2017 was a competitive year for the 3D platformer genre. Crash Bandicoot set out to celebrate its past with the N-Sane Trilogy, Yooka-Laylee tried to prove that old formulas could still have some charm, and all the while Super Mario Odyssey was fixing to remind everyone who exactly was still on top. But of all contenders to the throne, none were quite as captivating, as A Hat in Time.
This Kickstarter darling from developer Gears For Breakfast unapologetically stole the show upon its release in October 2017, and has been winning over fans in the PC space since. While the adorable platformer did eventually find its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the title never found its way onto a Nintendo console. That is until now. Humble Bundle at the publishing helm has finally brought A Hat in Time to the Nintendo Switch.
Those unfamiliar with the narrative of the original game will happy to know that, in keeping with platforming tradition, there’s very little narrative to speak of. You play as Hat Kid, a mute protagonist with a thing for stylish headgear. As you’re journeying home on your spaceship, you have an unfortunate run-in with the mafia. Hijinks ensue, and your ship is drained of fuel so you partner up with a mafia resistance movement to collect your missing time pieces and continue on your way home.
Similar to its influences, as Hat Kid you have a barrage of jumping and attack maneuvers that you can use some combination of to get past almost anything. When you’re transported from your ship to another stage, you’re dropped into the colorful open world below and basically given free reign to run and jump wherever you like. Each act has its own unique objective, but traversing the world in unique ways to get there is all part of the fun. For just $5 more you can grab the “Seal the Deal” expansion that includes additional worlds and unlockables.
With A Hat in Time, the devil is absolutely in the details, as every set piece, NPC, & animation is just overflowing with charm. The inclusion of full voice acting adds a large amount of personality and the scoring brings the world to life in an unbelievable way. The 5-plus year development cycle following its Kickstarted funding really shows through with every gameplay mechanic and every addition to the world being refined down to its most satisfying.
Unfortunately, it’s that attention to care and detail that makes a lack of it all the more noticeable, and unfortunately, where there’s a port, there’s bound to be some issues. The first comes when a second players jumps in for cooperative play. While other versions of the game utilize a local split-screen to achieve this, the switch port opts to put both players on a single screen and then stretch the camera very far back to keep everything in view. This just doesn’t work well. The camera is never quite at the angle you want it to be, and as much as it tries to keep up with both players on the screen, it really only works if both of them are right next to each other the entire playthrough. In single player this issues melts away and the camera is in fact one of the best I’ve used in a 3D platformer. I don’t know if this is the result of the Switch hardware that split-screen was gutted or a conceptual idea that playing co-op portably would be too difficult with a split view, but it is a sorely missed feature here.
The next biggest problem with the port comes with its framerate dips. Framerate fans out there aren’t going be happy because the framerate is simply not consistent. Once again this could be blamed on Switch hardware not being able to compete with the gaming PCs usually seen running this game, but I’d take locking the game at 30ps before constantly going from 60 down to 24 and back again. Fortunately, this is by no means a WWE 2K18 situation – this game is still playable even when it slows down. It’s very unfortunate to see these small issues crop up when everything else visually works so well.
But you can’t talk about stuff dragging down the presentation without talking about the load times in this game because they are pretty dang egregious. The original version’s load times weren’t exactly amazing either, but they are super noticeable on the Switch port. There were times where I was convinced my game had crashed on me, only for it to just be a particularly long loading screen. To make matters worse these loading sessions are absolutely riddled throughout the title. If only one thing gets fixed in some kind of patch after the fact, I really hope something is done about these loading times because they are dragging down what would otherwise be an excellent experience on the hybrid console.
Despite some of these technical problems, A Hat In Time still manages to entertain and provide a very fun experience. Although there is no lack of platformers on the Switch, good 3D ones are few and far between. I had a great time with this one and if you aren’t bothered by some of the issues I mentioned, then be sure to check this one out!
A Hat In Time Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
If you were waiting for this game to appear on the Switch library to play it – play it. It is still an absolute joy to experience. Technical issues aside, this unique indie gem stacks up even against Nintendo’s most iconic titles. If you’re still looking for that true love letter to fans of late 90’s platforming, you owe it to yourself to check out A Hat in Time.
Evan Roode is a full time journalism student and amateur game historian. His favorite song from Guitar Hero III was “Even Flow”.