Note: Steam key was provided by the game developer.
The story of A Hat in Time begins on a spaceship, where a knock on a spaceship windshield leads to that glass being broken and the vacuum of space forcing open the door to the ship’s time vault. The time pieces stored inside then get sucked through the hole and scatter among various worlds. Your task is to venture to each world and gather 40 of the lost time pieces.
Each world has its own unique story while also continuing the main narrative, from a Mafia-filled planet (that’s more humorous than it sounds) to a planet of two birds competing to make the best movie. It’s all completely wacky, but in a super charming way.
If you’ve played any 3D platformer, then you’re already familiar with most of the mechanics that are in A Hat in Time. The most important things for 3D platformers to have are tight controls and a proper sense of depth. The controls here are very responsive, as Hat Kid is able to sprint, crawl, and double-jump her way around each world. Depth perception is mostly on point, with a few minor annoyances here and there, but nothing above and beyond what any 3D platformer would have.
Gameplay-wise, the selling point for A Hat in Time is the selection of hats available, each of which grant you special abilities. You start with a top hat that points you in the direction your objective lies, and from there unlock others that allow you to sprint, turn into a block of ice, mix up an explosive potion, and more. The hats also lend themselves to the Metroidvania approach to the game, as certain areas and items are inaccessible without the proper hat powers. This will encourage you to revisit past levels, but not in a way that ever feels like grinding. I also appreciated how levels would warn you if you did not have sufficient abilities to clear it.
In addition to hats, you can also purchase badges throughout the game that grant you even more abilities. The only one of these that is core to succeeding is a hook shot badge that allows you to fire and swing from a grappling hook. Every other badge available allows you to enhance (or hinder) your character to fit your playstyle. Admittedly, I rarely changed these throughout my gameplay.
I wouldn’t describe A Hat in Time as a wildly challenging game. You’re not looking at the next Cuphead here. What I will describe the game as is incredibly fun and relaxing. It offered just enough challenge so that I couldn’t completely breeze through it, but never had me frustrated to a point of needing to walk away and take a breather. I felt engaged the entire time, but never stressed.
There was one world in the game that isn’t separated into chapters as the others are, instead leaving you to free roam and look for your objectives on your own. As I found the individual stories of each chapter to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the game, it made this world feel a little unfinished compared to the others.
Visuals and Sounds
A Hat in Time provides a colorful, vibrant collection of environments throughout the game that are populated with delightful characters. The worlds range in tone, as some are bright and cheery, one reflects a mystery noir, and another could have been ripped right out of A Nightmare Before Christmas. While the worlds do have different themes, they remain bound to the same charming art style.
As you venture from world to world, your partner on this journey is a magical soundtrack that enhances the tone of each area. While completely original, it does spark a feeling of nostalgia at the same time.
The voice acting also hits the mark nicely, with the only disappointment being that characters’ mouth movements are not synced to the dialogue. Instead, we see a generic mouth-flapping from each. I realize how much time is required to get that animation done, but still, it was animation that was missed.
A self-described “cute-as-heck 3D platformer”, A Hat in Time is just that and more. If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing game with just the right amount of nostalgia and story, this is the game for you.
+ Charming characters with great voice acting
+ Just the right amount of challenge for an engaging, yet relaxing experience
– Suffers from the same depth perception issues that other 3D platformers face
– Character mouths are not synced to dialogue