A Hat in Time represents the best kind of Kickstarter project. Developer Gears for Breakfast doesn’t have any notable celebrity developers on its team and was instead able to reach its monetary goals based purely on the potential of the game and its appreciation for the genre it was trying to emulate. The result is a game that lacks polish, but A Hat in Time is full of surprises, and, more importantly, is a blast to play.

A Hat in Time begins with a mysterious girl in a tall hat flying through space in a ship fueled by magical hourglasses. She is sidetracked, however, when a bad guy from Mafia Town (a planet inhabited exclusively by Mafioso) invades her ship and her hourglasses are flung into space, making their way to the neighboring planets. What follows is a bizarre platforming adventure through a number of distinct worlds with an assortment of fun abilities.

Arguably Hat in Time’s best and most notable element is its platforming gameplay. Moving the unnamed girl through the world is fast and accurate. I rarely, if ever, missed a jump I wasn’t aiming for, and moved at a pace that would impress even Mario. Navigating the environments is simply fun, and when you get into the rhythm of sprinting, double-jumping, lunging, and jumping again, you end up with a fantastic sense of control over your movement that makes even the smallest platform easily accessible.

Platforming is far from your only activity, however. While plenty of jumping challenges are available, A Hat in time does a good job of mixing things up with levels and sequences that defy your initial expectations. One level on a train that plays out like a stealth game (complete with overt Metal Gear Solid references) requires you to solve a murder mystery and dodge vision cones, and it ended up being one of my favorite sections of the game. Another level takes place on a scary planet full of dark woods, requiring you to sign multiple contracts with a pushy demon in order to take on side-quests. These kinds of unexpected moments happen throughout the game, making each new location worth seeking out.

Your character is also able to unlock a collection of abilities tied to different hats, like one that turns her into an ice statue to slam down on springy platforms and launch across levels. These upgrades are all useful, and can be accentuated by a series of unlockable patches that improve them. Switching between abilities is instantaneous, which adds to the impressive platforming flow when you have to use multiple abilities in quick succession.

A Hat in Time has a lot of character in all facets of its art design, but there is no escaping that the visuals are dated. The game looks like an HD remaster of an early 2000s platformer. While your character’s movements and actions look great, many of the other characters move with stilted animation, and their models clip into themselves in awkward ways. The result is a game that feels a little sloppy. It’s far from broken, but I did run into the occasional distracting bug, like when my character’s hood was offset about halfway up her face during the final cutscene.

A Hat in Time lacks polish, but it makes up for its shortcomings with excellent platforming and a universe I was happy to be part of. The whole experience is adorable, and in many ways it improves on the very platformers it uses as inspiration.