It’s hard not to grin while playing A Hat in Time. It is an overwhelmingly charming game that wants to channel the best of the 3D collect-a-thon platformers that existed throughout the Nintendo 64’s lifespan. While still in a very early state, it’s clear that A Hat in Time has the right idea of what people are most nostalgic about and so far seems capable of delivering on it.
The demo offered up two different levels that are a part of a larger hub world similar to Super Mario 64. The first was a coastal town and appeared to be one of the first areas of the game. Right away I was able to look around, explore, and of course find things to collect! Tiny orbs found all over serve as a currency of sorts and are similar to the notes that Banjo-Kazooie veterans will remember. I also found badges that in the final version of the game I could pin to my hat and customize my powers.
While exploring I also encountered events that needed my intervening, as usually is the case with these types of games. One such event had me rescuing one of the other major characters Mustache Girl from a group of explosive barrel tossing mafia men. I smacked them around with an umbrella, hopped over barrels, and jumped on their heads. For my efforts I was rewarded with a timepiece, reminiscent of Super Mario 64’s stars or Banjo-Kazooie’s jigsaw pieces. Standard collect-a-thon fare for sure.
Its co-op mode was also playable, a feature not usually found in the largely single player dominated genre. If players are within close proximity of each other they share the same screen and if they drift away from each other, the game automatically switches to split screen. It can be a little confusing if you are on the borderline and accidentally switch you back and forth. In a game that will likely feature large open worlds there may be few other options.
Rather than designing the entire game around the co-op feature, it appears to mostly be for fun. In fact, it was inspired by the silliness provided by the modded Super Mario 64 multiplayer. However there were a few instances where it added some extra depth. For example, in the second playable level, players explore a haunted mansion and are constantly stalked by an evil ghost while trying to find keys that unlock rooms around the house. This time I was accompanied by another player and we were able to work together to make the task much easier. My partner was able to distract the ghost while I accomplished tasks that moved us along. While certainly doable without the help, it is nice to see that the co-op is shaping up to be more than a tacked on headache.
It is very obvious that developer Gears for Breakfast wants to tug on your heartstrings. Everything from gameplay structure, visuals, right down to the music which will be composed by Grant Kirkhope (the composer of the Banjo-Kazooie series) wants to make you feel like you are playing a modern version of the platformers that frequently populated previous generations. Fans of these games will likely feel right at home, however it remains to be seen if A Hat in Time will also be able to bring enough new features to the table in order to attract an audience beyond just hardcore fans of 3D platforming.
Currently A Hat in Time is only confirmed for PC but a Wii U release is being explored. A release date has yet to be set.