It took me a while because of money and other games in my backlog, but I finally got my hands on a Hat in Time for the Nintendo Switch. And after completing it last night, might as well right my review of it.
A Hat in Time was originally a PC game developed by Gears for Breakfast and published by Humble Bundle. It is another indie game inspired by 3D platformers of old, though its gameplay structure mostly takes cues from Super Mario 64 and Sunshine. You take the role of a nameless alien girl called the Hat Kid, who travels through various worlds to retrieve the hourglasses she lost from a freak accident during her space travel. However, there’s another named Moustache Girl, who plans to use the hourglasses you lost to turn back time and rule a villain-free world, so you also have to stop her too once you collect about 25 hourglasses (there are 40 in total).
Not counting the DLC, there are 4 worlds in total to explore, with each having their own level platforms to maneuver through and obstacles to get past through with a required ability you should’ve gained earlier. These abilities come in the form of the different hats you wear, such as a sprint hat and a time stop hat, and the badges you collect (the hookshot badge is completely mandatory for your playthrough). There are also special levels hidden each world called “Time Rifts,” which is where the Super Mario Sunshine inspiration comes into fruition, and these were the most fun I had with the game. Activating certain Time Rifts requires collecting relic pieces, which are also scattered around each world, and putting them back together at your main hub area. And then there’s Rift Tokens, which are used to unlock cosmetic things like palette swaps for the Hat Kid and music remixes.
The hat abilities stays true to the “Hat” part of the title, but for the “Time” part, not so much. Other than the time stop hat and the plot revolving around the hourglasses’ ability in turning back time, there’s nothing else related with time both gameplay wise and thematic wise. None of the worlds take place in different time periods as they all co-exist within the same timeline. It’s no Super Mario 64 either because the jumping physics can be off at times, and the camera can sometimes be your worst enemy. As far as presentation goes when it comes to the Switch version, people would’ve remembered this conversation From Gears for Breakfast a few years back:
And their reasoning behind it is due to the difficulty of reworking the game from scratch to function in consoles, being a small studio and all that, and they’re not wrong. The optimization for the Switch port is horrible, and I heard the same with the other console ports. When first started the game and reached the first level of the first world, I received and error and kicked me back to the Switch menu, and that was not a good sign for me. Fortunately, it was the only time it happened to me throughout my playthrough, but there were times where it came close.
At our old Disquis channel, I posted a review article on the first Yooka-Laylee game and how I mentioned that it plays like a Banjo-Kazooie game yet doesn’t feel like one at the same time. Both that game and a Hat in Time get compared on which is the better 3D indie platformer. And now that played both, I can conclude that a Hat in Time is the better game of the two. The camera is still a pain in both games, but a Hat in Time is also more forgivable, especially when it comes to final bosses, and its large worlds aren’t as empty as Yooka-Laylee’s. Its collectibles aren’t needlessly excessive either, making it feel more balanced. Regardless, it’s still not as good as the 3D Mario platformers, which have better control physics, optimization, and level designs. And thus concludes my review for today.