Review: Hatfall

Recommended: The appeal of this game is right there in the premise, and while I don't think that it's going to win over anyone that is sceptical of it upon hearing about it, Hatfall is nonetheless a great amount of fun for those that find the humour in it.  It lives and dies by that humour, really, but if you are a fan of critic and creator Yahtzee Crowshaw's humour, then I suspect you'll find this game more than worth the price of admission.

Review: Hatfall
Date published: Nov 22, 2015
2 / 3 stars

Hatfall is a comedy platformer designed and published by popular internet gaming critic Yahtzee Crowshaw.  It's full title on Steam: "Zero Punctuation: Hatfall - Hatters Gonna Hat Edition" belies the kind of humour this game relishes in, a memetastic sort of sarcastic British humour where it's not so much tongue-in-cheek as rather the cheek's gone right through the wall of the mouth and ricocheted off a confused and grossed-out passerby.  While the actual game here is threadbare-but-fun casual mobile schlock, the humour and personality of this game is what carries it above the merely average.

20 GOTO 10

The core gameplay of Hatfall is right there in the title too - you are in a room of yourself and probably a bunch of other similar Zero Punctuation characters, and your goal is to get under the falling shadow of what one rightfully hopes is a hat, as opposed to a brick, or piece of home office furniture.  So, your hazards are basically two-fold in general: first, as one of the game messages helpfully advises: "Which one is you?  That is the game" - and indeed, as you go on more and more additional characters pop up in the screen with each "hatfall" to confuse you, and you have to determine in a very short window of time which is you and get in position.  The second we already touched on - not everything that falls from the sky is going to be a hat - but above that, not all of them are the normal trilby "Zero Punctuation" hat either, such as one from a wizard, which if you do catch makes the next level more difficult in one of a variety of random ways - obscuring the shadows with a blood effect, shaking the screen, or inverting it, as an example.

If there's any criticism of the core gameplay, it's something I've hinted at in the above and the game itself pokes some fun at given I'm quoting the game there, which is that the game can get repetitive fairly quickly.  The game alleviates this somewhat with a meta progression, and some mini-games, which I'll discuss in greater detail below, however, it can't really be understated that the core game is not very varied otherwise, so if the mini-games and/or humour don't do it for you, you might find this one rather short-lived.

Allay thine fears, cover thine ears

While we're whining louder than a motor with a broken fan belt, lets get onto one of my bigger problems with the game personally: it has like no options.  Full-screen or not, and perhaps something I would have appreciated more, personally - a fucking volume setting.  Don't get me wrong there was nothing here that was terrible and I just wanted to mute, but having taken the game's suggestion of using that brief initial loading time to find a pair of headphones (I say "a pair" as if I have more than one), I was immediately greeted by the loud screeching guitar of the Zero Punctuation theme playing through them and it left my ears ringing a bit for how loud it was.  The game has no volume slider either, just a button for sound on and off, so it was off to the Windows volume controls to turn it down a bit.  I know, I know, look at Her Ladyship over here upset she had to go into system settings she keeps pinned to her taskbar, what a hardship it is.  The point isn't that it was a huge inconvinence, it's that this is something that is easily-remedied, and indeed, just about every game worth its salt so to speak does, so that a game that otherwise is pretty on point seems to have either forgotten or neglected such options seems rather curious.

Where are you keeping them all?

As with many a short-form game meant to be replayed, a fair bit of the appeal to Hatfall is that it offers a sort of meta progression system - in fact, it offers two different ones.  Firstly, you have a sort of "gift" system where every so many hats you do catch (it increases as it ticks over), you can select one of many "gifts" to unlock.   Some of these gifts unlock mini-games, some are cosmetic, and others help, sometimes, maybe.  What do I mean by sometimes, maybe?  Well this is probably best exemplified by the "satellite" gift I got, which identifies hats sometimes, at random.  Except it does it after you already caught it or it missed, and it will even helpfully point out that the car that splattered your internal organs across the screen in a sea of red jam, was not in fact a hat.  The game likes its humour that way, and each of them has some sort of humour aspect to them, some of them more than others.  If you're worried that they're all useless though, well, they aren't, and there's only a couple that seem to have no actual use, both of which I'd argue are fairly obvious. 

The second meta progression is that those hats don't just disappear - you keep them and use them as a sort of virtual currency for a "hat store" where you can essentially spend those hats to unlock additional characters to appear in game.  This both enlivens things beyond just the standard ZP character and the imp, but also makes the game a little easier with each one, as it increases the chance that you will be able to differentiate your character from the others on screen.  Each of the characters you can unlock has their own little joke attached, all with that signature Crowshaw snarkiness, and I found myself genuinely laughing at a couple of them.

I won't spoil it, but there's a sort of third meta as well - there's a countdown of 1500 hats until [event] - and that too, is some fun and funnies!

Would you believe in life after hats?

As I alluded to precisely 599 words ago, the main way the game varies up the gameplay to try to keep things from getting stale is in a variety of mini-games.  A common example, for instance, is the Wizard, if you get past the level where you "angered" him, will give you an "IOU", which then leads to a scene at the end of the current session, where you pick one of three cards with humour tarot readings attached, that give you items, or shunt you to another mini-game, an extra life, or other possibilities.  Probably the one I actually enjoyed the most in terms of actual gameplay, simple as it was, was the downhill mini-game where you're trying to catch hats with a net as you speed downhill, avoiding imps, and it lasts just long enough not to out-stay its welcome and has a few humorous jokes attached.

Of course, the one mini-game everyone who finds it will be talking about will be the piss-take of dating sims, and while it's more of a joke than an actual mini-game per-se, it was nonetheless a hilarious romp through the often-quite-tired tropes of that thin veneer of "dating sim" most H-games put over the soft-core sex or implication of sex to avoid that 'hentai' designation.  Of course, being the tosser I am (the game even calls you tosserkun, so I mean, I consider it role-playing more than anything), I just violated hat-chan immediately, which sadly just ends the mini-game right there, as one could probably gather.

C-c-combo Breaker

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fix this, so while I won't say it's really to the games detriment since I don't think many people will really give a toss, I'll be damned if I don't mention it - the reason there's not a screenshots section following the close of this review is I just could not get the Steam overlay screenshot function to work with the game at all.  I don't know whether that's the game or it's just being tempermental (I suspect its the game though, given I've been taking Fallout 4 screenshots just fine), but in either case, it was annoying, so here I am wasting your time with it.

Accessibility Notes

  • No in-game options for graphics, except full-screen or windowed modes
  • Some high-constrast flickering light patterns may present issues to epileptics

<p><strong>Recommended:</strong> The appeal of this game is right there in the premise, and while I don't think that it's going to win over anyone that is sceptical of it upon hearing about it, Hatfall is nonetheless a great amount of fun for those that find the humour in it.  It lives and dies by that humour, really, but if you are a fan of critic and creator Yahtzee Crowshaw's humour, then I suspect you'll find this game more than worth the price of admission.</p>