A Hat in Time Video Preview – The Revival of 3D Platformers and MoreThe Best Chance 3D Platformers have at a Comeback
The 3D platforming genre has reached an all time low in the past decade. Series such as Banjo Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot have either died out completely or live on as a mere shadow of their former selves. A Hat in Time acts as a modern reboot of this lost genre and aims to create something both reminiscent of these old 3D platformers but at the same time, offer a brand new experience for the players of today. Gears for Breakfast (Yes, that is a real name) took this project and this idea to Kickstarter and gained a massive following from it, receiving $300,000 (10 times their goal). This preview is based on the two levels available in the alpha and the game still has quite some time until release.
The first level of A Hat in Time is set in a large circular island named Mafia Town. In this level, you play as Hat Kid who has apparently just… fallen from the sky? Hat Kid then travels through the town with Moustache Girl to strike at the evil Mafia. As you can probably see from the footage, the world is beautiful. With an aesthetic style similar to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Gears for Breakfast has really managed to create a vibrant atmosphere to tell this light hearted story. Moustache Girl is a fun character and her dialogue shows this by showing off some of her quirks and personality. In the first level alone, she mentions that she’s got a “party” to attend, only for you to find her later, attempting to blow up Mafia Town with a large pile of TNT.
But it’s not only Moustache Girl that shows some real personality. Hat Kid, the protagonist seems to display emotions through facial expressions in cutscenes and in gameplay. The game clearly shows that she’s not too big a fan of the Mafia either, choosing to stick her tongue out at them in this short scene. This definitely was a huge relief for me, as I had expected Hat Kid to be the standard silent protagonist.
The way she fights also has a level of charm to it, choosing to defeat enemies with an umbrella and by jumping on their heads. When I first jumped into combat, I was frankly, amazed. Never before have I played a 3D Platformer with such intuitive and enjoyable action. What Gears has created is a kind of combination between Banjo Kazooie and Mario 64 in this respect. There are two primary ways of doing damage thus far. You can whack them with your umbrella, which has this really satisfying visual and sound effect and then you can also jump on their head, which makes the enemy seem to bob up and down like rubber.
It’s a very cartoony way of presenting the combat and it’s very reminiscent of how these previous 3D platformers felt. However, despite the combat feeling very intuitive, at the moment it’s very repetitive. We are only given one enemy type to fight in this Alpha, the mafia and I really really hope that in the future, there’s more enemy types in this level and the entire game itself, because despite them being fun enemies to fight against, it gets dull very quick.
The other level, however, Queen Vanessa was certainly a surprise to me. I went straight from a level where everything was bright, happy and upbeat to a level that just scared the hell out of me. Combat? Gone. Platforming? Gone. A Hat in Time turned from a lovely revival of the 3D Platformer genre into a fully fledged horror game. Gears shows us that a horror game doesn’t need high detail graphics or gritty textures and manages to pull off a truly horrifying experience through 100% pure suspense. You need to travel around this dark manor, hiding, sneaking and uh… hiding again to complete the level. The owner of the manor, Queen Vanessa sneaks around the halls and it’s your job to stay out of her sight and frantically escape.
The way in which the developer, Gears for Breakfast constructs this is very very clever. As you begin to solve puzzles and get a feel for how this works, the game will change it up completely and put you, once again, outside of your comfort zone. Hiding under a piano consistently? Let’s break it. Avoiding Vanessa the whole level? Let’s make you sneak right up to her. The game, whilst it might not pose an overall challenge in terms of difficulty, it presents a challenge mentally. I spent most of this level hiding under furniture trying to muster up the courage to get out there and finish the damn thing.
This entire level was a complete surprise to me and it shows that Gears aren’t content in just creating a straight up revival of the 3D platforming genre set up in the N64 era but are hoping to create something more.
A Hat in Time is truly a great game with buckets full of potential. Everything just seems to work. Those who initially backed this on Kickstarter will not only be satisfied with the product but will be surprised by everything else they’ve done with it and I hope they continue to be creative and make something truly exemplary.