Normally, I make it my business to steer well clear of fedoras. I’m now going to have to eat my hat, because Hatfall has had me trying desperately to manoeuvre myself under as many of them as possible this week. The hats, not the men. OH NEVER MIND.
The side-scrolling hat-em-up exists courtesy of video game critic, novelist, and millinery enthusiast Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, and shares the graphical genes of his popular YouTube game review series, Zero Punctuation.
In a similar vein to the excellent South Park: The Stick of Truth, Hatfall plonks the player into a lovingly-rendered and all-too-familiar fictional slice of universe. You play as the kahuna of skepticism himself as you ponce about the canary-yellow screen with ZP’s notorious imps.
As Zero Punctuation’s title suggests, there’s little time in Yahtzeeworld for dandyish fripperies such as breathing. The same brutal pace largely governs the browser (and mobile) game. Using only the left and right arrow keys and your wits, you must guide Yahtzee underneath the shadow of a falling object, praying to Jesus that it’s not a retro refrigerator and is instead a glorious hat. If you’re not the religious type, you can always rely on science – shadows will often betray the size and velocity of objects, although you will all too often misread the signs until they lodge themselves firmly in your eye socket.
Slick animation, swift gameplay and instant Super Meat Boy-esque screen reloads mean that you’ll barely have time to process the brilliant Yahtzee-isms that punctuate (ha) the game. Pair easy-to-pick-up yet frenetic gameplay with a flawless swing theme, and you’re already guaranteed to be a slavering mess of addiction and glee. May I present Exhibit B, Waluigi Pinball from MarioKart DS.
Get ready to sink further into the wormhole of Zero Punctuation and Infinite Procrastination, as the game proffers a series of tempting rewards for your diligent hat-catching services. In true ZP review style, they’re all hugely entertaining, purposefully confusing and a little bit useless. This snide mockery of the inanity of some video game power-ups and superficial customisability is vintage Yahtzee, and it goes down smooth, complemented by all the game’s other acerbic accompaniments.
These are often in the form of easter eggs that are triggered by certain in-game conditions. Just as the Zero Punctuation reviews segue into surreal sketches, Hatfall will sucker-punch you into a parallel dimension of hilarity at the drop of a, er, hat.
The decision to make a largely gimmicky game free to play in your browser is a remarkably sensible and fair one, considering the games industry now has the track record of your average African warlord when it comes to senseless exploitation. The only thing that even slightly whiffs of DLC is the three locked characters in the browser version – these are available only in the paid mobile version.
Primarily a novelty, Hatfall is nonetheless packed with Yahtzee’s trademark humour and sugared by a banal yet addictively gratifying mechanic of putting on hats to not die. Whilst replay value is scarce, Hatfall will keep you busy for a fair amount of time, compelling you to keep playing to unlock more funnygiggles and not-so-subtly undermining your self-worth all at the same time. And for FREE.
Hats off to you, Yahtzee. Although I’m sure you’d prefer if I left it on.