Hatup Review


We’re going to skip straight to what we like most about Hatup. It can’t wait. To complete a level, you must find and wear a hat. That’s because you’re simply not cool enough to pass through the door at the end of the level until you’ve donned one. But more than that: if you wear the hat, you are suddenly too cool for fancy abilities. You lose all of the double-jumping and blink-movement. We would guess that, when you wear a hat, you need to look proper and sensible. There’s none of that double-jump malarkey while you’re wearing the finest of headwear.

We’re still not done yet. If you want to regain your powers, you can’t just take the hat off. Oh no, that’s not what a gentleman does. You have to come across a low-flying platform and dink the hat off using its edge. With the hat gone, you can become an acrobat again.

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We can’t fully describe why this tickles us. Perhaps it’s because it’s the foundation on which everything else is built. This stuff is important, yo, but when you take it apart and scrutinise it, piece by piece, it makes almost no sense at all. We love the weirdo, alternate-reality logic of Hatup, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Of course, we’ve now revealed the best parts of Hatup, which means that everything else is a bit of an anticlimax. Hatup, you see, is an extremely, extremely conventional little platformer. The majority of its levels have you starting in one corner of a game screen, and your job is to reach the other end of the game screen. You jump, double-jump and use other abilities gained over the thirty levels to reach the door that is level’s end. 

The obstacles are all yawnworthy. There are plenty of spikes, hard-to-reach platforms and keys that need to be collected to unlock more keys, or perhaps that dapper hat. Hatup doesn’t dally with enemies or complex environment pieces. It doesn’t really have the room to do so – there are only thirty levels here, and the first ten will pass you by like a fart in the wind – and you sense that it doesn’t really want to, either. This is a bitesize little gameplay nugget, and it doesn’t have aspirations beyond that. 

It’s in the hat where Hatup manages to gather up a little bit of interest. The hat is the key to success, but it also nobbles you. Pick it up, and you’re worse-off than when you didn’t have it. It’s harder to reach platforms, and getting to the exit suddenly seems like a chore. So, Hatup becomes more about when you pick up the hat. In simpler puzzles, you need to be leaving the hat till last, so it’s about hitting switches and collecting keys before taking to the final stretch, grabbing the hat and running to the exit. In harder puzzle rooms, putting on the hat has a binary effect. Blocks appear when the hat is on, and disappear when it is off, or vice versa. So, the hat becomes a kind of switch, too. 

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Hatup is not what we would call difficult. At least, not until level twenty-one out of thirty. You will be firing off achievements like it’s the Rio Carnival. We got a little scared for Hatup at the midway mark: we were going to be finished in fifteen minutes. But then things start cranking into gear. Hatup’s single-screen levels become multi-screen. Checkpoints appear, which is a good sign that difficulty is ramping. And the jumps are incredibly precise.

We started liking Hatup at this point, if we’re being honest. We won’t get carried away: the component pieces are still too simple, and we’ve played levels like these umpteen times in better games. But the challenge rose to meet our abilities, and we found ourselves grinding out one level at a time. It was throwaway, but nice enough.

Of course, as soon as the difficulty went up, the infuriations became a little more naked. We have never, as of yet, found a blink-movement that we have liked in a platformer. It’s normally an ability that allows you to teleport, effectively, in a given direction. So, if you have double-jumped to a platform and still haven’t made it, you can use it to ‘blink’ to said platform. But the problem is that anticipating the length of the blink, so that it lands on a platform and not past it, is rarely if ever precise. And when you have full 360 control over the direction of the blink, well, that just gives more opportunities to fail. And so it goes here. The blink is an inelegant, imprecise little mechanic, and we didn’t have much love for it. 

Failure is handled clumsily, too. You have four lives in each level. Die for the first to third time,, and you will restart at the beginning of the level, but with all the gates unlocked from your previous progress. So, it’s kind of a half-save state. But die four times, and you are completely resetting and have to regain your progress. The problem is, if you’ve got a lot of the level to go and you are low on lives, you may as well kill yourself, so that you have the best chance of succeeding in the level. You want to have the full four lives, not be hanging on a thread of one. But that behaviour sucks. No-one wants to be intentionally killing themselves. It would have been better to just offer infinite lives and be done with it. 

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Those are, in the larger scope of things, relatively small quibbles. They are dwarfed by the nagging sense that we have done this all before; that Hatup isn’t offering up much that is altogether new. The levels and their obstacles give us an abiding sense of deja vu, and no number of hats can obscure that feeling. Even if we find the hat mechanics cute. 

Grab Hatup from the shelf if you fancy some quickfire achievements, or the comfort of a simple platformer. But if you want something more challenging, or with a flourish of ideas, you might want to shop elsewhere. 

You can buy Hatup from the Xbox Store

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