A Hat in Time is the second-best hat-based platformer this year


A HIT on PS4 and Xbox One

So, let’s get this out of the way. A Hat in Timeis a wonderful, charming game, and comparing it to Super Mario Odysseyisn’t really fair. But since both games are 3D platformers using a hat as the central mechanic, comparisons are inevitable.

I was talking to Jordan about A Hat in Timeand admitted I spent the first hour or so reflexively trying to throw my hat at stuff. Once I got past my own hang-ups though, I discovered a delightful platform game that deserves your attention.

A Hat in Time(PC, PS4 [tested], Xbox One)Developer: Gears for BreakfastPublisher: Humble BundleReleased: October 5, 2017 (PC) / December 6, 2017 (Consoles)MSRP: $29.99

Hat Girl’s starship is powered by crystal hourglasses, and she’s on her way home as the game opens. An encounter with the local Mafia breaks bad, and her ship’s fuel scatters all across a variety of colorful worlds. If she wants to get home she’ll have to collect the hourglasses, some of which are leaking chronitons and causing time rifts.

A Hat in Timeis clearly inspired by platform games that came before, playing very similarly toSuper Mario 64. Hat Girl’s starship acts as a hub world, and she has to collect a certain number of hourglasses before she can access every part of the ship. Once she has access to a new room she can visit a new level on the planet’s surface by peering through a telescope. There are usually several hourglasses to go after at any given time, and choosing which one to pursue lets Hat Girl enter an instanced version of the level built around retrieving that particular collectable. Once she picks it up, she returns to the ship and can choose the next challenge.

Along the way, Hat Girl meets a friend/rival in Mustache Girl and ends up interacting with a whole boatload of other silly creatures. There are tons of muppety mafia goons, crows who seek your most intimate secrets, and lost spirits who crave flesh. Almost every character has a voice and a cute or funny line of dialogue, and there’s a lot of personality shining through in the expressions and idle animations. Every level starts with a hand-drawn backdrop that helps set the mood and lets you know a little bit about what you’re in for.

What really sets A Hat in Timeapart are the instanced levels, each of which is a creative challenge that can dramatically change how a level is laid out. As an example, the first level you visit has several rivers flowing down from a central mountain. One of the later challenges in this level turns all the water to lava, and asks you to figure out how to maneuver around it to stop the flow.

Other levels include an avian movie studio with rival production companies vying for your attention, and a demon-infused forest where you have to perform odd jobs to get your soul back. I even found a full, dog-based text adventure tucked away in a hidden corner of the world. There’s no shortage of creativity on display, and some of the later levels bend time itself in interesting ways.

It’s not perfect… I would have liked a little more camera control so I could look further above me, and I got a bit frustrated at one of the stealth missions. It’s also not always clear when you have enough collectables to make yourself an upgrade, so I didn’t realize I had access to a power that would have been helpful for quite a while. And one move you’ll use a lot takes up an inventory slot on your hat instead of being an innate ability, so there’s very little reason ever to remove it. Overall these are all minor gripes, and I quite enjoyed my time with the game.

I went back and read Chris’s reviewof the PC version after playing for a while, and it’s spot on. If you only play one platform game this year, it should be Mario Odyssey. But if you don’t have a Switch or are looking for another platformer to get through the cold winter months, do yourself a favor and give A Hat in Timea shot.

[These impressions are based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]