Back in June, I gleefully gushed about the Kickstarter for a collect-a-thon platformer called A Hat in Time and implored anyone who would listen to me to back the project so that it could make all of its stretch goals. It did (check out the Kickstarter page for more details on the content planned for this game), and after months of progress, the developers finally had an alpha build ready.
As a backer, I am one of the people who got to play the alpha. When I started it up, it warned me that it was just an alpha, not a finished product. There would be bugs and incomplete areas. So with all that in mind, I stepped in to give it a try. And I gotta say, it blew me away.
Even the music on the menu screen made me nostalgic for Banjo-Kazooie (speaking of which, Grant Kirkhope is doing several songs for A Hat in Time), and it just got better from there.
Mafia Town: Banjo-Kazooie Meets Super Mario Sunshine
The first level took me to the wacky island called Mafia Town, where the humorous Mafia of Cooks hold the town in an iron grip. Although these guys are, well, thugs, it’s impossible to hate them. As they talk about beating up barrels dressed like old ladies, punching seagulls with children, and similar wacky antics, you’ll love them even as you beat them up with Hat Kid’s umbrella.
Mafia Town has an aesthetic vibe similar to that of Super Mario Sunshine or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, while its gameplay retained the promised reminiscence of games like Banjo-Kazooie. Although the game encouraged me to chase after Mustache Girl, who seems rather entertaining despite her planned role as Hat Kid’s evil nemesis, I went off on my own to explore the island. I collected lots of things, including orbs, special ability-granting badges, and hats. The reason Hat Kid isn’t wearing her signature top hat in these pictures is because I’d already collected a different hat by the time I thought to take screenshots. The alpha doesn’t have an inventory feature yet, although the full game will allow players to switch between hats.
My time in Mafia Town was filled with exploration, collection, and laughter. I saw many hints of things to come in the full game, including a group of dancing Mafia. When I asked the Mafia in charge to let me join in, he told me only Mafia are allowed to participate, although he mentioned that Geoffrey hadn’t shown up yet. Of course, I claimed to be Geoffrey. He looked at Hat Kid and said he didn’t believe I was Geoffrey, because everyone knew Geoffrey was a jerk, and I didn’t look like a jerk. I attacked one of the dancers with my umbrella, and the Mafia guy relented–“You convince me. You Geoffrey.” That was as far as I could go, but I can’t wait to see what sort of mini-game or sidequest that is set up for.
Mafia Town just has a brilliantly goofy atmosphere. From a random Mafia who insists he “has a Ph.D in Mafia,” to the weird graffiti on walls, it cracked me up and assured me I’d made a great decision in supporting this game.
“Wall now belong to Mafia”
I eventually got back on track, followed Mustache Girl, fought some Mafia (and collected their ties to trade in at a bazaar, which isn’t functional yet), and got my first hourglass. Although that opened up a new Mafia Town level with “no Act attached” (in other words, Free Play in Mafia Town) and three new hourglasses to collect, I decided to try the other area available in the alpha.
Queen Vanessa: RUNJUSTRUN!!!
I knew A Hat in Time had a spooky world called the Subcon Forest, and from what I’d seen, I expected a cutesy sort of horror like that of Banjo-Kazooie’s Mad Monster Mansion or Super Mario 64’s Big Boo’s Haunt. You know, a dark little world that might have some startling moments, but nothing that could really be called scary.
The first thing I discovered was that I couldn’t move the camera. I debated over whether or not it was a bug, correctly decided it was not, and smiled at the possible nod to survival horror’s fixed camera angles. I snatched up some collectibles, unlocked the door leading up to the first floor of the mansion, and found myself in a dark hallway. As I looked around, Queen Vanessa screamed out in anger that I’d dared to enter her home and emerged into the hallway to chase me.
NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE
After one horrific game over, I made it to the safety of the next room, where the evil “ohgoshI’mgoingtodie” music faded into a merely unsettling melody punctuated by Vanessa’s eerie calls that she would find me. I calmed down and got to work on solving the first puzzle, to get the key to the next floor.
Before long, I’d attracted Vanessa’s attention again.
As I hid and prayed and listened to the terrifying music, it occurred to me that I was no longer in Banjo-Kazooie Meets Super Mario Sunshine. I’d veered off into Banjo-Kazooie Meets Amnesia.
In fact, the more Vanessa taunted me, and the more I read about her on my way through the mansion, the more convinced I became that I was in Banjo-Kazooie Meets Amnesia: Justine. (Thankfully, it is not that scary, as I still haven’t managed to beat Justine.) Later on in the mansion, I had to deal with the Snatcher instead, which returned me to the tamer level of spookiness I’d expected from the game.
And then Vanessa chased me again.
If she catches you, it’s all over.
Thoroughly shaken by the experience, I collected the hourglass feeling happier than ever. I mean, I thought Mafia Town was great, but Queen Vanessa gave this already-awesome game the sort of heart-pounding tension I love in my horror games.
Several Hours Later…
Of course, even if I decided to only play through the scary level once (you’re joking, right?), I still had my Mafia Town free play to check out. More collecting and exploring! To put it simply, even the alpha of A Hat in Time has a great amount of content. There are hidden platforming levels very similar to those found in Super Mario Sunshine, with rotating platforms, and a balloon race that feels like a large shout-out to the boss races in Diddy Kong Racing. All in all, Steam reports that I’ve played the alpha for 6 hours, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
And on top of everything–collectibles, goofy Mafia, terrifying chases–the one thing that keeps getting me is that this is just the alpha. I can’t wait to see what the beta build will look like…and the full game after that!
So read up on A Hat in Time, let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts or questions, and always remember… if it’s not Mafia, then it’s not quality!
…And if it is Mafia and not quality then YOU ARE LYING!
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