Ratalaika Games is an interesting publisher to say the least, and for the most part in a good way too. Sure, they may not be known for big critically acclaimed hits or produce fancy limited physical editions of their catalogue, but over the years the titles they have curated and published from all sorts of aspiring developers have really given their brand an identity. Regardless of the developer, the brand, or genre style of the game (though they tend to be visual novels), there is just something about these games where one can’t help but look and go “yup, that be a Ratalaika release”. Ultra Hat Dimension, a neat little puzzler developed by Kitsune Games, is the latest in the schedule of ultra-focused niche titles picked up by Ratalaika.
Ultra Hat Dimension looks like something that would have been right at home as a 1998 release for Nintendo’s Game Boy Color handheld. From the style of the sprites, the colour density, and even the way the screen scrolls, it feels like you’re inside a higher resolution Game Boy Color screen but in the comfort of your HD TV thanks to Xbox One. It’s a neat visual style and one of the real charms of the experience.
Other than the Game Boy Color inspired graphics, the art style and hand-drawn animated cut scenes are vibrant and colourful; they really add to the presentation of the game and complement the basic but charming premise. The setup is quite simple really, our hero Bea finds herself in a strange new kingdom obsessed with hats and now she must find a way to navigate this kingdom and its citizens made up of… Spluffs. These blue blobby ghost-like creatures are very particular about their hats.
As a puzzle game Ultra Hat Dimension has an instant pick up and play appeal with a very simple objective, one which works in its favour given the retro design the experience is aiming for. Ideally this is the sort of thing that is great to have on a handheld device, but could also be just as fun on a console TV setup.
In Ultra Hat Dimension players simply need to navigate maze-like stages where a key has to be picked up and taken to the exit gate to complete the level. Navigating these stages gets trickier due to some really mean Spluff creatures, who won’t hesitate to punch Bea (each punch sends her back one square) if she isn’t wearing a matching hat. Wear the right hat, and not only will these guys not punch, but they will also politely move from their spot. For a puzzler, these simple mechanics are enough to be situated in increasingly complex levels that need to tackled in a certain way to reach the exit. This usually involves picking and using certain hats at the right time and getting through those pesky Spluffs.
There are hundreds of these little bite sized stages across different settings and even with the simplistic mechanics the level design variety changes up quite nicely. This is the sort of old school experience with lots of levels and simplistic gameplay to make it an easy one to come back to whenever the mood is right.
Ultra Hat Dimension is a fun, wholesome, and classic puzzler that jumps out of the Game Boy Color and into your Xbox One. The visual style is charming and executed nicely, and the simple puzzle mechanics work effectively to create some really interesting and elaborate maze-like puzzle stages, of which there are numerous for players to go through. If you’re a after a charming puzzler for a low entry price point, then Ultra Hat Dimension might be the distraction you need.