Our first Full Analysis is a 52 minute video discussing, analyzing, and critiquing A Hat in Time at length. Please enjoy.
I included a written version below, for those who enjoy reading more than watching. I usually revise and edit extensively, but I had to keep that to a minimum due to the length. I removed segments that required too much visual context.
It’s simply hard not to smile at this game’s charm. A Hat in Time capitalizes on its charm, its charisma, its movement, controls, and camera, while taking influence from a multitude of 3D Platformers, most notably the ones Gears for Breakfast have already stated.
While these influences are prominent, A Hat in Time strikes its own identity with its unique mechanics, gameplay opportunities, and even flipped expectations throughout the different Chapters.
Snoman Gaming has an excellent A Hat in Time video talking about movement, controls, and camera, that includes an interview with Jonas, the mastermind behind this game.
While you do that, I’ll cover the rest of the game in this A Hat in Time Full Analysis.
Oh and I mean full analysis. Both the good, the bad, and the utterly pointless commentary that.. is-actually-not-pointless-please-watch-this-video.
I’m going to try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, keyword: “Try”, for the first part of this video, so maybe I’ll convince you that it’s worth your time before I get to the major spoilers. I’ll warn you ahead of time.
Hat Kid’s story starts off as a space traveler 5 light years away from home. She uses Time to fuel her spaceship. How’s that for fuel efficiency?
Oh, and looks are deceiving. Consider this: She’s 5 light years away from home and only halfway there. There’s the time it takes to be born, grow up enough to be able to have a spaceship, 20 light years round trip, some time on the other planet — she’s old.
I can assume she stops Time for herself though, which is why she appears so young. Proven by this Mafia treating her like an old lady (context: joke).
This is assuming she can’t travel faster than light speed. I’ll believe it when I see it.
The Time Pieces are also hinted at being archaic, which is cool background information even though we don’t really know anything about our protagonist.
We’re introduced to her home, but more importantly, there’s a roomba you can stand on.
We see our fuel: the total number of Time Pieces we’ll need to collect. But Corvus, we already have all of our fuel. Why is this a game?
Wait, hold that thought. (Context: Mafia knocks on window in space). How did he get up here? Now might also be a good time to mention: You’re magically teleported back to your spaceship after collecting a Time Piece. Well, maybe she uses the Time Piece to go back in time when she was in her spaceship? Except not only is progress made in this world throughout its Acts, but other people show up in your spaceship. How did they get up here?
And yet, none of these unrealistic phenomena affect the game in any way beyond the initial shock, because it all adds to its charm.
A Hat in Time’s charm can be seen in spades. Not only was it their intended direction, but the time was actually put in to see it through.
Plenty of it can already be seen in the main character, known as Hat Kid.
The introduction sets this tone perfectly. She fumbles out of bed, all groggy, her eyes shifting, which is a nice detail. She’s dressed like a magician superhero. The music and how she moves conveys a lighthearted mood and ambiance that carries itself throughout the entire game.
She can swim through pillows and jump off the diving board. They could’ve left it as a platform, but they went so far as to animate the dive even though it’s hardly a mechanic used in the game.
The sounds she makes are simply adorable.
The dialogue is quirky and fun. The humor conveyed isn’t forced but rather added as part of the game’s exploration, both through dialogue and the world itself.
There are a multitude of funny posters and banners in Mafia Town.
There are pop culture references, such as Team Rocket’s blasting off again and even a Captcha joke that ends unexpectedly.
Hat Kid keeps a diary inside of her pillow fort that allows us to read her thoughts and it’s wonderful.
Hat Kid is given different outfits depending on the Act.
The musical score is composed by Plasma3music and special guest Grant Kirkhope. Each track fits right into each area, helping to build the tone and atmosphere. For instance, the Hat Kid’s Spaceship theme has the same whimsical, space traveler feeling that Super Mario Galaxy’s Comet Observatory has.
The Self Proclaimed Collect-a-thon
A Hat in Time claims to be a 3D Collect-a-thon Platformer on its Kickstarter page. I think that tag does the game a disservice, since this ain’t no Jiggy.
