A Hat in Time review for Xbox One, PS4, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Gears for Breakfast
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It’s safe to say that A Hat in Time’s development could be described as “troubled.” Between a very lengthy gestation period (its original Kickstarter launched back in 2013) and the voice acting involvement of a controversial YouTuber, the game has generated more headlines than you’d expect to see from an indie 3D platformer. Now that it’s here, though, we finally have an answer to the question of whether it’s worth all the fuss.

Unfortunately, that answer is a pretty resounding “no.” Maybe a “not really” if you’re feeling charitable.

Don’t get me wrong, A Hat in Time looks nice enough. It’s trying to evoke the brightly coloured worlds of its ’90s forebears, and it mostly succeeds. The planets here all seem like they could’ve sprung straight out of any number of similar games from decades ago, and the characters are all cartoony enough that the same could be said of them, too.

The problems begin once it comes time to move beyond looking at the game and actually playing it. As a 3D platformer, you’d hope that A Hat in Time had controls and a camera that enabled you to experience everything that the game has to offer. It doesn’t, which means that you don’t/won’t.

I mean, I understand that this isn’t the kind of game that needs tight, precise controls; we’re not talking about some tough-as-nails retro platformer. But I would expect that if you have to jump from ledge to ledge, there’d be some consistency in whether or not your on-screen character grabs on to ledges to keep her from falling. The combat is also pretty wonky: it’s one button to jump, and another to bounce off enemies, but you need to be in just the right spot for the second half of that equation to work. Even more annoying, chaining together attacks is an incredibly hit-or-miss affair. Sometimes the game allows you to bounce from one bad guy to the next, while other times you just hit a bad guy and fall to the ground, and there’s no apparent rhyme or reason to why it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

The control issues, though, pale in comparison to the game’s terrible camera. Because A Hat in Time’s creators packed their game so full of stuff it’s not uncommon to have your view blocked by some piece of the environment or another. Going into corners or tight spaces means you’re basically playing blind, and when it rains, it feels more like your screen has gone all grainy. No matter how nice A Hat in Time may look, its creators consistently do everything they can to get in the way of letting you enjoy it fully.

And that is why A Hat in Time just isn’t worth playing. Reasonable people can disagree on whether and how heavily to weigh its off-screen issues. What’s less open to debate, however, is how much this game is weighed down by wonky controls and an even wonkier camera. There are other, much better 3D platformers out there, and they’re much more deserving of our time and your money.

Gears for Breakfast provided us with an A Hat in Time Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: C