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More than a relic from a forgotten era

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    A Hat in Time

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    More than a relic from a forgotten era

    3D platformers seem like they’re making a comeback. In fact, 2017 saw the release of what I would argue is the greatest 3D platformer made to date, Super Mario Odyssey, and it also saw some former Rare devs get together to release the disappointing Yooka-Laylee. Another studio, Gears for Breakfast, also tried its hand at the 3D platforming genre, and while A Hat in Time may ultimately be overshadowed by Super Mario Odyssey, it’s still a damn good game.

    A Hat in Time is a game clearly inspired by Super Mario 64, where players explore a hub world that has different levels attached to it. Players go in and out of these levels to find Hourglasses – this game’s version of Power Stars – as well as other collectibles, such as yarn that can be used to knit new hats. The game plays like a traditional 3D platforming for the most part, but it throws in some interesting twists here and there to help it stand out on its own.

    One of the game’s main mechanics is its different hats that the main character, Hat Girl, can utilize. These hats offer different abilities, such as turning into a block of ice or offering a speed boost. The only way to obtain these hats is by going off the beaten path and exploring levels to find yarn. This encourages and rewards players for exploring the game worlds, especially since obtaining these powers makes the game infinitely more entertaining and greatly increases Hat Girl’s platforming abilities. Exploration is also rewarded thanks to the in-game currency that’s lying around all over the place and secret levels players can find hidden in the stages.

    A Hat in Time gets increasingly more entertaining as players progress and master Hat Girl’s various abilities. It offers some really top-notch 3D platforming with tight controls, but when it strays from platforming, it tends to stumble. For example, the second world has some stealth levels that are absolutely horrendous and the exact opposite of fun. Stealth sections in a 3D platformer serve only to restrict players in their freedom of movement, and they’re just a chore to get through.

    Otherwise, the game is pretty well-rounded and fun. Combat is pretty weak, but the meat of the game – its platforming – is really great. Players will also enjoy the funny dialogue and self-referential jokes scattered throughout the story, which is populated by some rather interesting and unique characters. As far as 3D platformers go, A Hat in Time may have one of the most varied and intriguing casts.

    The story is mostly lighthearted. A Hat in Time is about a time-traveling witch in a spaceship who is trying to journey home. She loses the hourglasses (or Time Pieces) that she needs to fuel her ship, and has to go on a collect-a-thon to get them all back. Most of the game is pretty standard 3D platformer fare as far as the plot goes, but the ending is fairly creative and memorable. There are some surprisingly dark parts in the game that, while amusing in how out of place they feel, tend to clash with the family friendly tone of the rest of the game.

    As good as the game is, though, it’s hard not to notice some odd, easily fixable mistakes that permeate throughout the title. There are some instances where things are simply mislabeled (the words "Act" and "Chapter" are swapped around), or there are some visual cues missing. The PC version seems to be more up to date than the console version of the game, so console players may want to sit tight for an update to play the game at its full potential. It also suffers from unusually long load times, which isn’t an issue for the most part, except when players are going for achievements that may require them to restart one level multiple times or if they die trying to fight the same boss over and over again.

    These flaws aside, A Hat in Time is one of the better 3D platformers to release this past year, and is quite a good game. It modernizes the genre in many ways, and doesn’t feel like a game stuck in the 90s like Yooka-Laylee. Anyone that is a fan of the genre should be able to have a good time with this game, especially if they consider themselves fans of Super Mario 64.

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