A Hat in Time executes the collect-a-thon gameplay perfectly. Instead of needing to collect every green orb in the area, they use these green orbs to promote exploration and allow you to buy Badges from the Badge Seller… I’ll talk about him later.
So instead of collecting every single little green orb, A Hat in Time hides actual collectibles throughout the world.
Finding and grabbing these collectibles feels uplifting and joyful. It’s less about feeling powerful and more about feeling awesome, which is often the driving force of a memorable experience. Being powerful often doesn’t matter if you don’t feel awesome or cool while being powerful.
One of the reasons that the Dishonored series is popular is because it manages to master both, by making you feel both awesome and powerful but curtails the power by making stealth the primary focus.
The most prominent collectible is Yarn. Yarn is used to knit new Hats that add a new mechanic and expand your ability to explore and travel in new ways.
What really perplexes me, however, is how each piece of Yarn is tied to a certain hat, but isn’t tied to that hat. The Yarn is just added to your Total Yarn, whether or not you’ve already knitted that hat.
The only reason that Yarn is tied to any specific Hat is that you can’t knit any Hat until you find that Hat’s first Yarn.
For instance, I can’t knit this Ice Hat until I find my first Ice Hat Yarn.
Collecting this Yarn that pertains to random Hats you already own or are working toward doesn’t matter beyond the initial unlocking.
I found over 20 Sprint Yarn for a Hat that takes two Yarns to make, and yes, I’m counting the one that landed inside the crane. I collected 8 of them by the time I finished Act 3, including the one mustache girl gave me for free. The Sprint Yarn is even scattered everywhere in future Chapters.
Another reason this system doesn’t work is, for instance, by the time I collected the 8th Yarn I needed for the Ice Hat, I’ve only found one that specifically was for the Ice Hat. This means that the Ice Hat and its ability was actually a pleasant surprise, despite the Ice platforms throughout the game. When you find nothing but the Yarn for the hat you’re trying to unlock, it kinda ruins the surprise and initial excitement of obtaining a new hat that you’ve never seen before.
Sometimes the best solution is the easiest one: Just give me my Yarn, honey.
The second collectible is the Rift Token. These are hidden just like the Yarn, except they can be spent to have another go at the loot box.. erm.. the slot machine.
The wheel of fortune is spun at the end of every Time Rift and gives out cosmetics. New colors, new hat skins, and even new music tracks that can be applied to their respective stage.
Although, the system itself doesn’t do a great job of enhancing the experience since you can’t actually choose what you receive and thus the odds that it’s something worth equipping isn’t as high as it should be.
For instance, the recolors are nice but I ended up sticking with the default colors, until I got one of the only recolors I thought was worth equipping. This happened after I finished the game though, so in the end, it didn’t really matter.
I would have loved to see what other recolors and hat skins there were and to have equipped my favorite look before the game ended.
At the very least, the recolors and hat skins should have been collectibles instead of Rift Tokens.
Changing each stage’s music is a great extra feature, but the menu isn’t divided by stage and you can’t tell what the stage is until you click on it because it’s so dark, so it’s strange to navigate. I didn’t use this feature, mostly because I wanted a side-by-side of the original track and the new one so I would know what was changing, but that’s just a strange quirk of mine. The feature itself and being able to listen to the tracks is great.
Despite my complaining, just having the option to potentially change how you look or your hat skin is fantastic. It’s essentially the cherry on top.
The third collectible is the Relic. The goal of the Relics is to combine them to complete a single, standalone Relic, such as a burger. The game’s charm comes into play here as well. The burger’s description, for example, says that these are this planet’s chairs. The layered humor comes in because it’s not an actual burger, but a plush burger.
I’m not going to spoil any of the others.
There are few Relics throughout the game, but that only makes finding them all the more rewarding as I wanted to read the next Relic’s description.
Each Act introduces itself similar to Super Mario Sunshine both with a brief map overlook and where each Time Piece ends up. You end up at different locations around the island, ending on an Act that lets you explore the island in its entirety.
Not only is it immediately apparent that Hat Kid controls wonderfully and fixes the abhorrent camera issues Super Mario Sunshine had, but the different Chapters and Acts all experiment with its own formula. This can be seen in the first Chapter alone.
