Modder Superior: Trying on A Hat In Time mods for size
More silly hats than Royal Ascot
This week, we're breaking from delving through our back catalogues in favour of a recent game with a still-growing mod community. A Hat In Time is still one of the better 3D platformers on PC, only improved by two big chunks of DLC recently. Developers Gears For Breakfast have gone the extra mile on mod integration, with user-made worlds accessible from a special room in the level-selection hub, and rewarding the player with tokens for cosmetic unlocks. Mods here range from tiny cosmetic upgrades to hours-long expansions, sometimes in entirely new genres. Below, a hat-rack of picks to get you started.
The Steam version of the game, having full Workshop integration, is easier to mod, and online multiplayer is a Steam-exclusive feature. I have included Nexus links where possible for people with the GOG edition, but not every mod offers the option, sorry! Also, to the best of my knowledge, no DLC is required to run any of the mods below.
Best Hat In Time mods
The good news - last week's new Nyakuza Metro DLC added even more modding functionality. Those who own it can even play user-made levels together in the new Online Party mode. It looks like A Hat In Time modding has a bright future.
The bad news - Gears For Breakfast have temporarily locked mod support until May 17th to allow for testing and for mod authors to update as required, but Steam users can roll back the game to pre-expansion if you'd rather play mods instead. Right-click on the game in your library and choose Properties. In the Betas tab, select "modding_support" from the drop-down, initiating a 3.5gb download. The devs tell me that their testing has turned up no issues so far, but that doesn't mean there's none to find. Sadly, it looks like GOG users have to wait until Friday.
High fashion can't be rushed. It takes a while for A Hat In Time to launch the first time after downloading multiple larger mods. Starting the game after that should be far quicker. The same applies for launching a level the first time from the Mail Room. Smaller, simpler maps may only take a few seconds. Whole worlds will sometimes take upwards of five minutes, but this is a one-time delay. Think of it as installing the level after you've downloaded it - return trips should load almost instantaneously, although there are some exceptions.
Here's a handful of quality-of-life mods which you should grab immediately, even if you're only just starting a first play-through of A Hat In Time. Perhaps not as thrilling as the rest, but universally useful:
Sort My Inventory (Steam/Nexus) by "ajcomics" helps clean up the clutter, ordering your alternate hat skins, dyes and music remixes by type first and rarity second. It's surprising how useful this one is once you've collected a pile of official or unofficial hat skins.
Better Menus (Steam/Nexus) by "ajcomics" does exactly what it says on the tin. It improves the look and readability of the Relic and Remix Swap screens. For easy screenshot snapping, there's even the option to turn off the UI when you're browsing your relic collection.
Diary+ (Steam/Nexus) by "ajcomics" is a major upgrade to a hidden little feature. After getting the ice power, you can drop into Hat Kid's hidden pillow fort in her bedroom. Originally, you could read the diary for her thoughts on the previous level played. With this mod, you can read any entry you want (complete with new illustrations and ink-spills), and re-read the storybooks found in Time Rift levels.
No More Duplicate Hats! (Steam only) by "ajcomics" isn't quite a must-have, but useful to know it exists. If installing and uninstalling mods leaves you with weird cloned items in your inventory, this should clear them out for you.
Small tweaks & add-ons
Here's a few smaller mods which can liven the game up, but are less essential than those above:
Radar Hat (Steam/Nexus) by "ajcomics" is a smart in-game alternative to looking up guides. When this fully dye-compatible high-tech hat's power is activated, it briefly fills your screen with icons pointing towards different item types, speeding up the scavenger hunt. Arguably cheating, but with all the new levels below, less time wasted means more time for exploring new places.
Computer Voiceover (Steam only) by "phort" adds macOS-styled speech synthesis to the VGS 1 computer aboard Hat Kid's ship. Completely useless but charming, and a surprising amount of effort went into it, right down to some smart changes of inflection.
Playable Mustache Girl (Steam Only) by "Argle Bargle" adds Hat Kid's erstwhile antagonist as a playable character, complete with her own unique abilities. Argle Bargle has even come up with some story justification for Mustache Girl teaming up with Hat Kid against herself. You can find the new character sitting atop a throne of comfy pillows in the main room of Hat Kid's ship. She can't access all areas, as she has no Ice Hat equivalent power.
