2017 has been a year of competition for the kind of 3D platformers. Crash Bandicoot celebrated its past with the N-Sane trilogy, Yooka-Laylee tried to prove that old formulas can still have a certain charm, and meanwhile Super Mario Odyssey reminded everyone who was still on top. But of all the pretenders to the throne, none was more charming than the Hat at the time.
This adorable Kickstarter game from the developer of Gears For Breakfast innocently stole the show when it was released in October 2017 and has since gained more and more fans in the PC space. While the charming platformer eventually made its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it never made its way to Nintendo’s system. I still do. Publisher Humble Bundle has finally brought A Hat in Time to the Nintendo Switch.
Those unfamiliar with the history of the original game will be pleased to know that, in keeping with the tradition of platform games, there is very little narrative. You play the role of the Hat Kid, a mute protagonist who loves elegant hairstyles. As you return home in your spaceship, you have an unfortunate run-in with the mob. Setbacks will occur and your ship will run out of fuel. Then work with the mafia resistance movement to pick up the missing pieces and continue the journey home.
Much like his influence as Hat Kid, you have a number of jumps and attack maneuvers that you can use in combination to pass just about anything. When you are transported from your ship to another stage, you enter the open and colorful world below and basically have the freedom to run and jump wherever you want. Each action has its own goal, but traveling the world in a unique way to achieve it is part of the fun. For just $5, you can take advantage of the Seal the Deal extension, which includes additional worlds and unlockable features.
In A Hat in Time, the devil is definitely in the details, as every scene, NPC and animation is full of charm. The inclusion of the whole voice adds more personality and the dots bring the world to life in an incredible way. The five-year development cycle after Kickstarter funding shows that every game mechanic and addition to the world has been improved to perfection.
Unfortunately, this attention to detail makes it all the more noticeable and when there is a connection, certain problems inevitably arise. The first comes when the second players start playing together. While other versions of the game use a local split screen for this, the switch port allows both players to be on the same screen and the camera can be stretched far back to keep everything in view. This isn’t working right. The camera is never at the desired angle and no matter how hard it tries to follow both players on screen, it only really works when both players are standing side by side throughout the game. In single-player mode, that problem disappears, and the camera is actually one of the best I’ve ever used in a 3D platform game. I don’t know if it’s because Switch’s hardware has been emptied or if it’s a conceptual idea that it would be too hard to play with the shared view in portable mode, but it’s a very neglected feature here.
The second major problem in the port is diving into the framework. Framerate fans won’t be happy about this because framerates are simply not compatible. Again, this could be attributed to the Switch hardware not being able to keep pace with the gaming consoles that usually play this game, but I’d rather the game be down to 30ps than constantly going from 60 to 24 and vice versa. Thankfully, this is by no means a WWE 2K18 situation – this game is still playable, even if it slows down. It’s a shame that these small problems occur when everything else is working so well visually.
But you can’t talk about the things that drag down the presentation, let alone the loading times in this game, because they’re fucking outrageous. The loading times of the original version weren’t really surprising either, but they’re very noticeable on the Switch port. There were times when I was convinced my game had crashed, only to see a particularly long loading screen. To make matters worse, those download sessions have an absolutely cryptic title. After that, if only one thing is fixed in some sort of patch, I really hope something is done about the load times, because they slow down what would otherwise be a great experience on a hybrid console.
Despite some of these technical problems, Hat in Time still manages to entertain and provide a very enjoyable experience. While there’s no shortage of platform games on the Switch, good 3D platformers are rare. I had a great time with this project, and if you’re not embarrassed by some of the problems I mentioned, check it out!
Examination of shell in time
- Charts – 7/10
- Sound – 10/10
- Gameplay – 9/10
- Late Call – 8/10
Final thoughts : GRAND
If you were waiting for this game to appear in your Switch library, play it. It is always an absolute pleasure to live. Technical problems aside, this unique indie gem can even compete with Nintendo’s most iconic games. If you’re still looking for the real love letter to the platform fans of the late 90s, check out Hat in Time.
Evan Rude is a journalism student and amateur gambling historian. His favorite Guitar Hero III song was Even Flow.
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