Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is a bundle of unexpected things packaged into one comical parcel. It’s a rouglite, 2D platformer wearing the skin of an NES title, with base building elements shoved into a series of enemy-infested dungeons. What makes it all work together is the game’s over-the-top humor that stems from wild premises rather than try-hard dialogue.
Nothing embodies the vibe better than the game’s first few seconds. While receiving a package, Mr. Sun and one dedicated delivery driver get robbed at gunpoint by a shadowy, moon-shaped figure. But our box-laden hero can’t let that stand and leaps into action to retrieve the pilfered parcel.
Entering a castle that just happens to be around the corner, I learn how to jump through the vertical series of levels to take out bad guys, acquire weapons, and, most importantly, equip hats. The thieves escape in a helicopter, but that still doesn’t throw me off the mission.
I head back to Mr. Sun to inform him I will recover his package no matter what. So, I begin to build a base of operations beneath his store. This section reminds me a lot of Fallout Shelter, the series’ mobile free-to-play management sim. I have a few rooms I can place off the bat, like a storage unit for my essential hats, a must-have staff room for breaks between operations, and a mission room which gives me new places to infiltrate.
My budding lair is populated by the most useless band of delivery people/dungeon delvers I can image. Heading off to a new mission, I check all my current employees special attributes which currently consist of things like spindly arms, bad knife skills, and soft skull. That means one of my agents can’t kill anyone with their bare hands, one can’t use sharp objects without hurting themselves, and one will stay unconscious much longer than anyone else if bonked on the head. Great.
So far, jobs are a riot of slapstick danger. Each level requires me to navigate a tower-like space crawling with armed enemies in order to “neutralize” one specific target. My initial mission took place in a library, and really, I can’t figure out why a bunch of gun-toting dots with legs are hanging out there. But, at this point the absurdity has already taught me not to ask too many questions.
I hop along the different floors, killing as I go. Sometimes my downed enemies drop hats or weapons. These, I can send back to the base with some handy balloons (as long as I don’t run out) to use in later missions. I also pick up gold, open chests with helpful gear, and hunt my target. I succeed if that enemy dies, even if I don’t make it out of the level alive. However, if the character I picked for an assignment doesn’t live to see the base again, they die permanently.
If everything goes well, I earn money to help build up the base with new rooms — including a med bay or brig — recruit more heat-packing package carriers, and get one step closer to finding Mr. Sun’s Hatbox. Don’t miss the demo, which is up on Steam until next week.