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

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