Chapter 1: Mafia Town
After being sucked out of her spaceship, Hat Kid lands smack dab in the middle of Mafia Town… let me be more specific. Hat Kid lands on a homogenous island filled with Mafia that built their town in isolation, where a little girl with a mustache leads her solo rebellion. How’s that for world building? There are other people here too, however, so I’m sure the Mafia just kinda took over the island filled with a few old men here and there. Why only old men? That’s a great question.
If the base collectibles weren’t enough, Mafia Town introduces an extra collectible that must be gathered to open safes. The safes point right to the ticket locations instead of just the general direction, which is a bummer since I actually had a blast exploring in Act 7 looking for those 4 golden tickets. It is a nice feature, however, if you’re completely stuck and want some help finding a ticket. It’s basically a completely optional hint system that isn’t pushed, as in I didn’t realize it pointed toward tickets until Act 7 when I found the green safe.
Plus, Hat Kid counts how many tickets she has found out loud. A Hat in Time really had the right idea when it came to voice acting, even with its “silent” protagonist.
The quirky and fun dialogue is contrasted with some violent tendencies and sometimes unsettling imagery… but I love it. There’s just something about the contrast that makes it all the more shocking and endearing, plus I just love how they let their creativity flow and didn’t hold back. This contrast really does add to the game’s charm.
Mafia Town’s Characters
We meet a couple of characters in Mafia’s Town’s early Acts.
First of all, the Badge Seller.
I love his design. They could have made the shop a sweet old lady or a tough mustache man (although the mustache is already taken by the little girl. I never thought I would ever say that), but they took a rather unconventional approach here.
The only downside is that it takes forever to buy badges that don’t cost 50 or 100.
The mustache girl is the first person we come across after the Mafia incident. She leads a solo rebellion against isolated Mafia, for some reason. While I love that they tried to add some charm to her character as well, it overall falls flat because of her less-than-stellar voice acting. Her voice just doesn’t fit, not to mention her first dialogue is rather awkwardly written, as if they knew that chasing her to the bell tower only for her to end up inviting you up there didn’t make much sense.
Mustache girl isn’t even seen beyond a couple scenes in Mafia Town, a short cutscene once you have 25 Time Pieces, and at the end of the game. At that point, I had no reason to care about her or her plight, despite Gears for Breakfast understanding how to write an engaging villain, by giving her a reasonable goal that she simply doesn’t know how to cope with or solve and goes about it the wrong way.
So, right from Act 1, we see mustache girl, and her wanted poster. The Mafia’s depiction of her is hilarious.
Punching things has the expected reaction in her typical, adorable fashion, until you get a weapon at the end of this Act. It’s details like this, squishing cockroaches, and kicking cans that adds a bit of extra fun while exploring.
Here we also get our first taste of A Hat in Time’s brilliantly written dialogue.
A lot of the Mafia’s dialogue really speaks for itself.
The situation you’re in is wonderful, where you broke their fountain and so mustache girl tells you just don’t make eye contact.
There’s paddy cake that ends with a punch, which made me laugh. The first time. For some reason, they scattered these Mafia everywhere, even though most, if not all players will paddy cake this one — next to the Act 1 objective.
Hat Kid’s voice acting here is brilliant. The face she makes before yelling “Down with the mafia!” with that surprising change of music that helps make this the memorable moment of Act 1, not mustache girl. And then you murder him and thank him for sacrificing his life for the sake of Time.
Similar to Act 1, Act 2 starts with some ticket collecting for the nearby safe, which pushes the player to get out of their comfort zone and explore a bit, especially since the game isn’t pushing us to chase mustache girl this time.
We’re rewarded with a Relic for exploring as well, which really eases us into the world and gets us started with collecting.
Ah, dancing Mafia having a good time. Except, dancing Mafia are surrounding mustache girl as well? Is this a dance? Their way of intimidation? Their fighting poses as they teach their lessons?
So this boss only lets you move left and right around it, which is a fantastic Paper Mario surprise.. Except for the Watch Outs on the sides. I honestly was clueless that barrels were being thrown at me, I had no idea I actually needed to play the game.
