Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, A Hat in Time was released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2017. Nintendo fans have been lobbying developer Gears for Breakfast ever since to port the title to Nintendo Switch. Two years later the game has finally arrived, but its launch has been soured by a number of technical issues. The game will do little to knock Super Mario Odyssey off its perch, but it’s still worth checking out for platformer fans.
A Hat in Time follows the exploits of Hat Kid, a little girl trying to return home in her spaceship. As she passes a planet, a member of that planet’s Mafia intercepts the ship and tries to collect a toll. When Hat Kid refuses, the Mafia man bursts open the window of the ship, causing her and the ship’s power source, the Time Pieces, to fall onto the planet. Hat Kid must now recover the Time Pieces so that she can continue her journey home.
The general plot is basic and just sets the stage for why Hat Kid is hunting down all the Time Pieces. It’s rarely expanded on further until players get towards the end of the game, but what A Hat in Time lacks in narrative it makes up for in character design. Throughout her journey Hat Kid will interact with a number of humorous characters, including the Mafia, a pair of movie director birds who are competing to win an award, a mysterious Moustache Girl and a contract-signing obsessed ghost. The characters are downright whacky and many of the interactions feature stellar voice acting. The appeal of the cast is what really drives A Hat in Time and hearkens back to games such as Banjo-Kazooie where googly-eyed side characters became almost as popular as the main protagonists themselves.
A Hat in Time features five different planets to explore, as well as two more if you own the Seal the Deal and Nykuza Metro DLC packs. Like Super Mario Galaxy, the planets are broken up into separate chapters that, once completed, will unlock a final boss battle. To name a couple of the areas you’ll explore; there’s Mafia Town which is an expansive town governed by Mafia gangsters, Dead Bird Studio where players navigate film sets and star in some of the movies being produced, and Subcon Forest which is a mystical forest featuring spirits, ghouls, a hazardous swamp and a spooky manor that players must explore. There’s a lot of variety in level design and no two areas feel quite the same; it’s a complete joy to explore each one.
Most levels are open world and will see players navigate obstacles and complete challenges to reach each chapter’s Time Piece. Along the way you can collect Pons which act as currency, Yarn Balls which unlock new hats, and Relics which are used to complete figurines that unlock bonus Time Rift levels. Time Rifts are classic linear platform levels where your jumping and timing skills are put to the test. While A Hat in Time is not a difficult game, the Time Rift levels will challenge even the most seasoned gamer.
As mentioned, collecting Yarn Balls will unlock new hats for Hat Kid to wear. These grant special abilities such as showing the closest point of interest, being able to sprint through levels, throw explosives and ground pound. You can switch between hats completely on the fly, and while levels have been designed so that they make use of each hat I never felt like there was a heavy reliance on the mechanic. Hats can also be equipped with purchased badges which have some game-changing effects. One badge, for example, lets Hat Kid use a hook shot to swing from certain places, another magnetises the hat to attract nearby Pons and health refills, and others add cosmetic filters.
While a competent and fun platformer in its own right, A Hat in Time does suffer from performance issues on Nintendo Switch. Firstly, the game has an inconsistent frame rate. Particularly for larger and/or busier areas, the game takes noticeable frame rate dips and at times even freezes for a few seconds. The camera system can also be annoying when exploring narrow areas; there were several occasions where I messed up a jump just because the camera suddenly zoomed in on Hat Girl! There is a co-op multiplayer mode where a second player can join in and take control of Bow Kid. Unlike the PC version, co-op multiplayer is not split-screen so Bow Kid is confined to only where Hat Kid is located. There are also long load times when starting the game and entering levels. Because of all these issues, it’s difficult to recommend the Nintendo Switch port over any other version.
Visually, the game features cel-shaded graphics which make the world and characters resemble a vibrant cartoon. On Nintendo Switch the resolution is displayed at 720p, meaning the world doesn’t quite pop as it does in other versions. The music is quirky and catchy, suiting the scenarios that are playing out on screen and adding to the charm of the whacky characters you encounter.
Ultimately A Hat in Time is a quirky platformer featuring a stellar cast of characters, unique levels that are fun to explore and balanced gameplay. However, the Nintendo Switch version has an inconsistent frame rate, a poor camera system and long load times which put it behind other versions. This is still worth picking up if you’re a platformer fan, but if possible stick with the PC version.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed A Hat in Time on Nintendo Switch. It is also available on PS4, PC and Xbox One. The Xbox One version is not available for purchase in Australia unless you change your console’s region settings.
- Quirky characters - Fun level design - Interesting "hat" mechanics
- Annoying camera system - Inconsistent frame rate drops - Long load times