Indie Interview: A Hat in Time


Platformers in the video game industry have a unique place.  It hosts some of the most nostalgic and beloved franchises of all time, such as Castelvania, Mega Man and Mario.  And, while the genre used to be immensely popular, major publishers have since moved on to bigger markets, leaving a huge itch in gamers that is usually scratched by online flash games and indie productions.

This is where we meet A Hat in Time.  Indie developer Mecha the Slag’s new title is focused on bringing fans of classic collectible-happy platformers into the twenty-first century with gorgeous art direction and innovative gameplay features, while still holding on to the traditional zaniness and pure fun of the genre.  I was able to get in touch with Jonas Kaerlev, the director of A Hat in Time, who spoke more about this intriguing project.

Nolan: Can you give us a short synopsis of the plot, and how important it is to the overall game?

Jonas: The game is about Hat Kid, an interstellar traveler on a quest to save time and space as it’s falling apart into tiny pieces. On her way, she meets Mustache Girl, who wants to break these pieces to release their energy and use it for evil. There are a lot of twist and turns along the way, like Hat Kid teaming up with Tim the Time Lord, who is the cause of all the trouble. The story isn’t as dominant a factor as gameplay is.

Nolan: A Hat in Time is said to have roots back to classic platformers like Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country 64.  What are the biggest similarities, and what distinguishes A Hat in Time from those titles?

Jonas:  Similar to Banjo Kazooie, I decided to focus on non-linear levels with a lot going on in them. The fact that almost every section of a level plays a significant role really helps make the levels feel very alive and unique. But unlike Banjo Kazooie, not every ‘jiggy’ is available at once.

(Editor’s note: The ‘jiggy’ is Banjo Kazooie‘s main form of collectible, a jigsaw piece that unlocks new portions of the game world)

I decided to split events in the levels into several acts, as it would allow us to drastically change how the levels look. A really good example of this is in A Hat in Time‘s first chapter, ‘Down with the Mafia’, where the chapter’s Act 4 completely changes the level by flooding it with lava.

Nolan: In the last few years, games have begun to add a considerable amount of depth to gameplay by adding unlockable abilities and items, upgrade systems, experience points, etc.  Will A Hat in Time have a similar system, or will it focus on adhering to much more simplistic gameplay?

Jonas: For A Hat in Time there are Power Pins, costumes, and Energy Bits to collect. Power Pins enable new attacks with a wide variety of features and costumes allows Hat Kid to dress as weird and crazy as the creatures that live in her world. Collecting enough Energy Bits also unlock new parts of the game in real Banjo Kazooie-style. In addition, Hat Kid has a personal checklist of ‘things to do before I grow up’, and it’s up to the player to complete this extensive list of over 100 crazy, fun and weird challenges!

While there is currently no release date set for A Hat in Time, Mecha the Slag is hopeful that there will be a public unveiling this summer, with an early 2014 release. Even though much of A Hat in Time is still under wraps, it’s already shaping up to be one of the most distinct and interesting indie titles of the near future.

To stay up to date on all your hat-related news, make sure to like A Hat in Time on Facebook, visit the developer website, and Greenlight a Steam release!  Stay tuned at SpawnFirst for more indie previews.