Mr. Sun’s Hatbox: Great Stealth Without a Hook – Switch Review
Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is a recent addition to the thriving rogue-lite genre, offering an entertaining and chaotic stealth experience in a charmingly simple art style. Despite its frenetic accomplishments, the game’s awkward progression system and excessive slapstick randomness can make it challenging to stay engaged.
As the player, you assume the role of a delivery company striving to recover a package that has been stolen by Mr. Moon and his accomplices from the beloved Mr. Sun’s Hatbox business. To accomplish this, you must establish your base of operations in the basement of Mr. Sun’s store, construct your headquarters, and devise heists to reclaim the package and put an end to Mr. Moon’s thievery once and for all.
“Unlike other 2D action platformers, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox relies on stealth mechanics.”
In this charming rogue-lite game, you’ll find yourself engaging in two distinct phases. The first is the planning and base-building phase, in which you equip your infiltrators, brainwash new recruits, conduct research, and undertake other tasks. The second phase is the heist phase, in which you select locations on the map to undertake side or story missions.
During heists, you’ll be dropped into randomly generated levels with one or two different types of objectives, such as stealing an item, delivering a package, or rescuing a person. If your character dies during the mission, you’ll lose them for good. However, completing an objective won’t result in mission failure or the loss of any items you’ve captured, even if your character dies. Unlike other 2D action platformers, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox focuses on stealth mechanics, requiring you to sneak around sightlines, avoid making noise, and either knock out or kill enemies in your way.
To aid you in your heists, developer Kenny Sun fills each level with an assortment of tools and mechanics. You can use a variety of melee and long-range weapons to stun or kill enemies, or even stomp on their heads. Weapons can be picked up from chests or stolen from enemies and used until they break or are captured for later use.
“With so many mechanics and variables to consider, there is a bit of inelegance to what should be a simple idea”
Naturally, as the name suggests, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox boasts an impressive array of hats – so many, in fact, that you’ll have plenty of options to pick. Hats can be acquired through discovery or purchase, and can be equipped in loadouts or during heists to offer a range of benefits, such as absorbing bullets or making you more difficult to spot. You can also utilise crates, barrels, traps, and even banana peels in the levels to take out enemies on the fly, providing dynamic gameplay and plenty of chaos.
Enemies aren’t just dead weight; they can also be captured and later brainwashed to join you in your quest to return Mr. Sun’s package. You’ll need all the help you can get, as you’re likely to go through a lot of characters, particularly as the game progresses. Each character has unique positive, negative, and neutral buffs and debuffs called quirks. There are added or removed as that character levels up after completing heists. As characters level up, they typically gain additional health and improved abilities, though this isn’t always the case.
However, with so many mechanics and variables to consider, there is a bit of inelegance to what should be a simple idea. This issue is more glaring when considering the confusing and unrewarding base-building progression.
“The research station is particularly problematic.”
After you complete missions, you receive gold rewards and new structure plans to build underneath Mr. Sun’s shop. These structures range from useless rooms like the staff room, which take up valuable space on your limited grid, to useful amenities like the brainwashing station that can force enemies to join you. Sadly, there are so few useful structures to build that the whole exercise feels rather pointless, dragging down the otherwise enjoyable heist aspects of Mr. Sun’s Hatbox.
The research station, which should be a cornerstone of the base building section, is particularly problematic. Not only is the tech tree underwhelming, but it also discourages the use of fun hats, strong characters, and weapons. Research requires not only money and high-level characters to access new tiers but also high amounts of weapons and hats. As a result, the research station hinders the player’s ability to enjoy the game’s mechanics to their fullest extent.
“When you ignore the crusty edges of Mr. Sun’s Hatbox, you find a delightfully reactive world”
Most of the other structures impose similar pressures on your resources, forcing you to rely on weak characters with debilitating quirks and no weapons for the first several hours. Adding to the frustration is the fact that some story missions will send you back a level if you fail.
Eventually, you can strengthen your staff and armoury and remove weak quirks, but losing a powerful character in the first few hours can make it feel like a slog, which is significant given the game’s runtime of seven to ten hours.
Mr. Sun’s Hatbox truly shines in its smaller moments – with its neon effects, satisfying weapon feedback, and screen shakes as you sneak from floor to floor or lead enemies into deadly traps. Despite its charming no-frills look of little blob-like people and tactile shapes and primary colours, every encounter can be a tense moment of quick decisions. This elevates the gameplay above its peers, carving out a unique niche in the genre.
After a few sessions, I realised that progression was not this game’s strong suit. Instead, I found the fun in the heists, the humorous dialogue, and the feel of moving my characters around. When you ignore the crusty edges of Mr. Sun’s Hatbox, you find a delightfully reactive world that captures all of what there is to love about stealth in five to ten-minute sessions. And for the small price of $14.99 USD, it’s probably worth it.
Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is a rogue-lite with chaotically fun stealth presented in a simple cute art style. But for all its hyperactive successes, it struggles to keep you playing with a clumsy progression system and perhaps a bit too much slapstick randomness.