Act 3 is the perfect early example of how each Act can change the area, such as the rain and the mud.
“The Seagull took my camera” Then what’s that around your neck?
I assumed I couldn’t go take a look at what he was talking about since I didn’t have the Ice Hat yet, but you can just double jump and dive to grab the Camera Badge.
And oh, the mud. I was getting mad about how the mud was being placed where sometimes it would be impossible to avoid unless you knew about it, then I realized you actually need to be dirty for this Act’s defining moment, which might have been hinted at with the Mafia reacting and the music changing.
Ah, the music here is wonderful.
Here we have a puzzle we can solve on our own by exploring the place. I love how the game lets you solve it without placing an NPC there explaining what to do.
Despite the line of green orbs being a bit heavy handed when there are orbs on top of the bar that already lets you know you can climb up onto the rafters.
Cooking Cat prepares dinner and swaps out the Mafia’s food? Why?
Cooking Cat ends up flying to your spaceship as well and teaches you about Relics. She then proceeds to hold up in your kitchen and cook meals. Well… see… that’s the problem. Cooking Cat has excellent voice acting and character but is unfinished. She says she’ll have food ready before you leave, but she never does. I 100%’d the game and she’s still stuck on the same dialogue. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s something I was looking forward to and was checking back constantly for. Which, is actually a compliment.
I wanted to briefly mention Act 6 because the faucets are poorly proportioned to indicate what to do here.
Falling down onto the small pipe when you’re trying to avoid falling into the lava was less than intuitive and looked like you would slip off.
There’s not much I can say about the Hats without getting too spoilery so I’ll hit another major topic later, but for now, I have small praise to give and a huge complaint that I cannot believe was overlooked.
First off, Mafia Town utilizes different hat mechanics throughout the island, so there’s replayability and additional Yarn that can be collected when coming back from future Chapters. Especially if you haven’t collected all of the tickets for the safes or if you just wanted a break from Mafia Town.
Now, my major complaint, holy crap, stop telling me to press L2 to use my hat’s ability and to press L1 to swap hats.
Yes, I see the ice platform, I know to swap my Hat. This is especially infuriating because this happens every single time you swap hats or come across an obstacle you need to swap hats for or even randomly when talking to people, throughout the entire game, even in the last Chapter and Act.
Look at this. I’m standing still… on my bed… swapping hats… and it wants me to kill myself.
Time Rifts – Blue
These blue Time Rift introductions with the music and the camera panning is entirely reminiscent of Super Mario Sunshine’s bonus levels, and that’s okay since I would dare say A Hat in Time improved the Super Mario Sunshine formula. The aesthetics and the music invokes its own experience separate from the main Acts and provides an engaging platforming challenge.
There are two mechanics I want to cover here. The diving and the cookies.
You know how usually in 3D Platformers there are slopes that force you to slide? And then Yooka Laylee made these slopes awkward and look like you can climb them? A Hat in Time solves this, or rather, streamlines this. Instead of being forced to slide down a slope, you can dive down them and have your own fun. You can also walk down them, although diving is more fun.
The cookies are a great aesthetic choice. And oh, how the cookie crumbles.
It’s just a minor design complaint, but there should have been some visual clue as to which cookies crumble faster, or maybe use a different food item. The difference between the fast and slow crumbles is rather shocking.
Different food items with different properties could have further spiced up these blue Time Rifts.
They even mess with the idea using the red blocks that fall instead of crumble.
Time Rifts – Purple
The second type of Time Rifts are these multilayered trips to the past. The music is dynamic as we dive deeper into these Rifts, where we find storybook pages as we traverse through different pasts. These storybook pages flesh out these levels further by instilling a desire to explore. We receive a short story as our reward, such as how the Mafia came to their island and how the movie studio was formed, which I found genuinely interesting and fun.
Not to mention, look at this! A Time Piece crashed here, caused a purple Time Rift, and left this mystery. You can’t fall into where it hit or interact with it in any way, but it’s still awesome to find. Perhaps it could have been a secret if a certain hat was used with it.
These purple Time Rifts had some of my favorite musical moments because of the dynamic transitions.
