A Hat in Time is a romp in 3D-platformer nostalgia
As a kid, I’d spend many days playing 3D platformers like Spyro and Super Mario 64. There was something strangely addicting about them – cartoonish worlds filled with bright colors and non-player characters giving you guidance along the way.
Except for the occasional dip into nostalgia, I haven’t played these types of games in a long time. Lately, I’ve been playing things like This War of Mine, which offers in-depth and immersive examinations of more serious topics, like how war ravages people; stuff like Terraria or Stardew Valley, which offer players ways to truly make the game their own; or RPGs that focus on a grander, overarching storyline.
Even the platformers I’ve played – Little Nightmares and Morphite – don’t exactly have that same old-time feel, either focusing on an engrossingly dark atmosphere in the case of Little Nightmares or on the free exploration of the universe in Morphite.
A Hat in Time, however, is more similar to those older games. The game follows Hat Kid, whose timepieces are scattered into the universe when a hulking Mafia man breaks her spaceship window. By traveling to different worlds and harnessing the powers of many different hats, you must retrieve those timepieces before someone else exploits them to manipulate the time-space continuum for their own selfish desires.
The goal of the game’s developers was to recreate that older-game experience, and they’ve succeeded. Here are just a few of the ways gamers can be reminded of those 3D platformers from the 1990s.
A CASUAL AND ESCAPIST ATMOSPHERE
A Hat in Time was marketed as a “cute-as-heck 3D platformer,” and for good reason. It’s filled to the brim (no pun intended) with bright colors, smiling characters, cel-shaded designs reminiscent of PlayStation and N64 games, and lighthearted sound effects – all of which could make the happiest Disney film look serious in comparison. Even the ghosts can look extremely silly as they’re forcing you to sign away your soul.
These details make the game just that, a game. The characters and story of A Hat in Time don’t feel that real, but in this case, that’s not a bad thing at all. A Hat in Time – like many of those 3D platformers – is a fun escape from life’s worries, where dastardly but very silly villains await.
Remember in Spyro when you had to travel to different worlds to collect dragon’s eggs? Or in Super Mario 64, where you could pick and choose what levels you wanted to play in whatever order, so long as you had the requisite number of stars? (Come to think of it, that was the case in Spyro, too, but with dragon’s eggs.)
In those older 3D platformers, most of the game was driven not really through a story – though there was always one that involved saving the world in some way – but rather a goal. The joy in the game came from meeting all sorts of characters, in stages with different themes like ghosts or ice kingdoms, based on puzzles but not overly long or complicated in most cases.
A Hat in Time brings back those elements, too. There’s an overarching element of saving the world somehow, but the journey along the way is much more interesting. A Hat in Time consists of several different chapters which plop you on different worlds. The chapters are also divided into acts so you can further explore that world and its denizens. Lastly, like those stars or dragon eggs, you only have access to certain chapters and acts if you have enough money or collect enough timepieces.
And since each chapter consists of several related acts, A Hat in Time goes a little deeper than one might expect into each smaller plot. For instance, in one world you are stuck in the middle of a rivalry between two movie makers and could spend a few hours acting in movies that will help them one-up each other. By the end of it all, you can become pretty attached to the two rivals.
On that note, A Hat in Time has a lot of strangely friendly non-player characters. The bad guys give you the impression that they don’t find you that strange, or even really antagonize you, even though they might get angry at you and comment how out-of-this-world you and the timepieces are.
In fact, like a lot of these older games, you are on track to befriending many of the folks you come across. Even if that doesn’t happen immediately, you’ll bet that it will sooner or later.
The characters in A Hat in Time, just like most of its world, are cartoonish and overall enjoyable to interact with. Even that big Mafia man who let all your timepieces out when he smashed your spaceship’s window is no exception.
A Hat in Time is available on PS4, Xbox One, Mac, and PC.
Image credits: Gears for Breakfast