Game Tech: Hats off to best game in years - A Hat In Time

‘A Hat In Time’ is an old-school 3D platform game with plenty wit and imagination, writes Ronan Jennings

FIFTEEN years ago, run-of-the-mill platform games were commonplace. Everyone was still trying to copy the success of Mario 64, usually with mixed results. However, A Hat in Time is far from run-of-the-mill. It’s run of the milliner.

Outside of the Mario series, A Hat in Time is the best 3D platformer in many years. It captures the slick controls and platform sensibilities of Mario 64 with the imagination and wit of Psychonauts. It’s challenging, fresh and far funnier than the screenshots indicate.

A Hat In Time stars the anonymous ‘Lil Girl’, who lives on a spaceship powered by hourglasses. One day, a cartoonish mafia thug appears outside her window (yes, in outer space) and smashes the pane, sucking all the hourglasses out into space and scattering them across various planets. Lil Girl must venture out to retrieve them all.

If you’ve played Mario 64 or any other ‘90s-era platformer (or even Mario Odyssey) you’ll immediately understand the premise. The planets are the equivalent of the paintings in Mario 64, with the hourglasses being the “stars” that you must collect. Each planet is essentially one, contained landscape, which contains a variety of different hourglass challenges for you to overcome.

For example, on the mafia planet your first task is to simply find the hourglass that fell by the fountain, by running and jumping your way to the location.

Later on, however, the same level is over-run by lava and you must turn off the giant faucets from which the lava is flowing. The same level also contains boss fights and collection-challenges.

The planets and the various characters you encounter are a huge selling point of A Hat in Time. On the second planet, you encounter two warring movie studios, vying for the ‘Bird Awards’. The owls are filming westerns and the penguins a musical. At one point, you play through an ingenious ‘Murder of the Owl Express’ parody in which you must solve a mystery for the owls. On another planet, a demonic shadow makes you sign a contract to complete menial tasks in order to retrieve your soul.

Throughout all this, the gameplay remains top notch 3D platforming, with Lil Girl able to stitch together various hats to improve her abilities.

One hat allows her to sprint, another points the way to objectives, another creates explosive potions and so on. The hats can be swapped out on the fly, making for some excellent puzzles and creative levels.

For gamers who don’t own a Switch and can’t play Mario Odyssey, this is by far your best option for outstanding 3D platforming. Even better, it’s only €30, with two free planets and co-operative play coming later in 2018.

For a game that was kickstarted five years ago, A Hat in Time has turned out far better than we expected. Our hat is off to the developers.

SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM

Not all kickstarters are successful, however. In fact, many of them have been shocking failures. Add another failure to the list in the System Shock remake, from Nightdive Studios. System Shock is a cult classic, a PC legend, from the 90s that Nightdive promised to remake by simply overhauling the graphics. However, things got a little out of hand.

“Maybe we lost our focus,” developer Larry Kuperman wrote in a statement. “The vision began to change.

“We moved from a Remaster to a completely new game. We strayed from the core concepts of the original title.

“The more that we worked on the game, the more that we wanted to do, and the further we got from the original concepts that made System Shock so great.”

The System Shock remake is now on hiatus, as over 21,000 backers hold their breath.

BREAKING THE SECRET

Remakes are difficult at the best of times, especially when the subject is a classic. The Secret of Mana remake, released on consoles this week, is another example of poor execution. The original sprite graphics have been

replaced with ugly and unresponsive 3D models, while the gameplay has lost some of its nuance as a result.

Secret of Mana is still a colourful, entertaining game at its core — but the secret to its success has been lost in the modernisation.


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