The promotional art for Ultra Hat Dimension drew me to playing the game, and I wasn’t disappointed by its style. This puzzler feels like a retro dungeon or castle-based game that I would have played as a child. While I have been somewhat bored of retrofitted indie titles on the Nintendo Switch, Ultra Hat Dimension’s puzzles and colorful levels made it easy to forgive the 16-bit choice. This game doesn’t just feel like some clone of an old arcade title, and its retro design works for the type of game it is.
The introductory cutscene displays an animation style that’s simplistic but eye-catching. This style is actually one of my favorites. However, as fun as it was to watch, the entire premise of the game suffered from some continuity issues that made a story seem unnecessary for launching you into the gameplay at all. Your character is invited to a hat-themed party at a Spluff castle. But while there, all the little “otherworlder” Spluffs are possessed by Bea, the previous winner of the hat design competition. There isn’t any dialog throughout this sequence. It’s presumed when your character enters the castle, Bea is jealous of the attention you’re getting. As a result, they use a magic hat against their fellow Spluffs who then cause a riot in the middle of this grand party.
I don’t think a story is all that necessary for these types of games, and the one here somewhat contradicts itself later. This world has “otherworlders” and humans. The otherworlders love hats, and your character loves designing hats for them. However, the opening sequence never shows the main character with any hat. As the game loaded between levels, you were given more backstory that didn’t offer anything worthwhile to the premise of the game. This might seem like I’m nitpicking, but I have seen quite a few indie titles that try to force a story on an otherwise simple game, and it only makes it murkier. Sometimes, the bare bones of a story are enough!
With all of that said, this is a simple and very fun puzzler. The Spluffs all have their own hats, and if you don the same hat as them, they won’t punch you in the face. These punches don’t cost you any lives or turns, but they do move you, and other Spluffs, in different directions across the puzzle. It’s easy to corner yourself if you’re in a room of combative creatures, but this also makes it more strategic and challenging as you progress through the game.
The game saves your progress as you go, so you can jump back to the title menu and select a new level to replay, if you’re interested. It also allows you to scale the levels to 6x the standard size, if you’re really looking to get up-close and personal with the levels. If you have the Switch undocked or have sight impairments, this is a welcomed feature.
Ultra Hat Dimension ramps you up to more challenging puzzles as you progress, which is what I would hope any good puzzler would do. But it can also deceive you pretty easily. Some levels will have hordes of Spluffs and hats to wear, but the actual puzzle only takes a handful of moves to solve. Some are very easy to solve, but you overthink it because you just got through a difficult puzzle and overestimate what the next one will hold. (I got stuck on 3-2 longer than any sane person should.) No two Spluffs respond to each other the same way. If you push one into the other, it might buy you some time while they duke it out.
The music throughout Ultra Hat Dimension doesn’t overdo it with some repeating midi track. The music feels fuller, more adventurous, and like you’re in a castle or dungeon the whole time. Between that and the easy to explore levels and enemy Spluffs, Ultra Hat Dimension feels like a game created by people who loved old dungeon-based puzzlers. The game requires strategy, but it is entertainingly deceitful. It’s a balance of frustration and cutesy atmosphere that I really appreciate. Somewhat strange premise aside, Ultra Hat Dimension is a fun game woven with care.
Review: Ultra Hat Dimension (Nintendo Switch)
Ultra Hat Dimension feels like a game created by people who loved old dungeon-based puzzlers. The game requires strategy, but it is entertainingly deceitful. It’s a balance of frustration and cutesy atmosphere that I really appreciate. Somewhat strange premise aside, Ultra Hat Dimension is a fun game woven with care.