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There’s always an uncertainty with how Kickstarters will turn out. Thanks to the anticipation for the huge disappointment that was Yooka-Laylee, I’ve felt anxious with anything that came afterward. That’s when I was introduced to A Hat in Time, a seemingly simple platformer with a silly and fun aesthetic that just might’ve saved me from further dismay. With it’s colorful, cutesy graphics, it was obvious that this game was meant for me.
A Hat in Time doesn’t waste any time on a complicated plot. You play as a girl (in a hat, believe it or not) who lives on a spaceship fueled by hourglass-shaped pods that control time. When a mafia man from an outside planet forces his way on board to collect money, he ends up punching through the glass, which unfortunately sends him, you, and your fuel flying out into space. Your goal is to collect the ship’s lost hourglasses by completing various tasks on other planets, with the help of abilities you gain from making hats along the way.
As a fan of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, I was pleased when one of the first things I noticed was how similar, yet more polished, these controls were to those console’s platformers. The main character can wall jump, dive, and even walk/bounce off of tightropes (typically electrical wires). When it comes to the most feared move in any game, hooking onto whatever’s hanging from the ceiling and swinging from that object to another, there were no noticeable issues. Even the camera was simple to control and never caused any trouble. A Hat in Time was clearly made by creators who wanted to make a platformer and avoid the expected flaws.
These easy to maneuver moves and abilities make wandering through the vast open worlds a piece of cake. Each of these worlds is unique to their individual stories, introducing a handful of eccentric and quirky characters as well. One of the most interesting worlds was Dead Bird Studios, where you star in two very different movies made by opposing directors. This allows the world to have separate environments as well as objectives, such as solving a murder mystery on an old train by sneaking around the crows on board and collecting documents of all the potential suspects. Since focus remains on the abstractness of the worlds and slapstick humor, the tasks at hand were easy to complete and pretty straightforward.
Luckily, to counterbalance the straightforward tasks, the bosses of each world are a challenge. Typically the first boss is the easiest, but I had to replay that one three different times. Still, it was as fun as it was difficult. As the battle builds up, so does the boss’s list of moves, which encourages you to be quick on your feet and figure out a way to dodge and attack. Once you get comfortable and figure out the pattern of attacks the boss throws at you, they’ll switch it up. Their attacks become much faster and allow less time to think. Though I died numerous times in every battle, the challenge never got dull or boring. These are the types of battles I looked forward to, that keep the adrenaline running even into the next world.
A Hat in Time even has more than just the basic gameplay to offer. If you’d like to explore more than just the main tasks, there are smaller objectives within each level called Time Rifts that you must seek out through exploration. Upon finding them, you’ll be sucked into a blue, magical obstacle course with an hourglass toward the end. That hourglass, however, is not the only reward, as you will have an opportunity to play a slot machine-based roulette game for a chance to win new hat bling, fantastic BGM remixes, and lovely costume/hair colors. These little prizes were my drive to keep hunting for Time Rifts, though I still haven’t collected them all.
Speaking of the BGM, the music changes from level to level to fit their general aesthetic. Over the course of the game, you’ll hear an old-timey 1920’s inspired jam, heavy rock to build up your adrenaline during boss battles, and even some sweet jazz. A Hat in Time has a wide range of music that will cater to anyone’s personal taste. You’re even able to use the collected remixes that are obtained from the aforementioned slot machine to change the music in each of the levels and freshen up the vibes.
There’s no better word to describe A Hat in Time other than fantastic. The clean controls, adorable aesthetic, and fun gameplay make this game one that I would highly recommend. It’s likely that the developers took inspiration and components from other games to make the ultimate platformer, and they definitely succeeded. It’s polished, addicting, and altogether a fun experience for anybody. I’ll be taking my second go-around of this game very soon.