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Kickstarted games certainly haven’t gotten the best reputation over the past few years. Even with successful projects like Divinity: Original Sin and Darkest Dungeon, the high profile failings of Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee certainly made people wary of games funded using the platform. A Hat in Time falls into the former group of good kickstarted games, even with it’s noticeable shortcomings.
As with many platformers, A Hat in Time‘s story takes a back-seat to gameplay. Hat Kid, a mute kid with a fittingly large hat, is travelling through space in a hat-shaped spaceship. She’s soon interrupted by a mafia member attempting to board the ship, who is unsurprisingly trying to cause trouble. This leads to Hat Kid’s time pieces, the ship’s power source, being scattered about the nearby planet. The setup is brief, which means that it doesn’t take long to get to the actual gameplay.
Hat Kid’s basic move-set resembles Mario’s in Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, with the addition of a double jump for more precise platforming. Her dive move can also act as a triple jump if cancelled early, making large gaps easy to clear. You also acquire an umbrella early on, which is used for a basic 3-hit combo attack. These moves are responsive and the dive is fun to use, but it feels like Had Kid should have more options when it comes to movement without needing to use hats or badges.
Hats are the main gimmick in A Hat in Time, each granting a new ability to Hat Kid. These range from being able to sprint to slowing down time. Only one hat can be worn at a time and can switched out freely depending on which power you need. Having to switch out hats just to be able to move faster ends up being pretty irritating after a while, since it feels like something that should be available at all time. The different powers are generally not used in interesting ways either, making the hats feel unimportant instead of a game-changing addition.
Badges also suffer from feeling poorly thought out. These give Hat Kid extra abilities separate from hats, such as an item magnet that sucks in nearby pickups. There also negative badges that can be used to make the game tougher, or even add in Banjo-Kazooie style mumbling instead of regular voice acting. The badge mechanic would be a nice addition, if it wasn’t for certain badges that end up feeling necessary at all times like the hookshot. As you can only equip a few badges at a time, you don’t have much choice in what extra badges you can without removing ones that will likely be more useful.
Where A Hat in Time succeeds the most is the 4 main levels, offering a variety of different environments and characters. Mafia Town, the first chapter of the game, is the most traditional of the four main areas available. This is where you’ll learn how to control Hat Kid while also meeting some of the recurring characters. Mafia Town is a great introductory level, offering many different methods of traversal and items to collect.
The other three main chapters introduce new gameplay gimmicks to set them apart from Mafia Town. These range from more story driven segments, to an entirely free-roam chapter that lets you gather time pieces in any order. The variety shown in A Hat in Time‘s chapters makes each chapter enjoyable, but the game as a whole feels far to brief. After collecting enough time pieces and beating the final level, we had only been playing for around 5 hours. Collecting every time piece, along with the majority of extra collectables, added another 5 hours.
To the game’s credit, it was an enjoyable 10 hours, but there really needed to be a couple of extra chapters to flesh things out a little. Another level similar to Mafia Town would have been a welcome addition, since it has the best blend of platforming and story telling compared to the rest.
The game’s overall length is especially jarring thanks to the game’s story. As mentioned earlier A Hat in Time‘s story isn’t too important, but it has charm. However, the finale ends up happening seemingly at random, making it seem like something was cut during development. The final level itself is pretty good, offering some of the hardest platforming in the game, but the conclusion to the story is weak.
The visuals in A Hat in Time are another mixed bag, though the overall visual style is pleasant. In the reviewed PC version there are also some occasional performance issues, though these were infrequent enough to not become irritating. Less infrequent are problems with the camera. Many times it would be facing in a direction making platforming awkward, sometimes even shaking for a few seconds before settling down. Outside of these problems the camera does its job, but it gets in the way more than we’d like.
A Hat in Time is a charming platformer that manages to stay enjoyable for the majority of its, admittedly modest, story. More levels and a more interesting moveset would have been welcome additions, but this is still worth playing for fans of platformers.
As we have an additional Steam code for the game, tell us in the comments your favorite stories about time-travel for a chance to win a code. Giveaway ends December 1st midnight CET.