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I hadn't even finished the story of A Hat In Time when I started to want a sequel. I was hooked.
The game calls back to older 3D platformers, with busy large levels. There's elements of Mario 64, and more obviously, Mario Sunshine in how the levels can change from act to act, and in its isolated platforming mini-levels. There's also influence from Banjo-Kazooie, and tiny hints of games like Luigi's Mansion, Paper Mario, and Mario Galaxy.
But the game has its own identity. It stars Hat Kid, a spacefaring little girl diverted onto a strange planet after the Mafia stop her and unwittingly blow open her vault of Time Pieces. The chapters of the game have her finding them again and meeting colorful characters. It's hilarious and adorable, but the game has a unique cynicism as well. It eschews idealism and sappiness for Black Comedy and an arguably selfish heroine, and even flirts with material that will either disturb children or go over their heads. I like that the game isn't truly catered to kids, and it gets its own voice for it. The story is simple, but almost every chapter has its own engaging plot and cast. Some of the voice work for the character of Mustache Girl can be grating, but the same actress voices another character to perfection.
The gameplay is good. Hat Kid controls like a dream and has some very snappy, fun movement. Exploring large areas is a delight, and it can be tricky to figure out the right moves and paths to get places, which I like. The game also provides abilities with hats and badges. Hats are made from yarn balls, though this might be too easy, since yarn is plentiful and you only need one yarn of the hat's type from the group you spend. Badges are bought and used for abilities, but some should be mapped to unique buttons for constant use, rather than using slots on your hat. The platforming is solid, though, with some inspired gimmicks, and I really love how the game dips into other genres and styles without ever losing the core controls. You're never asked to take up a different control scheme and nothing feels like a minigame, but yet the atmospheres and level designs are surprising and varied.
For the bad: The second chapter can't be finished until you play a fair bit into the next one, which disrupts the flow. There's also an act in the first chapter you can't finish until you've played the fourth chapter. The fourth chapter of the game has almost no narrative draw, too. I also think the brutal DLC goes into unfairness even with its easy mode on, as its amped boss fights feel less designed and more "throw hundreds of hazards onscreen and see if they can survive".
The length feels about right if playing for completion. The DLC also helps if you're playing PC or Switch.
This is a fun experience that I want to see continue. Ending it at one game would be a shame.
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