There was a point in time when 3D platformers dominated the video game market. However, gaming trends have evolved, and now most games seem to feature a more open world experience. With these larger worlds, 3D platforming games have become scarce, mostly coming from Nintendo and SEGA. But with the rise of indie game developers, this genre is being revitalized with a passion we've never seen before. A Hat in Time is one of several 3D platformers to release this year, and it represents everything you could possibly want in a modern day title from this genre.
Like most 3D platformers, A Hat in Time has a simplistic story. An adventurous young girl named Hat Kid is traveling through space and enjoying life when a resident of the nearby world Mafia Town knocks on her door and demands a toll for passing by. Hat Kid responds to this by shutting the door in the mafia member's face, thinking the problem is dealt with. However, he comes crashing through the glass door, which immediately causes outer space to suck out many of Hat Kid's precious belongings, as well as Hat Kid herself. Most importantly, Hat Kid loses the time pieces that run her spaceship.
After this unfortunate property damage occurs, Hat Kid crashes into Mafia Town, where she meets a mustached girl named...Mustache Girl. The two quickly become friends and Mustache Girl vows to help Hat Kid find all of the missing time pieces in Mafia Town.
A Hat in Time isn't heavy with its story, but it is simple and cute enough to keep players invested. While this synopsis only covers the beginning of the game, each world has its own unique story. One world will have you helping two different directors make an award-winning film while another will put you through a mysterious haunted house to uncover its dark secrets. But no matter what world you're visiting, the end goal stays the same for Hat Kid: collect all the time pieces so she can make her way home.
By this point, you understand where the game is going. You'll be playing through several different worlds to collect as many time pieces as you can. It's a formula that's similar to games like Super Mario Odyssey or Banjo-Kazooie. However, A Hat in Time takes this formula a step further by giving the player different powers they can utilize along their journey.
As Hat Kid, you can collect several different types of yarn to stitch together various hats. Each hat has its own unique abilities. For example, the default hat shows you where your next objective is located, and a different hat lets you run really fast. These hats can also be upgraded with gems you'll be collecting. In the case of the sprinting hat, you can get an upgrade that instead lets you ride a scooter that travels much faster.
These power ups will help you get to places you couldn't reach before, but they're also just fun to use outside of their intended functions. No hat is more important than the other, so you'll want to collect as much yarn as possible to get them all. Hat Kid also has an umbrella she can wack baddies with, a homing attack she can use to bop enemies on the head, a dive move similar to the one in Super Mario Sunshine, and a double jump to get to harder-to-reach platforms.
However, because Hat Kid has so many utilities at her disposal, the game can become pretty easy. The platforming segments are never super challenging. When you do die, the game is rather forgiving about where your last checkpoint was. When I sat down with A Hat in Time, I had collected all the time pieces in just one weekend.
The game becomes a lot more challenging when fighting bosses. You won't be shaking your controller in rage by any means, but it will take a couple of tries to figure out each boss's unique patterns. It feels super satisfying to defeat each boss in this game, and the final level is one of the coolest battles I've seen in any platforming game.
A Hat in Time plays like a dream. It hits all the marks a 3D platformer should and even goes beyond those expectations.
Sound Design and Visuals
The sound design for A Hat in Time is phenomenal. Every noise in this game is meant to make you feel great. Even though it's something simple, the crescendo of notes that are made when collecting gems in succession is satisfying enough to make me want to collect multiple gems at once every time. The cries of enemies and the effect noises for all the power ups make everything feel much more special.
But all of this would mean nothing if the game didn't have a good soundtrack. Thankfully, A Hat in Time features music I would gladly listen to any time outside of the game. Each song fits the mood of each stage, and each boss battle has a theme that stands out from the rest of the adventure.
This wonderful sound experience mixes very well with the game's beautiful art direction. All of the characters are colorful and cartoony. This stylized look and the expressive characters reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. But A Hat in Time has its own personalized feeling to this art style. The environments in this game are so stunning that you'll forget it isn't even running on the latest version of Unreal Engine.
A Hat in Time is one of the best 3D platformers I've ever played. It has a wonderful blend of everything that makes the genre great: a simple story, likeable characters, a beautiful art design, and one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. The game is a little short and easy, but the developers are currently working on DLC for it, some of which will be free. For the price tag of $29.99, A Hat in Time is a must-buy for anybody that has ever enjoyed a 3D platforming game in their life. I can easily see myself playing this one over and over again for years to come.