A SERIOUSLY FUN HOMAGE TO GAMECUBE GAMING
A Hat in time is a platforming collect-em-up which feels so utterly alike classic 3D Mario games that you could be fooled into believing Nintendo played a part in its inception, all it’s missing is Nintendo Polish.
The game’s mechanics clearly pull from Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64, you traverse the various levels with a series of jumps, double-jumps, dives and wall-jumps in such a similar way to how you’d get around in Nintendo’s flagship character’s classic games that I felt a spike of nostalgia every time I booted it up.
A Hat in Time follows a space-faring young girl, known to others as “Hat Kid”. She never speaks but the fully voice-acted characters who come to know her all give her a name which you can call her but we never find out what it really is.
Her Spaceship is fueled by powerful magical Hourglasses called “timepieces” which have the ability to manipulate time. At the start of the game, they are blown out of a hole in the ship and sent plummeting down to a strange nearby planet, your goal is to get them back!
You can do this by completing challenges and quests in each of the game’s 5 worlds;
- Mafia Island – No, not the real-life Mafia island in Zanzibar, this picturesque rounded island is overrun by the actual Mafia.
- Dead Bird Studios – A film studio which plays host to a strong rivalry between a 70s Disco Penguin and the most terrier-dog-looking Owl you’ve ever seen.
- Subcon Forest – A dark and very spooky forest full of spirits and ghosts, including a particular ghost who just can’t stop writing up contracts in exchange for your soul. This level even features a pseudo-homage to Luigi’s Mansion.
- Alpine Skyline – a truly beautiful free-roam area based on Tibetan mountain ranges, full of mystery and zip-lining.
- The Finale – yep, you guessed it, the last level, featuring only a boss fight.
Speaking of Boss Fights, the boss fights in this game are where it really departs from the Nintendo formula. Rather than needing to hit your foe just 3 times these boss fights are long, complex pattern-based brawls which prove to be a real challenge that you can really sink your teeth (and time) into!
The game’s similarities to the 3D Mario series are done tactfully and with individuality, there are unique mechanics present which offer a fresh and totally new perspective on this genre of gaming and they avoid being too samey – even changing the formula slightly for the Alpine area, allowing you to free-roam and keeping the game fresh just as it begins to become stale.
There is, however, a striking similarity to the latest entry into the Mario series; Super Mario Odyssey, and not just because of the focus on hats. The traversal methods in Odyssey are one of the greatest things about it and they really set it apart from previous games in the series. The way you can combine jumping combos with dives and reach places you feel like you shouldn’t be, makes you feel both skilled and freed.
This is somewhat present in A Hat in Time, just not to the same extent, and it’s possible to skip through some jumping puzzles with a little skill, combining jumps with dives and wall-scrambles to really make you feel like you’ve mastered the game – but it’s not necessary!
The weird thing about that is that Super Mario Odyssey came out after A Hat in Time, by about 22 days. Of course, that means it is extremely unlikely that Nintendo could have copied what the Hat in Time Devs were up to, but it does feel like Odyssey built on what A Hat in Time brought to the table.
Most likely, both teams were following gaming trends for the time and landed in fairly similar places.
A Hat in Time Gameplay
The main mechanics of the game focus around jumping – of course – but your ability to explore is often dictated by the hats you can wear. There are 6 of these hats which you can build by collecting yarn for each hat while exploring the world. Once you have created a hat, you can still find balls of yarn for it in any other level, but it will be converted into universal yarn which can be used to create other hats, as long as you have at least one yarn for that hat.
The hats give you powers like being able to sprint, and in turn long-jump, or interact with platforms which are otherwise intangible.
This range of abilities is then expanded upon with the inclusion of “Badges”. Small pins which Hat Kid can wear on her hats to give her new abilities – such as the invaluable Hookshot – or improve on what she has, like turning her normal umbrella attacks into a powerful long-range chargeable beam.
You can attack enemies with and she’ll give them a good thwapping with her umbrella, but you can also dive-attack enemies by pressing whilst in the air. This dive attack is actually quite important for getting around in some areas, where you’ll need to dive-attack a spider to get across a gap.
It’s actually pretty tough to get right and can often be frustrating as sometimes – for no reason at all – the attack just won’t trigger. It’s also the only way to attack in the air, which is a bit disappointing because sometimes I had an uncontrollable urge to jump at an enemy and whop them on the noggin with my brolly, but all that would happen is I’d jump in the air and then land on the enemy, hurting myself.
For a game about jumping around and platforming, there actually is – surprisingly – fall damage. But it’s pretty lenient, you can fall from some pretty impressive heights and still walk away. You can also get a badge which makes Hat Kid deploy her umbrella and Mary Poppins her way to safety if you’re falling from too high up.
The aim of each level in the game is, of course, to collect the
Shine Sprites Time Pieces. Collecting an hourglass will send you back to the ship, which can be annoying if you’re working on other trophies or side-objectives and need to start again if you collect the hourglass.
From the ship, you can then select another level to do in the same world or go to a different world to try out the levels available there. Levels are essentially different challenges set in the same world, which can vary from platforming challenges to boss fights to stealth missions, upon the completion of which you receive your Time Piece.