Hat Kid SWEARS (Steam Only) by "Argle Bargle" does exactly what it says on the tin. Through some clever audio editing, Hat Kid responds to damage taken with some rude words. It's surprisingly cathartic when you're playing a particularly tough level, although I can't help but feel like a bad influence, letting Hat Kid say 'fuck'. Good dumb fun, and entirely cosmetic.
Cappy Cap (Steam/Nexus) by "Camb0t" and "MelonSpeedruns" sadly lacks the ability to possess your foes and steal their bodies, but it still allows for some absolutely game-breaking movement. Anyone who has played (or even watched) Super Mario Odyssey should have some idea of what you can do with this hat. It can be thrown as a weapon, but also left floating in the air, usable as a bounce-pad. Combine this with Hat Kid's double-jumps and air-dives and you can cover preposterous distances in mid-air. Cheating? Maybe, but it still takes practice.
Playable Timmy! (Steam Only) by "Argle Bargle" adds another character skin to the mix. Timmy was originally a planned playable character shown during the game's time on Kickstarter, but got cut at some point. He plays exactly the same as Hat Kid, but also comes with a bunch of extra hat skins you can earn through the token slot machine. You can find him in the kitchen, unceremoniously dumped in the rubbish bin.
While the majority of A Hat In Time's mods are relatively straightforward, a few creators have pushed the boundaries and broken the game out of its 3D platformer shell. Here's a few examples:
Ace Attorney: A Hat In Crime, Case 1 (Steam/Nexus), and Case 2 (Steam/Nexus) by "Elsie (LCL)" and partners in crime is exactly what it sounds like. A remarkably intricate parody of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, now all the more relevant given that the series has finally landed on PC. The first case is relatively short and sweet - a proof-of-concept, more than anything, but the second features a full investigation section. It's all very silly, but proof of how far the game's dialogue systems can be pushed. There are two more cases planned, but they may take a while.
Pac-Kid (Steam only) by "CatCube" isn't going to set the world on fire - it's just Pac-Man, but it's a great showcase of what can be done in A Hat In Time with minimal resources. It even uses the chapter system to give the player access to five different mazes of escalating difficulty.
ConductorWare: Smooth Moves (Steam/Nexus) by "Elsie (LCL)" is another classic console tribute from the same brain as A Hat In Crime, this time riffing off the Wario Ware series. Featuring some surprisingly good voice acting for The Conductor, it's a hell-for-leather dash through 28 tiny levels across multiple genres, each one ten seconds or less long, culminating in a boss fight. Surprisingly tough in places, and forces you to think on your feet. Unlike real Wario Ware, there's nothing random going on here, just an endurance micro-game challenge.
The Legend Of Zelda: Dungeon Of The Eagle (Steam/Nexus) by "Mr. HomelessHobo" is another impressive bit of top-down design. An entire NES Zelda dungeon recreated painstakingly, right down to the boss fight. It nicely highlights what you can do with some low-res textures and scripting, although isn't going to devour your evening.
Hat Kid's Adventure In South Island (Steam Only) by "Raujinn" is a third trip into the second dimension, but this time horizontally scrolling. Using textures and audio lifted from Sonic The Hedgehog, it works surprisingly well. Hat Kid's double-jump and wall-bouncing works decently in 2D. The horizontal scrolling did stutter a little bit on my machine though. While possible, it was never meant to be a 2D platformer.
Playable Time (Steam Only) by "Quinn" hopefully won't get bopped by Konami after covering it here. It's a Hat In Time-themed tribute to the ill-fated Silent Hills 'Playable Teaser', and replicates the surreal looping hallway environment pretty well. It's not nearly as serious and grim, and the bathroom sink is inhabited by a chatty little gremlin instead of... whatever that was in the original. It plays out as a Purple Time Rift level, with each repetition taking you deeper.
New levels and worlds
As wild as those mods are, A Hat In Time's meat-and-potatoes running and jumping is still great fun. Here's a handful of the biggest and best individual levels and worlds available.