I have avoided talking about any areas after the first. That’s because, even though the first Chapter alone establishes unique gameplay and mechanics, future worlds are a stark contrast to the expectations you’ve already set for the game at this point.
So here I’ll say: Finally, we have a good 3D Platformer after years and years of absolutely nothing. And no, I don’t count Yooka Laylee as a good 3D Platformer. A Hat in Time could easily be a contender for your game of the year. So go and play it, but please don’t forget about me.
Chapter Balancing Act
As I’ve mentioned before, each Chapter employs its own special formula. What you thought the game was in Mafia Town becomes an experimental fun fest that manages to stay gripping and unpredictable.
So in Chapter 1, we saw each Act as a way to further explore the island while charming sequences lied at the end of these Acts.
In Chapter 2, each Act is a movie. This Chapter is fairly linear, but it enwraps you in its presentation and takes you for a loop.
In Chapter 3, each Act is a contract that you must sign before gaining access to said Act. Areas are blocked off until you help foxes commit suicide. Each Area is distinct from one another despite the forest motif that could cause the Chapter to blend together, but it handles it well.
Chapter 4 is Free Roam with 4 distinct areas that emphasizes new platforming challenges rather than pure exploration, which works wonderfully.
Now, Chapter 5 I’m leaving until the end of the video, where I’ll hammer down where the game fell for me a bit and why it was overall a disappointing end to the game.
Chapter 2: Battle of the Birds
Act 1: Dead Bird Studio
DJ Grooves, oh darling, he’s one groovy penguin.
I wouldn’t have ever guessed to go up there in this small room. I could definitely see how penguin smell can flow in from the DOOR YOU JUST BARRED SHUT.
Seriously though. Don’t do this. There’s no point in exploring anything if you’re just gonna hand hold the player. More on that in Chapter 3.
I love how you can accidentally break the gumball machine and then you’re charged for it. This happens throughout the Act and it’s really the icing on the cake. Fun little details or systems like this is fun.
How the bill adds up for trespassing in their studio, for getting caught, for Owl Harassment, and for knocking down the unavoidable cactus and being charged for Cactus Assault, adds to the fun environment.
Act 2: Murder on the Owl Express
The Conductor’s first movie is Murder on the Owl Express. It really does astound me how the trailers seemed to focus on this one specific Act, especially given how surprising it was after Chapter 1 and how I couldn’t imagine having one of my favorite Acts being spoiled to that extent.
Murder on the Owl Express’ presentation is beyond my hopes and dreams. This murder mystery makes you forget about its linearity and instead enwraps you in its presentation.
There are crows that ask you strange questions that are used during the mystery. The first two are genius where a crow so nonchalantly pretends to be an owl, then the next crow says don’t do that, it could be a security risk! Then asks, “What is your favorite combination of letters and numbers?”
Here’s a reference to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, except without the stepping on the contact lens.
The backtracking utilizes subtly amazing level design by providing Ice Platforms to quickly travel back in search of the second key you may have missed.
The hookshot is one of the best 3D Platformer mechanics I’ve had the pleasure of swinging. It controls wonderfully and utilizing it during this action sequence is satisfying.
The Express Owls play music while the train is falling apart.
The button platforms are a great way to add a platforming puzzle to a race-to-the-finish kind of Act, especially when the concept is hammered in pretty well when unlocking the first couple doors.
As a bonus, you have the freedom to use the Scooter which controls so surprisingly well that I could platform just fine with it, or the Time Stop Hat if you really want aaaall the points.
Time for DJ Grooves babyyyyy. While his character is much more lovable than peck neck Conductor, his movies are beyond terrible in comparison.
Act 3: Picture Perfect
For instance, Picture Perfect is another presentation experiment, except unlike the train, this area is uninteresting and just a bunch of houses.
However, DJ Grooves helps improve your image through humorous moments such as killing a puppy and the table of hard-boiled card players gambling where you have to guess what number they’re holding, although they only give you 1-7.. cheaters.
Oh, and running around talking to penguins and the pictures taken of you are adorable. They labeled their game that way, it’s not my fault!
