Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
While I lack much of the fond nostalgia for the 3D platforming genre, I was completely enthralled by A Hat in Time. Its bright, cheery art and music, witty dialogue, and grandiose level designs instantly catapulted Hat Kid among the upper echelon of the late 90s Golden Age classics.
Simply put: A Hat in Time is the most fun I’ve had with a 3D platformer since Psychonauts.
Have Hat Will Travel
A Hat in Time stars a young space-faring, top hat-wearing girl called Hat Kid. In the opening moments her spaceship’s fuel, represented as 40 hourglass time pieces, are scattered throughout several different planets, prompting her to go after them to continue her journey.
Levels are divided up between four different worlds, plus a finale that serves as a respectful tip of the cap to Bowser’s Castle. Each world has around ten levels to explore, including bonus challenge levels called Time Rifts.
Most levels can be unlocked and tackled out of order. I could jump around between worlds if I grew tired of the gloomy spooks of Subcon Forest or the heights of Alpine Skyline. The different Story Acts changed the layout of otherwise familiar zones to an impressive degree. A later stage in Mafia Town blankets the world in lava, while one of the more exhilarating levels in Dead Bird Studio tasked me with leading a marching band through the rooftops without touching the ground or letting the band catch up.
A Hat in Time excels at quality over quantity, focusing on just a handful of levels but fleshing them out into gigantic, vastly replayable playgrounds full of hidden secrets, collectibles, and varying objectives and goals.
Hat Kid can double jump as well as dash in mid-air and wall-climb. These critical moves granted me superior freedom of movement right from the start. Jumping, dashing, sprinting, and climbing through large levels full of delicious verticality is a constant joy, and that’s before I began unlocking additional hats and badges.
The top hat is cute, but mostly useless. Yarn collectibles can be gathered to unlock new hats to reach new areas and solve new puzzles – adding a nice touch of Metroidvania to the level designs. The Brewing Hat lets Hat Kid throw explosive potions, clearing certain boxes, while the Ice Hat granted an Ice Stomp to reach new areas.
My favorite was the Dweller’s Mask, which grants a special sight around a limited radius, forming otherwise invisible blocks. The puzzles that used this feature were particularly inventive and enjoyable, forcing me to think creatively as I forged paths through impassable walls.
Badges can be purchased from a vendor, and grant various passive benefits or quirks. Some like the hookshot are critical to completing the game, while others are just for fun. I found the Scooter badge upgrade to the Sprint Hat extremely useful in boss battles. There’s also a host of extra goodies, including hat flair to change the look of your hats, and color changes for Hat Kid.
A Hat in Time has not been rated by the ESRB. The art style and dialogue is very cartoony, but there are some particularly tense and scary moments. One level features a haunted house where you must avoid a frightening apparition, and it is legitimately terrifying. You don’t need to complete every level to beat the game, however.
For most 3D platformers there is a special formula where whimsical style meets tight gameplay. A Hat in Time intersects them beautifully. Frequent checkpoints and well-organized story missions help to minimize any frustrations. The delightful, head-bobbing soundtrack and memorable characters kept me fully glued into every situation, whether it’s uncovering a murder mystery on a train of hilariously inept crow detectives or battling a possessed outhouse in a haunted forest. Like Hat Kid herself, A Hat in Time may be small, but capable of great things.