Each world is full of hidden mystery, caches of Pons (the game’s currency with which you can buy badges and relic plinths), hidden relics, balls of yarn and trophy opportunities. There are also things called “Time Rifts”. Similar to the trippy toybox worlds you could find hidden away in Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, these worlds consist of platforms floating in a void which you need to navigate.
You can unlock Time Rifts by progressing in a world a certain amount, you’ll then be given a photo-hint as to its location which you can use to find it in the relevant world and complete it for a bonus Time Piece.
Each world has 3 Time rifts to complete, two of them blue and one purple. The purple rifts unlock once you have collected a certain number of hidden relics (not necessarily in that same world) and then displayed them on a relic plinth within your ship. Relic plinths can be purchased for 200 Pons and you will need 4 in total.
Purple rifts are much longer and consist of several jumping puzzles. They are also themed more towards the world they’re found in, although quite a dark and warped alteration of the world’s theme.
In each of the puzzles, you can find special gold Pons. These Pons can be used to buy access to the next puzzle. What’s quite nice about this is that you don’t need all of the available gold Pons, just enough to reach the next area, and if you have surplus you get to keep them for the next area in-case it proves difficult.
There are also hidden pages which, if you find them all, can be combined into a picture-book depicting the history of that world. They’re not needed for any trophies but are cool nonetheless.
My A Hat in Time Platinum Experience
I had an incredibly fun time getting the Platinum for this game. It was lengthy and fulfilling without being too dragged out or boring in places. The progression pacing was really well done and after just 10 minutes in the game, you can really feel like you’ve made some solid progress.
There are a lot of miscellaneous trophies though, not necessarily tied to in-game progression, so even if you get really far in the game, you might look at your trophy list and still only see “13%”. This ends up being quite satisfying though, as you approach the end of your playthrough and start to pop trophies left and right.
I started off by wanting to just play through the game, enjoy what story there is and just immerse myself in the nostalgia for a while. But, it didn’t take very long before my trophy hunter instincts kicked in and I found myself sticking my nose in every little crook and nanny I could find, looking for yarn, Relics, Pon and anything else I could get my greedy mits on.
Worth noting, by the way, that after I got about 50% of the way in the game I stopped going after yarn because I realised what an abundance of yarn there was. By the time I’d used my yarn to buy the last hat I still had an absurd amount of spare yarn.
I think that’s quite nice of the developers, personally. There’s nothing worse when you’re playing a collect-em-up than the last 2-3 hours spent looking for that one last item you need and not knowing where it is or which one you’re missing in order to just Google it. It’s nice to have that peace of mind that you don’t need all of the yarn or pon in every level.
In-fact the only collectables you really need to get 100% of are the Relics – of which there are only a few, like 15 or something – and the Time Pieces which are, of course, really easy to find and there are only 40.
I had no difficulty in finding any of these. Otherwise, I’d say something like “There’s one really well-hidden relic here on this level” but they are genuinely really easy to find.
A Hat in Time Platinum Trophy Tips & Tricks
The platinum is genuinely quite easy, you just need to be willing to put in the time – which shouldn’t be a big ask for a game as wonderful as this!
I would recommend, however, that you leave most of the miscellaneous trophies until you have the last hat:Spoiler
You can also get a really helpful badge which will reduce cooldowns to a great extent, allowing you to use abilities such as the last hat almost non-stop.
Combining that badge and the last hat makes most of the trophies a breeze!
There is one trophy you need to get which required you to beat a boss without dying while wearing a badge which will make you die after one hit:
Defeat any boss with the 1-hit hero badge equipped.
This trophy is very, very hard in my opinion, I had a horrible time trying to do this.
I recommend doing the Subcon Toilet mission with the 1-hit hero badge equipped, the cooldown badge and the last hat, which makes it a lot more possible, but still really difficult.
I just kept having bouts of horrible luck, every time I’d grab the explosive apple I’d just so happen to do it just above an attack which would then kill me, or I’d run out of double-jumps at the wrong time, things like that. But also whenever I did have a good run I’d always get so damn close, like, one hit away from killing the boss, before dying. I’d then never be able to reach that point again for another 10-15 tries, it was absolutely maddening.
Eventually, I did manage it. The best advice I could offer is not to abuse that last hat’s ability too much, try to do things without it as much as you can because sometimes it’s detrimental (you’ll see what I mean).
I can’t think of any other trophies anybody might struggle with, except maybe this one?:
Find Hat Kid’s Secret Hideout!
If you’re struggling to find it, the solution is in the spoiler tags below:
If you go to the telescope which takes you to Subcon Forest, you’ll see a large pile of pillows which you can actually swim in. If you clip your camera through this mass of pillows you might see a suspicious-looking hole in the floor. Use the Ice hat’s ability while above this hole to make yourself heavy enough to fall right in.
None of the trophies are missable and you can revisit and replay any mission you’ve already completed, so go wild! Have fun! The game is a really jovial jaunt and I hope you find as much joy in it as I did!