Act 5: The Big Parade
DJ Grooves’ second movie, the Big Parade, is a mess. As usual, how A Hat in Time changes the Acts is brilliant, in this case by covering the floor with crowd parasites.
However, it’s filled with design flaws. The hearts look like objectives but they’re not. When their timers run out, they stay at zero, so there’s no point in having a timer. The timers continue during cutscenes, and the DJ Grooves token’s timer ends up resetting, either because it feels bad that it continued counting down, or it was another design decision that ended up as a bad idea but wasn’t fixed. They should have paused the timers during cutscenes, despite the timers meaning nothing.
I do love how the fireworks end up shooting at you. Some parade, amiright?
Chapter 3: Subcon Forest
Chapter 3 has that spooky, scary vibe with dark undertones.
I want to hit four main points with this Chapter: Hand Holding; Fruit, Paintings, Hookshot; The Mansion; and Mail Delivery.
Chapter 3 is where the game trades quirky and fun dialogue for tutorial or obvious, unnecessary hints.
“I bet the view from on top of that big tree is pretty good!” Yeah, I couldn’t see that tree, thanks.
“Not far to go, kid!” It feels like he was placed here just to tell me how much I have left to climb. It doesn’t feel good. You might as well tell me how many feet or meters I have left.
“It’d probably be really painful if you feel from this high” You don’t say… They could have made these creatures say something more meaningful, like maybe they live in this tree, which would make sense considering Snatcher lives inside the tree.
“Subcon Well is this way!” Oh really.. I couldn’t read this sign.. Or that sign..
“I hear there’s money to be made in gravedigging!” Oh yeah, I definitely wouldn’t have blown up these graves otherwise.
See, here he’s not telling me, “Hey, blow up those apples so the eye will stop looking at them.”
They almost get it right here, but then the guy next to him ruins it. What, do you think I’m too stupid to figure out that the ice that leads to a Yarn Ball can be broken? The mechanic was already taught to us.
Fruit, Paintings, Hookshot
Anyway, we’re introduced to two mechanics right down the road after meeting Purple Man Snatcher. The fruit explosion where the ghosts light the fuses is thematic with the spirits and really I’ve never seen such a unique twist on the simple bomb throw mechanic.
You have to burn paintings for these foxes in order to unlock different areas. The implications of this is terrifying. All these poor people being burned alive for the sake of suicidal foxes. If only the paintings would freakin’ go in!
Oh man, is the Hookshot satisfying to use. It’s smooth and the only input you need is left and right while swinging. There’s no speed adjustment garbage. This is how you promote movement in a 3D Platformer, which is soon proceeded by climbing out of a flooding well.
Approaching the mansion has a wonderful atmosphere, especially once the flaps open. Having music change like this creates a great immersive scene that beckons the player forward.
It’s definitely worth mentioning what this mansion manages to accomplish.
You need to find two keys to finish this Act.
The first key focuses more on accidentally making noise while trying to grab the key with the comforting thought of a safe spot nearby… until your safe spot breaks somehow, you grab the key, and you run since you know she’s coming after you. I love the idea of forcing you to react quickly and run by removing your dear ol’ safe spot.
Sometimes Hat Kid peeks through the door, sometimes she doesn’t. Not sure what causes it.
Mail Delivery 
I only want to mention the Mail Delivery segment because of the ingenious design decision to have time slowed while aiming the mail. I know it may seem like a trivial thing, but imagine having to stop in order to throw the mail if there wasn’t any slowdown for aiming. It would make this segment significantly less enjoyable.
Also, I think it goes without saying, which is why I’m saying it, that the scooter is amazingly fun to use and controls just as well as Hat Kid.
Chapter 4: Alpine Skyline
As I’ve said before, Chapter 4 is more about a good platforming challenge rather than pure exploration, but even then, each area has its own look and feel. There’s even a Lava Cake.
I want to hit four main points with this Chapter: Unlocking paths, the Dweller Mask, Cats, and Purple Dandelions.
The first main point is how none of the four Time Piece segments are just a straight shot. The game has you go to side areas or some variant first in order to unlock the path you need to proceed. It adds more depth to each area.
