game is for all ages, be prepared to find some hidden adult humor and the like throughout, some of which may make you do a double-take when you first get hit with it.
Unfortunately for all the good A Hat in Time delivers, it's difficult to not notice some of the various flubs that this game tosses at you. In a couple of the levels, I often traversed through areas that were too dark to see, resulting in me falling to my demise a few times. It also doesn't help that there are some spots that had Hat Kid trapped in walls, which had me finagling my controls as much as possible until she became free from her glitchy prison. Out of all these flaws, none of these irked me more than its pesky camera.
Almost like being revisited by the godawful angles I had experienced in The Simpsons Game, the amount of times I misjudged a distance between two points was well into the hundreds. Even with your upgrades and new power-ups, it was practically impossible to truly figure out how you should land on a spot, especially those pesky tightropes. Be glad you didn't hear the obscenities that flew out of my mouth every time this would occur, as it would've even caused the ghosts of George Carlin and Richard Pryor to blush a bit.
But despite these irksome flaws, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a ball playing A Hat in Time. It is by no means a perfect adventure, but the amount of good times I had with it definitely outweighs the bad. With its $30 price tag, it's also quite the bargain thanks to the amount of fun and exploration this game gives you.
- Inventive worlds, characters
- Hilarious dialogue
- A good mishmash of gaming genres in one title
- Some areas too dark to see
- Not enough checkpoints in harder areas
- Buggy spots
A Hat In Time is a fun and bountiful spiritual successor to Nintendo 64-era platformers, despite some of its rougher areas. One moment you'll be enthralled with its personality, and in the next you'll be cursing its name to the stars above. In the end, A Hat in Time's enjoyment level certainly one-ups the annoyances it'll give you.
Promotional consideration provided by CJ Melendez of OverStrategist, Inc. Reviewed on the PS4.