Ultra Hat Dimension review for PS4, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: Switch
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Kitsune Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

A lot of the time, when people use retro to describe a game, it?s simply a byword for ?incredibly hard.” Somehow, games like Ghosts ?n Goblins and Battletoads have come to represent an entire era, as if the NES had nothing but games that were nearly impossible for anyone but the most skilled gamers.

As someone who lived through the era (albeit in my very early years), I know that?s not an entirely accurate picture. That system definitely had its share of titles that were tough as nails, but what sticks out most in my memory is the sheer number of weird, quirky, and odd games that came out on the original Nintendo. I remember going to Rogers Video picking out some of the most bizarre games imaginable.

I say all this as a prelude to talking about Ultra Hat Dimension so you can understand what I mean when I say this: someone could have told me that Ultra Hat Dimension was a re-release of a long-forgotten NES cult classic, and I would 100% believe it.

To some extent, this is because it looks like it came straight out of a world where 8-bit graphics were the height of sophistication. Like, strip away the short bit of animation at the beginning of the game?s trailer, and you can see how those fairly simple graphics look like the NES would?ve had no problem running the game.

But it?s the story and gameplay where Ultra Hat Dimension really feels like a weird relic of the ?80s. You play as Bea, a girl who?s been sent to her kingdom?s annual hat design competition. On arriving at the castle — which seems to be in another dimension — she discovers that the inhabitants of the castle, weird little blobs called ?spluffs”, have all turned violent, and they punch anyone not wearing the same hat as them.

What follows from that is a game where Bea has to find the key and lock in each level, and she has to get punched a whole lot by these spluffs. Luckily there?s no health meter, so the only thing stopping you on each level is getting stuck in an endless loop of punching, or running out of hat disguises to help you pass by some especially poorly-placed spluffs. Oh, and you can?t punch back, though you can give some of the spluffs a shove if you?re wearing the same hat.

Like I said, it?s kind of weird. But it?s also really fun once you get into it. Each level here is a well-made puzzle, and the developers were smart enough to make it so that there are often multiple ways through any given floor. The game is challenging at times, but never so hard that you?ll want to throw your controller across the room and give up on the game completely.

But I still can?t believe how much it feels like it could?ve come out on the NES. Ultra Hat Dimension is a throwback in the best sense of the word, a retro-infused puzzler that fully understands the era it?s trying to mimic. If you?re looking for a game that?s weird — but also fun — as heck, this will most definitely do the trick.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Ultra Hat Dimension PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-