Developed byGears For BreakfastPublished by Humble BundleReviewed on PlayStation 4 (Also available for Xbox One, MacOS, and Microsoft Windows)
In a move to wrap up an excellent year for platformers, A Hat In Time takes the stage on consoles and PCs. As a Kickstarter game initially funded in 2012 (and overfunding by almost ten times the original goal amount), the game does exactly what it initially sets out to do: fill that niche of Nintendo-style platformers missing from the time. In what feels like wholesomeness in advertising, it’s full of reverence and nostalgia for the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube era of Nintendo platformers. This shows in the game’s tight controls and fun platforming puzzles.
The story of A Hat in Time is simple; a man from the mafia broke through the windshield of your space ship and the vacuum of space yanked all the fuel out of your vehicle. It’s up to you (and your hat) to recover the Time Pieces, which both function as fuel for the space ship as well as temporal oddities. Much like Power Stars from Super Mario 64, you’ll need to collect these to advance. From a spunky lass with a moustache to a disco jiving penguin, the characters you’ll meet will aid or delay your recovery of the time pieces.
In an attempt to harken to a better era of platformers, A Hat in Time oozes an intentional yester-year style. From cel shaded particle effects to depth of field, from lively but cartoony expressions to living text boxes, the game shouts “you don’t have to be photo realistic to look impressive”. A Hat in Time also takes advantage of modern consoles to deliver much larger levels than ever available on older consoles, allowing both wide and tall level design to traverse. Couple all of this with a simple but powerful photo mode and you have a visual stunner on your hands.
A Hat in Time also went the extra mile in obtaining a fun cast of voices to add a dash of life to every dialogue box, and it most definitely shows. Mafia grunts, movie producer scowls, there are spectres of hell, and the game even has a cat who knows its way around a kitchen all have a word or eight to say; they are voice acted well. The soundtrack even has such talented composers such as Grant Kirkhope providing audio tracks for the various worlds, lending even more credence to the Nintendo 64 era of platforming.
Despite A Hat in Time mimicking older era platformers, it intentionally tries to outplay its predecessors. From intuitive cameras to fun game-feel,the game feels refined and polished. Even before you start unlocking new hats (which grant powerups to change how you interact with the world), Hatgirl already feels like a fleshed out platformer character, and further unlocks via Badges just improve the character further.
Overall, A Hat in Time and its time in development are both well worth the wait. Fans of platformers will have plenty of options to choose from in the year 2017, and A Hat in Time is just as worthy to be on the same list as Sonic Mania and Super Mario Odyssey. An impressive result from Gears for Breakfast, and it’ll be exciting to see what comes next from the studio.