Hat in Time review: Take me hat in time!!
Updated: Jul 21
(I know that pun was terrible but I really could not think of anything else)
Rayman Legends put me in a mood for platformers, if you have read my review of it you will know why (click here) I was originally going to play Yooka Laylee but due to being unable to use the controller and the keyboard controls shall we say... are debatably bad. I will be get back to it as soon as my controller is working again. Hat in Time was part of humble monthly (I am a humble partner full disclosure) and arrived at a particularly good time so I exchanged Yooka Laylee for it. Enjoy!
You are an alien that looks like an adorable little girl who,is traveling across the cosmos to find your way home and during a daily maintenance (at least I think it is) check when a man from the Mafia planet comes knocking demanding a tax for stationary ships. Chaos insures when you refuse to pay and it results in all time pieces being scattered across the planets below. Now stranded, Hat Kid heads down to the planets to collect the Time Pieces in order to continue home, on the way she will meet a cast of interesting characters and gets embroiled in the various conflicts each planet. It does start out rather simple, and indeed remains easy on plot for a majority of the game until the end where it suddenly starts becomes quite heartfelt. I really did not expect Hat in Time to go in that direction and it pulls it off quite well because the cast of characters become very likeable and at times relatable. The characters grow and change over the course of the game and you would not think Hat in Time, a cute game about collecting things would have decently written story.
The tone however can be a little unstable because each planet has its own setting and themes which means we could go from wacky high jinks in Mafia Town to corporate espionage at the Bird Movie Studio to spooky scary adventures in the haunted forest etc. Even within those planets the tone could turn south, one particular level goes full Outlast out of nowhere (a sort of PG non gore rendition of Outlast in terms of tone and level design). And while it really unsettling it is at complete odds with the rest of game’s overall tone and design. It also ends really anti climatically, I cannot shake off the idea that some of the story choices might have not been thought out well enough for it be cohesive, a flawed but good story overall.
The boss fights however are immense fun to play and are very inspired both in presentation and gameplay wise; they remind me a little of Cuphead’s bosses in that everyone has different patterns that need to be studied in order to defeat them while still making you employ the skills you have learned over the course of the game. They are not as hard as Cuphead’s but can be a little jarring after a number of somewhat relaxing puzzle platforming sections. In fact the difficulty curve is a little bit all over the place with some bosses wiping the floor with me and me defeating them on my first try. Some platforming sections are fairly easy while others (namely one with a parade where if you stop moving you will lose HP because the band will bump into you) ramp up the challenge by placing a number of demands on you out of nowhere. It is just another crack in the game and a lack of consistent vision.
Before we move onto the graphics section let’s talk about that one Outlast equivalent level. In the third world you have to do a chapter called Queen Vanessa’s Manor, once you enter the house all pretence of platforming is gone and the game turns into a 2d survival horror about hiding under tables waiting for the child snatching Queen Vanessa to leave. I will not deny that it is a very intense level in terms of sound design and level creation; for a survival horror. As a platforming game it is totally at odds with the rest of the game, most of the skills learned and used before that level and past it are at complete odds in terms of design, it feels out of place and an unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. I cannot help but feel Gears for Breakfast decided that they wanted to experiment with horror and just did not think about the possible jarring switch of...everything. I don’t know, maybe they just wanted their own Shalebridge Cradle.
Now back to graphics and art style, graphics wise it is not the strongest, even on the highest settles it would not look out of place on the Wii or even the PS3. However the game really does shine in its art style, everything is bright, colourful and cartoonish, distinct, memorable and each world has a different look and feel. It is all very pleasant to look at, nothing to really fault here.
The technical aspects are a little over the place, I did not encounter any crashes or game breaking bugs but I did suffer some minor glitches where Hat girl’s model bugged out for a few seconds, frozen in place despite me platforming. Sometimes the ground would stop being solid and I would fall to my death other times the supposed death drop was not, allowing me to jump back to safety, sometimes platform edges that I should have been able to grab a hold of but Hat Kid did not because of reasons forcing me to do the platforming all over again. All of these again highlight the games overall flaws and how they are there in every part of the game.
Hat in time is a faulty game, however for what troubles it has design wise it makes up for in pure heart. Everything is filled with innocence and joy; it is a short but very enjoyable return to the childlike mentality adults sometimes look for. Recommended with the caveats as mentioned but they will not really damage the game too much.