The Breathing Sea (Steam Only) by "Werti100" and crew is one of the first major mods for A Hat In Time, and still remains one of the largest. A massive new world with several distinct levels within it, all with a mellow seaside vibe and a whole new soundtrack to match. While the early parts of the mod contain a lot of precise platforming over instant-death water, you later gain the ability to explore under the waves.
This one easily clocks in at 3-4 hours of play even if you're decent at A Hat In Time. My only gripes is that it lacks some mod cons (heh) that later became common, like skippable cutscenes and chapter selection. Plus, the hub level is so huge that it takes a while to load even if you've played it previously. Be patient during that long initial setup. Go make a cup of tea. I swear it hasn't crashed.
Pillow Fort Playtime (Steam Only) by "Travelling Merchant" might be just what you need after that long hike through The Breathing Sea. It's a short, sweet and exceptionally polished little Purple Time Rift level, helped with a little feedback from the game's developers. Nothing high concept or fancy here, just a steady escalation of platforming challenges and a beautiful look modelled after Hat Kid's room, expanded into a weird dream-like void.
Hat Kid Steals The Declaration Of Independence (Steam/Nexus) by "Elsie (LCL)" and pals, for a complete hat trick of mods from Elsie. This one's a little more straightforward - a stealth-focused platforming level - but wrapped in absolute 110% commitment to its Metal Gear Solid/James Bond parody concept. Featuring two full vocal numbers and "The Dark Souls Of Boss Fights" and some decent enough voice acting, too, even if it better riffs off MGS than AHIT's cast. There's apparently some easter eggs to find and secret tokens to collect, but I didn't get too many.
The Tale Of Queen Vanessa (Steam/Nexus) by "Werti", "DanielCNR", "Camb0t" & "Voidspartan" is easily one of the most impressive Time Rift levels available. Inspired by one of the story-books you can collect in the main game, it retells the tragic tale from Subcon Forest as a multi-stage, puzzle-heavy adventure. The level has a whole bunch of bespoke new puzzle pieces, such as special coloured zones which alter gravity depending on whether you're attuned to them. It mixes things up all the way to the finale, too.
Express Owls In: Gold Leaf Galaxy (Steam/Nexus) by "FlameLFH" is proof that you can't go far wrong when cribbing from Nintendo. Based closely on a Mario Galaxy world, Gold Leaf Galaxy features a lot of fun challenges crammed into a remarkably compact space. While there's a lot of familiar elements, it adapts every challenge to fit A Hat In Time's bag of platforming tricks. There's even some impressive bespoke boss scripting with nothing re-used (as far as I can recall) from the main game. It looks good, sounds good and plays good.
New Hat City (Steam/Nexus) by "Sheriff Boyardee" is a sprawling, non-linear city sandbox built to be explored. What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in scale and imagination, with many building interiors hiding whole mini-levels. The main challenges in this level are scavenger hunts for coloured coins, but there's an optional Death Wish (hard mode) stage, too, available direct from The Snatcher. The only possible issue with this map is performance can chug a little, at least at maximum settings. There's a big map in one area that may help orient you - use it.
Desert Dazzle (Steam/Nexus) by "Heavy" is another huge world to explore, this time set in and around a series of small villages out in a large desert. Getting from place to place is a doddle, because Hat Kid has a fully drivable sandmobile - the first vehicle I've seen in A Hat In Time, and it fits in perfectly. There's around ten distinct levels within this massive hub, some replayable via the chapter selection screen.
You'd think that the scale of it would be balanced out by some rough edges, but this is shockingly polished stuff, almost up to official level quality. The only real indicator that it isn't official is the lack of voice acting. Desert Dazzle's unusual 'Chapter 4?' designation seems to be implying that it's an alternative B-side to the Alpine Skyline world from the main game. Honestly, it's more fun to get around, and Apline Skyline never had a skyscraper-sized chocolate cake to bounce on.
And that's your lot for now. By no means a comprehensive list of all worthwhile mods and maps for A Hat In Time, but a good selection to get anyone started. Still, that's just my personal picks. What's on your hat-rack for this summer?