A Hat In Time
Kickstarter’s greatest contribution to videogames is the way it has forced the retirement of the well-worn phrase ‘They don’t make ’em like that any more’. Big publishers may not like the look of them, but players of a certain vintage certainly do, and Danish studio Gears For Breakfast won approval and funding from over 9,000 of them. In the process it raised just shy of $300,000 to make A Hat In Time, a cheerily old-school 3D platformer whose Kickstarter pitch wears the label ‘collectathon’ as a badge of honour. Take that, accepted wisdom.
Which is not to say that A Hat In Time is somehow counter-cultural; it’s simply reviving the cultural standards of a couple of decades ago and giving them a new lick of paint with modern processing power. Aesthetically, it’s a blend of every N64 and GameCube platform-adventure you’ve ever loved, at 60fps in 1080p.
Structurally, it’s familiar stuff, too. Our hat-wearing heroine is on her spaceship, headed to her home planet with a full stock of fuel when she strays too close to a hostile planet. One of its inhabitants takes exception, breaks in and the resultant loss of pressure sucks your precious power sources – little glimmering egg timers called Time Pieces – out of the ship, into space, and to the planets below. To the girl, they’re fuel; to the player, they’re mission objectives, like Mario 64’ s Stars. Find the first few and you’ll have enough in the tank to restore power to another part of the ship, and from there a new planet. So far, so familiar.
The missions themselves are a little uneven – understandably for a game in beta – but there’s promise here, thanks largely to the way they’re built around the protagonist’s growing ability. Some tools – a grappling hook for rope-swinging across gaps, an umbrella for thwacking baddies – are doled out as you progress, and always available. Others are found out in the world through badges and can be switched between in the pause menu. One lets you use the umbrella as a makeshift parachute to extend jumps; another restores health when defeating an enemy. More will feature in the final game, and Gears For Breakfast will do well to use them as well as it does the Snatcher’s Realm badge. With it you can drop a portal and teleport back to it later on – a device that proves the difference in an otherwise unwinnable race level. Most of the beta’s missions conform to the ‘collectathon’ part of the sales pitch – go here, get up there, then either find the Time Piece or beat the foes that guard it – though it’s not afraid to be a platformer at times. Sadly these are some of the least satisfying part of the current game, with miserly checkpointing and an awkward thirdperson camera scuppering some smartly designed sections that recall Super Mario Sunshine’s void levels. A (literally) on-rails escape through a train whose driver has triggered a self-destruct sequence is a maddening exercise in trial-and-error frustration that has you wondering if there isn’t a very good reason for why this genre has been largely consigned to history.
Elsewhere, the tight budget means some corners have been cut. The inhabitants of Mafia Town all share the same moustachioed character model, and voice acting is atrocious across the board. Despite all that, there’s a tremendous amount here to like. Gears For Breakfast has plenty on its plate as it builds towards launch, but this is a cheery, charming, riotously colourful adventure that has the potential to be something far more than mere nostalgic homage.
It’s a blend of every N64 and GameCube platform-adventure you’ve ever loved