Platformers have seen a massive resurgence lately with several recent releases that invoke nostalgia for traditional collect-a-thons. A Hat in Time from developer Gears of Breakfast seems to fall perfectly into that genre with its cute aesthetics and fun gameplay. Following in the footsteps of giants in the genre, A Hat in Time carves out its own little spot rather well.
The game starts up rather oddly. You, a little girl, are on your way home in your ridiculously advanced spaceship that looks like a giant playroom from start to finish. However, your trip back is rudely interrupted, and you end up in an accident causing untold destruction as your ship's fuel is launched out onto nearby planets. It's up to you, this wonderfully precocious little girl with her own spaceship and the ability to stitch together magical hats, to recollect these hourglasses and ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands. While most don't realize the hourglass' power, others do, and it becomes a sort of race to get your fuel and get home before terrible things start befalling the land.
Much like other platformers, the levels themselves are themed to specific things. To explain in more detail, the first level is known as Mafia Town and is full of Mafiosos strutting around. Oddly enough, not all of them are evil, and you'll see them randomly dancing or simply staring off towards the horizon. While you'll see tons of the same "creatures" over and over, the world feels complete. The town itself is a resort-like town, with beachfront property, giant stacks of TNT, and other little goofy areas for you to get lost. Each level has its own unique set of characters and an overall plot to why it exists as it is. These backstories can be found by accessing time rifts in the level and collecting all of the hidden pages of a memory book within, at which point once you're finished in the rift you'll be treated to a quick picture book of how the world came to be. It's a beautiful storytelling touch not only to see this world brimming with life but understand there's a reason for why it exists. I think so far out of the levels I've seen, Subcon Forest stands out as the most fun experience for me.
Aside from the detailed and expressive worlds, one of A Hat in Time's big draws is the ability to find yarn and stitch it into new hats as the game progresses. These hats become important tools within the game as they range in strength with some providing you the ability to sprint or others allowing you to turn into an icy statue to fling yourself across gaps or slam down onto enemies at will all in the name of puzzle solving and/or platforming. This creates new opportunities for you to go back to previous levels and attempt to find/reach previously inaccessible areas to gain new items. Switching them on the fly is quick and easy, letting you quickly adjust to the situation at hand.
As a fun note, I ended up playing the game with keyboard and mouse rather than a controller. This was mostly because I wanted to see if it affected the gameplay in any negative way (note - it doesn't), but also because I already expected a platformer to be perfectly set up for a controller. The keyboard and mouse combo was surprisingly easy to learn and master in a short time, and I found myself quickly scaling walls or bouncing around without much issue. Since it was made for anyone to enjoy, the simplicity and ease of use of the controls mean there's no barrier to jump in and play.
Circling back to the colorful world, the voice work is another treat. There's a rather interesting cast of characters you'll be interacting with ranging from a mustachioed little girl to a chef cat and more. Each has their own very distinct voice and personality, giving a ton of extra flavor to the game. Platforming is as much about the item collection as it is about seeing the world and interacting with its cast and A Hat in Time shines here. For those also interested in games with collectibles, A Hat in Time has tons to snag. Relics are perhaps some of the more fun ones as you have to assemble them back on your spaceship.
A Hat in Time is a fantastic experience. It's got stuff that anyone of any age can enjoy. I know it reminded me of some of the classic 3D platformers of the mid-to-late 90's, both in general feel and tone. Throw in a goofy-yet-fun story and a wacky cast (with great voice acting to boot), and you'll be able to get anyone interested. While the game is only available on PC at the time of this review, it will be coming to consoles at a later point.Note: A Hat in Time was reviewed based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.