Hey Island-guests welcome back to paradise. By now you will have noticed I am really into cute stuff. I prefer cuter anime, I am a plushie savant, I really like pink stuff and cute little critters and so on. So unsurprisingly I like cute games as well. Gears for Breakfast produced an adorable little platformer called A Hat in Time and it quickly grew out to be one of my favorite games. Two DLC packs in and a launch on Nintendo Switch in later, I want to share the love on this island.
As mad as a hatter
The plot of this collect-a-thon platformer is simple but wonderfully weird. You take control of a brave space traveller, by the name of Hat Kid. A young girl who lives all alone in her vast spaceship which is fueled by time energy. One day she is close to home when suddenly in mid space there is a knock on her window as the mafia shows up. Something goes wrong in this encounter and her time vault breaks open causing the timepieces, to scatter on the planet the mafia guy was from. Hat Kid goes to the planet to recover her missing timepieces.
She finds a friend in a mustachioed vigilante named Mustache Girl who decided to help her. But after realising what the time pieces can do she quickly turns on Hat Kid and decides to use the time pieces to destroy all that is evil … in an evil way. So now the race is on, to acquire enough time pieces to get Hat Kid home at least and stop Mustache Girl from her genocidal vigilantism. During your journey you have to collect enough yarn to create a series of hats that will grant you new abilities, while making movies, selling your soul and dealing with the Mafia. A simple premiss that is given shape by some wonderfully weird and flavorful characters. The writing is so funny and all the characters come alive. Even the scrubby mafia’s which are basically your equivalent to goomba’s in this game get a voice and some personality. Near the end basically everything does. A Hat in Time creates such a wonderful wacky and colourful world you keep wanting more. Each character crazier than the last but also unique and the proceedings in each stage nice come together, for a neat and somewhat touching conclusion. It is not a story that is meant to wow you, but you will constantly go .. .. awww thats so cute or charming. It also never seizes to surprise. The moment you find Hat Kids hidden pillow-ford and read her diary it only keeps getting better.
Hold on to your hat
This all is presented in lovely gameplay that is best represented in the silver age of 3d collect-a-thon platformers. The age of the Nintendo Gamecube like Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy , Whiplash or Mario Sunshine. Hat Kids natural moveset is fairly similar to that of the plumber but without that weird all water jug that he since.. only takes out for smash. Like most non “icons” of platforming Hat Kid has a double jump, which the big names never actually used but similar to Mario Hat Kid has a dive, can walk tightropes and she has a wall jump/ Hat Kid unlike Mario can do a little free running dashing up a bit as she wall jumps though, a nifty little trick that even puts Rayman’s ledge-grab to shame. Like Sonic n his 3d adventures she has a homing attack as well that can also help her get around. It is a very dynamic moveset that allows for pinpoint accuracy and uses the best of all the greats, while still feeling as her own. That sense of uniqueness mostly comes from the usage of the hats. Hat Kid gets access to six hats that allow her to do all sorts of neat stuff.
Her basic hat is he iconic top hat, which allows he to focus on mission objectives. The sprint hat gives you a speed boost and later on can even give you access to an adorable mount. The Witch Hat/Concoction had allows you to blow up certain objects. Her snow-cap allows her to use special transportation pads to launch the girl around the various stages. The Dweller had can materialise ghostly platforms or dematerialise “dreamlike” blocks. Her ultimate hat is the Time Hat which can pause time for a short amount of time. This kid isn’t just about hats though she can also customise these hats by equipping badges which apply several modifiers to the game. Like a featherfall, the ability to not bounce of walls in a dive or even a big beam attack when hitting with her Umbrella. She is one fashionable kid that knows how to get around. This all controls near flawlessly with you always feeling that any mistakes make are your own fault and not a poor control scheme. While the camera can give you some trouble at times, this very sparingly happened though and I could even see Gears from Breakfast doing this on purpose to get that nostalgic feeling. There would be times where the camera jittered where t made me more nostalgic than annoyed. The graphics are colorful and vibrant and the music, dear god how I love this music. I actually own the soundtrack to this game.. and this is the only piece of music I actually own because I am not to big on music. I adore this soundtrack and each stage has amazing musical framing and the boss themes are even better. By far my favorite Indie-game on the technical side.
