Please hear me out, I have a confession. A few years ago, I judged A Hat In Time when its Kickstarter project is already underway at the time by stating I’d rather play with what I know and sticking to the status quo. This resulted in Grant Kirkhope muttering, “Good for you”, due to my opinion, not understanding I hate change and trying out new and different things with a burning passion and me making an enemy by the name of Laciful. As years went by, Laciful and I made amends and he helped me apologise to Grant. This still begs the question, is it just me or he can’t handle other people’s criticisms or opinions if they’re regarding his music work in the video games he is involved in? I’m aware Laciful is trying to be nice but I permanently blocked him on Twitter for being a chatterbox. In the words of Bigweld from the Robots film by Blue Sky Studios, “Son, no one likes a chatterbox.” A couple of years ago, I still didn’t give a hoot about the game because it’s not going to release for the PlayStation 4… or at least I assumed. Fast forward to this year, when the announcement trailer of the aforementioned game surfaced on 26th July 2017, I immediately started to care about this game. Over time, my curiosity grew with each passing month until it eventually gets to the point where I followed its game development journey. Similar to the Ratchet & Clank series, I still regret judging this game back then.
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of the game for my PlayStation 4 on Wednesday 29th November from Gears For Breakfast, John Gavin Polson, Mario R. Kroll and CJ Melendez. Actually, before either of them provided me with the abovementioned PlayStation 4 port, they sent me a free review code for the PC port of this game but since my computer is still kaput and it’s broken beyond repair and my outdated laptop (circa Summer 2006) is still deprived of the internet and wi-fi so I have no choice but to wait until they send the aforesaid PlayStation 4 port my way.
The adventure follows a space-faring, young girl waking up from her slumber on the same day as she stumbles upon a planet. When she leaves her bedroom, she checks on her fuel in the main room/lobby. Everything seems to be in order, which is until she is startled by sudden thumping sounds coming from her spacecraft window. When she approaches the source of the disturbance, it turns out one of the members of the Mafia demands her to pay for the tax due to her starship parking near the planet. However, she refuses and carefully closed the door, only to enrage the Mafia member all the more. Consumed by rage, he smashes the window. This causes a gust of wind to fly into the ship that in turn forces the safe to open, sending all of the Time Pieces and the main heroine herself downwards to the planet in the process. Armed with her trusty umbrella as her signature weapon, she sets out to retrieve all the Time Pieces all the while taking names and meeting a cast of colourful and crazy characters along the way in a bid to prevent her rival, Moustache Girl, from exacting her own version of justice.
The main objective of the game is to retrieve Time Pieces (otherwise known as hourglasses) to power your spaceship. They serve as the main collectibles and the fuel for your spacecraft. Without them, you’ll never return to your home.
No collect-a-thon or platformer is complete with collectibles like the aforementioned Time Pieces, Pons (they act as currency to purchase badges or unlock acts within the chapters or as optional collectibles), balls of yarn (gathering a certain amount of them will allow you to stitch up a new magical hat), Badges, Rift Tokens, Relics, vault tickets (their purpose is to open vaults that contain either just Pons or Pons and a ball of yarn), pictures (they’re scattered throughout a time rift and when they’re accumulated, you’ve gained access to a back story of any character) etc.
I can’t fathom these kinds of feelings beyond words in ways I cannot describe (whether it’s the dire, foreboding vibes I’m experiencing coupled with the dark colours blanketing the scenery around me to convey the weight of the situation as the illness plagued the goats in Alpine Skyline to my heart thumping for the first time in years while I shiver in fright as I hid underneath any chosen furniture, almost feeling Queen Vanessa’s presence in her manor within the Subcon Forest)! In fact, I never had so much fun since Ratchet & Clank (2016) or felt so much joy from a game in forever! Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours and hours soon become days until it reaches to the extent where I become ridiculously addicted in a positive way, I completely lost track of time!
Besides Hat Kid’s favourite weapon of choice, the umbrella, she have an arsenal of moves at her disposal such as a single jump, a double jump, a dive in conjunction with an extra hop to cancel out her dive at any given time, a sprint (which can be upgraded into a scooter if she so desires), an ability to use her umbrella as a hookshot that lets her leap and swing from one slingshot hook to another, a move resulting in her gently floating to the ground after opening up her umbrella and so forth.
Speaking of badges, they are usually purchased from a mysterious, glitchy merchant called simply as “The Badge Seller” which is an obvious nod to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. He can be seen throughout the game. These badges can either grant Hat Kid new abilities or upgrade any of her existing skills from her moveset. For instance, you can combine the scooter badge with the sprint hat to transform your sprint into a scooter as a new means of transportation. Unfortunately, she can only use three badges at a time.
Every game isn’t perfect and A Hat In Time is no exception such as the game suddenly crashed during the showdown against the Mafia Boss, the wall running, followed by wall kick ability can be finicky at times which leads to countless deaths, the Mafia Boss is stupidly difficult by first boss standards, which threw me off guard, I’ve come across a handful of glitches ranging from the game loading weirdly or transitioning from a loading screen to an intro cutscene of a chapter in a strange manner to both The Conductor and DJ Grooves disappeared when I pressed down the X button to skip the cutscene, the game lacked a mini-map or a map despite the Hat Kid’s Hat possess the capability of showing where the goal is and the titles of the missions or the names of the acts indicate what the objectives are, the Alpine Skyline is ironically empty, complete with unmemorable non-playable characters that felt like talking sign posts and the time slow hat is overpowered (in other words, it can exploited in a cheating manner for cheesing through certain missions and most boss battles) if it’s combined with a cool down badge. To top it all off, my main complaint aside from the length of the game is there is no physical version seeing as I prefer physical copies of video games than digital ones. Besides, having a physical copy of the game in my possession felt like I actually own it where as it’s like as if I didn’t own a digital copy and it can be easily lost. Not to mention, sometimes I forget I have possession of a game.
Despite of the game’s flaws, my hat is off to you, Gears For Breakfast, for changing my mind and for eating my words!
To sum up A Hat In Time in a sentence, it’s a game Yooka-Laylee can never hope to be.