Zero Punctuation: Hatfall – Hatters Gonna Hat Edition

Two game critics were important inspirations for me when I started Indie Gamer Chick. One was Jim Sterling, whom I became friends with when he stumbled upon my Indie Ego editorial. The other was Yahtzee Croshaw, who is playing hard to get. I found both of them to be insightful, uncompromising, and hilarious. I hold both in high esteem. They’re what a game critic should be: informative but entertaining, and just egotistical enough to be adorable without obnoxiousness.

Someone pass me the vaseline.

Really adorable. Someone pass me the vaseline.

Both also moonlight in game development itself. Jim is a critically acclaimed voice actor. Yahtzee has made a series of free-to-play indies that inspired his Yahtzee persona. Given that I just reviewed a game Jim acted in, the hugely disappointing Volume, I figured I should check out my other idol’s work. Low and behold, he just happened to have two games release on Steam. One of them is a survival horror game, a genre typically as compatible with my epilepsy as a housefly is with a rolled up copy of the New York Times. So I chose Hatfall, the Zero Punctuation-based game. It’s actually a mobile game converted to Steam with a few upgrades. Which actually makes me wonder how dull the mobile version must be. Butter knife dull? David Attenborough documentary on the history of butter knives dull? BluRay special edition audio commentary on the David Attenborough documentary on the history of butter knives with special guest Ben Stein dull?

The core game is you move left and right catching hats one at a time. The further you make it, the more stick-figure lookalikes crowd the screen, forcing you to quickly figure out which one is you before the hat hits the ground. Sometimes the game also drops deadly projectiles in addition to hats, and it takes a little bit of practice to be able to tell the difference. Stages fly by quickly, eventually spawning a wizard event that has an additional effects challenge that earns you a present if you complete it. Presents open up mini-games. And that’s about it.

You'll want to play this minigame over and over again when you're trying to slay the evil hat God. Or just don't buy the game. Because it sucks.

You’ll want to play this minigame over and over again when you’re trying to slay the evil hat God. Or just don’t buy the game. Because it sucks.

Call me crazy, but I sort of figured a game based on Zero Punctuation would be more satirical of gaming. I also figured it would involve some sort of fast-talking commentary by Yahtzee himself. But nope, there’s none. My family was elated. “Oh, so we won’t have to hear that awful man’s voice that sounds like the Micro Machine Man did twenty years in the Tower of London for doing terrible things with cattle? Oh um, what a shame, Cathy” they said while high-fiving each-other between toasts of champagne. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only voice overs from Yahtzee are two words. Sometimes he says “WRONG!” and other times he says “noooice!” That’s it, unless I missed something. The running gag of misspelled words in the background continues from his reviews, but none of them are funny without the context of his commentary. All the humor is limited to the minigames, which have a couple of laugh-out-loud gags in them, especially one based around insurance fraud. Maybe because of the Zero Punctuation title I was expecting a more scathing and self-aware satire on games and gaming culture, like the Beginners Guide if it was narrated by a fast-talking, British-born Australian psychopath. Hatfall is just sort of lazy. This feels like a game Yahtzee would shit on himself if he hadn’t made it.

Hey look, an almost satire on one niche aspect of the gaming scene: anime dating sims. Except that scene is such a parody onto itself that it's really not funny here.

Hey look, an almost satire on one niche aspect of the gaming scene: anime dating sims. That’s topical, right? Except that scene is such a parody onto itself that it’s really not funny here.

Worst of all is the game isn’t remotely fun to play. Progress is slow. Items are too expensive. Scoring is low and grindy. There’s a multiplier you get at random from the wizard that could either double the points you get the next game or earn you another life during your next round. These only serve to make every round you play without those items feel like a slow waste of your time. You have to go to the game’s achievement page in Steam to view leaderboards (I currently rank #30 globally, which as far as embarrassing achievements go ranks up there with the time I watched the entire season of Power Rangers Samurai without getting up to use the bathroom). This is a shitty, shitty game. One that is occasionally funny, but not funny enough (especially when the awful Rondo stuff starts) to justify spending real money on it. There’s an old saying: never meet your heroes. For aspiring game critics, add to that “and especially never play your heroes’ games. Ever.” Well fuck, so much for the wedding. We could have made beautiful, horrible children together, Yahtzee.

Zero logoZero Punctuation: Hatfall – Hatters Gonna Hat Edition was developed by this asshole.
Point of Sale: Steam

$3.99 (normally $4.99) asked why, if he could make looking at Mega Man cover art so funny I nearly choked on my own tears, how come he couldn’t make this funny in the making of this review?

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

9 Responses to Zero Punctuation: Hatfall – Hatters Gonna Hat Edition

  1. jbevan70 says:

    So when you say you sat through all of Power Rangers Samurai without taking a bathroom break, did that include Super Samurai?

  2. >> made a series of free-to-play
    you mean just free games, not free to play?

    also be glad that it’s just a licensed game made by some mobile developer so it at least playable
    i played games he made himself and it’s like collection of sins from the game-design book

    IE poacher saves right just before long unskippable cutscene after which there is difficulty spike section so you forced to be bored to death by cutscene over and over

    no heroes or kings only man

  3. Hi! So I lave your blog and I am also a developer of an Indie game, It is currently in a Pre-Alpha stage and I would really love it if you could review it on your blog 😀

  4. Hi! So I am the developer of Project Billy, it is a low-poly indie game and I would love it if you could review it, it is also currently in a Pre-Alpha stage 😀
    Link: http://gamejolt.com/games/project-billy/111757

  5. Kari Nelson says:

    I don’t know, the game’s not perfect but it was cute enough, and for the price and platform that’s all I ever asked from it. The difference is you can’t judge a mobile game by the criteria of console or pc games. They serve entirely different purposes. Yahtzee outlined this in his review of Iphone games; they’re time-killers for casual gamers, so there’s no sense going all Portal or Resident Evil 5 on its ass.

    I think my biggest issue with your review is a clear effort to imitate Yahtzee’s level of critiquing, but it lacks any subtlety. Your metaphors are clumsy, and when Yahtzee shits on a game he’ll explain the element of the game that caused him to lose interest, and if it was just plain boring he’ll usually have some suggestions for how it could have been improved. He actually puts thought into it, and doesn’t demand that the game-designers guess at what he’s looking for; he tells them exactly what he wants, and for the most part he keeps it reasonable.

    Feel free to correct me if I’m completely off base, but I sense at least two things you were trying to do here; review a game, and parody Yahtzee’s style. If this is right, then you failed at both. It wasn’t much of a review at all, and you don’t parody the man so much as lazily reference his cynicism. You’re like the Date Movie of game reviewers. Your attempt to put down Hatfall is immediately undermined by the fact that your ovaries obviously throb for him. I admit, I was hoping to see YOU review it, not some ventriloquist dummy of Yahtzee whose operator got hammered beforehand.

    • I’ve been reviewing this way for almost 5 years.

      And I did make specific complaints. Did you read the full review? I mean, you’re talking about the mobile game when this is a review of the more expensive Steam version.

      • Also, this quote from Yahtzee seems apt.

        “Small-time curmudgeons like me are not going to reduce anyone who works there to tears and they care even less about you.”
        -Yahtzee on Nintendo, though I’m guessing that would apply to my review, him, and you.

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