Throwing your hat in the ring.
The base gameplay is way harder to explain than one might think. In essence we are dealing with a standard platformer but each stage is completely unique and every objective within that stage can play out completely different. The base game has four stages and forty time pieces, the two dlc’s add two new stages, 13 time pieces and a whole lot of other content, and then there are fan-mod levels which are highlighted as a genuine aspect of the game including achievements. There is a challenge mode as well as both online as offline co-op. Regardless of what you play your objective is always the same. Get the time piece, how you achieve this can differ greatly. From a simple platformer challenge to a murder mystery and from an mission where you have to assassinate an outhouse to stealthily infiltrating a movie studio. A Hat in time takes you on a unique adventure that you will want to complete from beginning to end. Even within each stage you goals are vastly different. In Maffia town I hunted golden tickets in a treasure hunt, I played the floor is lava (literally) and had a footrace ,against a guy on a rocket. In Subcon forest, I assassinated that outhouse and played hide and seek to save my life, from a super yandere. In Dead Bird Studio’s I defused a bomb and did a PR tour.. and then so much more. Every objective feels carefully crafted, like a miniature game of their own. Filled with great voice acting, funny jokes and tooth achingly sweet moments. All ending in one of the most satisfying and heartwarming conclusions I ever saw in a platform game, that sort of breaks the fourth wall.. yet also makes perfect sense is this vibrant world.
The two DLC stages are completely unique as well and both I can wholeheartedly recommend. The game has a solid lifespan for a platformer, depending on your skill the base game will last you between 10 and 15 hours, which is solid for a 3d platformer in it’s price range. The DLC and mostly the co-op and challenge mode adds many more hours and now that fan levels are a thing there is a healthy amount of gameplay time…at least for the completionist and trust me this is a game you want to complete.
Tipping my hat
Aside from the 50+ time pieces there is plenty to collect. First there are the buttons I mentioned earlier you can get from a strange glitchy vendor, whom you pay with pons, the currency of this game which you also collect and use throughout various stages. Then there are the hat flairs, color schemes and soundtracks. You an get these from completing so called time rifts, pure platforming focussed stages, that seem very similar to the FLUDDless stages of Mario Sunshine. The hat flairs can reshape your hats, and these can be very cute..if you get lucky. These are locked behind a RNG slot machine… which is a shame, luckily fan stages offer you a coin and gathering 3 allows you to use a slot machine to get more. Base game will disallow you to get everything but as the game is now, the joy of collecting just is greater. Downside to the RNG however still is, that you might have completed the entire game before getting that color scheme or flair you really wanted to use.
The DLC added some stickers to collect to decorate you umbrella with to make your character look more unique and accomplished in online or offline co-op games , fun but a bit more hollow than all the other collectables. My favorite collectable however are the artefacts. Each stage has a cute little artefact to complete, once completed you unlock a puple timerift, which allows you to find a children’s picture book telling the story of that stage.. or another cute story. These artefacts are in hidden packages scattered throughout the worlds. Completing them and assembling them on you spaceship allows you to read Hat Kids thoughts about them, surprise surprise, they are adorable Same for the story books! Keep your eyes open when playing this game and dont be afraid to explore, the game rewards you thoroughly.
Hats off to Hat in Time.
By now I think I made it clear that this game has won me over completely, move aside Mario, Hat Kid is here. Gears fom Breakfast has made this game that oozes love and cuteness. It’s clever, clean, cute, funny, invententive and more. If you like Banjo Kazooie, if you like Mario Sunshine or whatever 3d platformer is you thing, this game is one you should not miss. This game is probably my favorite PC game ever and most certainly my favorite Indie-game. While it does have it’s quirks and could technically improve some minor things these are all nitpicks that hardly blemish a game that shines brightly from beginning to end. Hat Kid deserves it to be one of the great platforming heroes of her generation and she definitely deserves a sequel. A sequel that I am sure that will come, I will eat my hat otherwise. Luckily this hat has a delicious flavor.