Few games can hit the nostalgia nerve without being a direct remake of a game that you played as a kid. Somehow, A Hat in Time manages to take me back to the early 2000s despite being a brand new 2017 game. Inspired by the likes of Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Psychonauts, this game combines elements from these classic and memorable games to take the player back in time to experience pure platforming bliss. A Hat in Time is witty, charming, and a wholesome game that anybody can jump into and have a blast.
Perhaps the most nostalgic game for me is Super Mario Sunshine, despite all its issues I just feel happy playing that game. The sunny environment, the upbeat music, and the extremely varied levels makes it a game that I look at back with great fondness. A Hat in Time heavily emulates Super Mario Sunshine in its structure and presentation but it modernizes it for a new generation to enjoy. You play as Hat Kid, an adorable little girl who is piloting a spaceship on a journey home when her travels are interrupted. The player must hunt down timepieces to fuel the rest of her trip and make it back home. From the hub of the spaceship, you can choose from four separate areas each with numerous levels. Levels can be any number of challenges, some are mini-games, some a boss fights, some are collectathons, some are free-roaming, but most are tasks based in platforming. Quality level design and variety make this game a blast to play.
The other shining feature of A Hat in Time is in its characters and charisma. Hat Kid will encounter a number of different characters, each one is goofy in their own right. Each area has an episodic story told through the levels that has you interact with the characters. Moreover, even though Hat Kid is a silent protagonist, she still displays plenty of emotions and has a few funny moments. A Hat in Time just oozes charm with its lovable characters and story. Furthermore, the vibrant colors and cheerful music are sure to keep you joyful.
A Hat in Time method of progression is similar to most 3D Super Mario games, but with a twist. You unlock new areas by collecting timepieces (similar to Stars, Shines, or Moons from the Super Mario series), but Hat Kid herself can unlock new platforming tricks through the use of hats. As you progress through areas you can collect optional balls of yarn that are used to craft a number of different hats. Some of these hats provide simply quality of life bonuses like the ability to sprint or a hat that shows where the next objective is. Other hats have necessary abilities to progress through levels. You can swap these hats around whenever you want, and you can even equip special badges to get even more small bonuses. These hats provide some a nice feeling of progression that gives the player a bonus incentive other than just timepieces.
There are a few minor problems that I have with A Hat in Time. First in foremost, while the game takes the best features from early 3D platformers, it also comes with one of the worst, the camera. The camera controls in this game are unwieldy and occasionally frustrating. In tight spaces especially. Frequently the camera will become locked and you cannot rotate it around to see your surroundings. This can be enormously annoying because sometimes you cannot even position it to see where to jump. The next issue that I have is that while three of the four areas are phenomenal, one is just a letdown. The area Alpine Skyline lacks the charm of the other areas because there are no characters or major objectives, it is a simple free-roam to collect a few timepieces. Moreover, these are the longest timepieces to obtain in the game by a longshot. You have to undergo 15 minutes of lame free-roam platforming to reach the real areas where the timepieces are even located. Its unfortunate because A Hat in Time is short as it is, only having three worthwhile areas makes that issue even worse. Still, I guess it bodes well for A Hat in Time that I wanted more of it, it shows that I really did enjoy the game.
As a whole, A Hat in Time takes the player back to a simpler time in video games. Just some nice, wholesome fun. I can say with utmost certainty that anyone can enjoy this game. Whether you are a complete newbie or an older gamer looking for a hit of nostalgia, A Hat in Time is sure to impress. I wish the camera was not so janky and that there were more quality areas, but overall it was a heartwarming experience. For these reasons I give A Hat in Time a 9/10. I hope we will see more games like A Hat in Time being produced, as it was simply a pure and joyful ride down memory lane.