The second main point is just all about the Dweller Mask mechanic.
This small segment here is very well-designed. There’s a green block here that serves no purpose other than to prepare you for the timed secret since you need to use the Dweller Mask for it. At the end, you unlock a shortcut back, which always feels good to unlock in games.
The green bells and the Dweller Mask mechanic had some of the best platforming in the game, hands down.
The red bells and the purple blocks definitely helped as amazing secondary mechanics to the Dweller Mask.
Most of the red bells can’t be hit, so the bell shape that’s associated with hitting is misleading. Otherwise, the mechanic itself provides for some great platforming challenges, and even combines itself with your Dweller Mask.
The Dweller mechanic is even further expanded upon with the gates, and just the fact that the bells can cancel each other out provides so many more possibilities.
Many of these examples are in this single area, which is almost a bummer except that the green bells and platforms can be found in other Chapters, so there are opportunities spread around despite this single area having many of them.
“Take care, kid. I went up ahead and was scratched slightly!” This is great dialogue hinting at the situation, followed by the most annoying enemy in the game. It’s like that game all the kids played where they steal your belongings then played cat and mouse with them. Isn’t that fun? Can that please be a mechanic?
I will say, the only Alpine Skyline Act I didn’t like was the Purple Dandelion Act. The buildup was great because I was wondering what was gonna happen when each area ended with a Purple Dandelion flying into a goat’s nose. Trying to persevere to reach the Purple Dandelions was fun and challenging. My problem is it makes you backtrack quite a ways for each Purple Dandelion you snip, especially considering the Ice Hat is a thing.
The Bosses. I love the bosses in this game. I’m going to cover the Mafia Boss, the Conductor, and Snatcher. I’ll mention mustache girl later.
This boss starts off strong, unexpectedly beginning with a metal riff. The patterns start off simple so you not only start grasping what he’s all about, but also figure out that you can only hit the boss once when he’s blue.
That mechanic in itself is genius, because it becomes more about dodging and taking advantage of the boss’ vulnerability, whereas the alternative would be hitting the bosses repeatedly with your umbrella, and that’s just unnecessary.
It also allows A Hat in Time to expand and switch up the movesets, which is impressively done here. What starts as a barrage of shocks, ends as a gauntlet. What starts as bags of sand, ends as bags of sand man. Spinning blades are introduced in the middle of the match, but admittedly I didn’t realize that move would be a joke so I wasn’t expecting him just standing there being vulnerable.
Oh noooo, he captured mustache girl… Good…
Mafia ball is one example of how A Hat in Time can take a concept and expand it, no pun intended. You can actually climb up there and hit him, instead of the typical waiting-around-for-him-to-stop-then-hit-him cliche.
It ends anticlimactically, though, in the sense that the finishing blow was on one of his simplest and easiest moves to dodge — the same move that started the boss.
The Conductor has to be the most well-made boss in the game. You can also fight DJ Grooves here, but it really just doesn’t match his personality, at all.
The room goes dark for his knife attack, which was definitely fun to dodge, especially considering this boss wasn’t afraid to ramp up its difficulty throughout. 1, 3, 5 disco balls. 1, 3, 5 dark room knife attacks.
The mid-boss chat that ends with a bomb being strapped to you was a nice break and certainly unexpected. However, this is where the boss falls apart.
He starts running around like a moron. I understand this is supposed to run the bomb timer out, but there’s no challenge. It’s just a free hit.
The saws were great, but they never really ramp up in difficulty or mix themselves with different attacks.
To make matters worse, he suddenly really liked the worst move in his arsenal. The sword stab is a free hit. There’s no challenge after the initial “what do I do here?”
The only real challenge of the second phase was not getting hit by his faster-than-light flop.
The Purple Man Snatcher
Snatcher can best be described as dying in 5 hits… yeah… that’s right… he dies in 5 hits.
Which is a real bummer because he was fun and hectic and every attack was well-telegraphed. The first phase has him twisting the blue concept around, which is great ‘cause you end up painting him blue.
Second phase, he plays a game where you hit whichever direction he winks, but there’s no room to expand upon that idea within only 5 hits. It became too easy and he triggered that move too often.
The ending where you walk toward him and he pretends to be weak and begs for mercy, it’s just kinda stupid. First of all, the dialogue stops you from walking, which kinda pulls away from the scene. Second of all, it’s obvious he’s setting you up. Third of all, you hit him 5 times, and we get this big scene of how he wants you to leave his forest. What, because you were hit 5 times? Why? The scene was charming, yes, and how she fixes up the contract was wonderful, but none of it makes sense and I felt cheated on this boss fight.
It’s just hard to find good bosses these days, so take it as a compliment that I’m disappointed, since what I did get from this boss was wonderful.
Underused Hat Mechanics
Here are just some thoughts on a few of the hat mechanics.
The Ice Hat was wonderful and adorable, and using it to travel around was great, whether to secrets or just to cover ground quicker. Diving off of boards could have been used as well, however. It’s not even used here, when they could have introduced diving when you had to jump from the bell tower to follow mustache girl. There are never any Ice Hat challenges or any platforming that mixed the Ice Hat with other Hats.
I’ve already praised the Dweller Mask, but I’d be useless if I didn’t mention that cancelling mid-use is only utilized once in the game, and unfairly since the mechanical twist comes into play after blindly jumping through a wall.
The Time Stop Hat was great to find, as I was thinking there weren’t gonna be any more Hats after the Dweller Mask. However, while the Dweller Mask is thoroughly explored, the Time Stop Hat is only ever used thrice in the entire game: one was an optional, timed switch puzzle, one was a weirdly placed double-switch that you could go back and find in Mafia Town, and one was a simple race that took a minute to beat.
Which leads me right into Chapter 5.
Chapter 5 is simply the Finale, which was a shock honestly. While it’s a great sign to leave a player wanting more, I was looking forward to the last Chapter as I was 100%ing every other Chapter first.
The lack of a full Chapter does the game a disservice by not combining different Hats and platforming challenges. There were never any Ice Hat challenges in the game. The Dweller Mask was fleshed out pretty well but I still would have loved to see the cancel-out-of idea. And the Time Stop Hat is just never used.
Chapter 5 definitely needed to be fleshed out. This would have also helped the confusing scene where mustache girl does something with your Time Pieces, but you don’t see the effects until you start Chapter 5 so it doesn’t really make sense.
You unlock Chapter 5 after collecting only 25 Time Pieces out of the game’s 40, and there’s no reason to even go into the Chapter 5 room until you’ve collected the rest from the other Chapters.
Mustache girl as a final boss was interesting, especially since the writer knew what makes a villain engaging. However, cutscenes often took you out of the fight. She repeated moves often. The fight became pretty challenging but you ended up with infinite health anyway from your friends killing themselves. The concept behind that is ingenious, because I have no friends. The concept behind that is ingenious, where they know if Hat Kid wins, then she’s gonna rewind time anyway.
The final nail in the coffin has to be the tickets. I took 153 tickets and nothing happened.
Despite all of my criticism, A Hat in Time is still one of the best 3D Platformers ever made. The movement and the camera is perfect. I never once had to center it. Panning the camera up by pressing a single button is a feature I never thought I’d ever need, but it was extremely useful. The scooter felt amazing. If you fall from a vertical climb, such as the Windmill, it counts as a fall and puts you back up, which is another common 3D Platformer problem that A Hat in Time fixes.
The love and care that went into this game’s controls and charm is unbelievable. Yes, Chapter 5 and a couple bosses were disappointing, not all of the hat mechanics were fleshed out and the Time Stop Hat is almost completely ignored, the slot machine was a terrible idea and the cosmetics should have been collectibles, a couple Acts fell through, the cats are annoying, mustache girl is a terrible character, and the dialogue and the game itself gets way too hand holdy, but besides these problems, every Chapter and Act experiments with the 3D Platformer formula, Hat Kid controls wonderfully and the camera is perfect, as I’ve already stated; most of the characters and voice acting is spot on, the charm is out of this world, many of the bosses were a joy to play against and were some of the best in 3D Platformer history, the Time Rifts were amazing bonus area experiences, and Hat Kid is adorable. How’s that for a summary?
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