Review – Mr. Sun’s Hatbox

Walk into a gathering anywhere in North America. See who’s there. Do you recognize anyone? If so, abandon the plan. Is it clear of familiar faces? Then assess the age range. If they’re under twenty, I can’t promise that it will work, but you’re welcome to try. If you’ve got someone between 30 and 45, that’s a sweet spot. Clear your throat, and try to get some minor attention in your direction, preferably from the aforementioned early Millennials/late Gen-Xers. Declare, in a high pitched voice, that your spoon is too big. Gauge reactions. If you’re met with confusion and blank stares at your lack of spoon, quickly vacate the premises. If you get even one dry chuckle, a connection has been made. They are now ready for phase two, where you introduce them to Mr. Sun’s Hatbox.

In case it’s not explicitly clear, please, under no circumstance, should you do what I just said. Though Don Hertzfeldt’s Cancelled is one of the true delights from the early 2000 Internet, deciding to act like a “random” middle schooler in a real world situation is a horrifying concept that makes me want to drink till I erase eighth grade through high school. However, the impact is undeniable, and it showed a glimpse into what would become the cornerstone of humor for cartoons, comics, film and games in the years to come.

People treasure non sequitur humor when done correctly with the right degree of saturation, and, when it can be layered with deeper context or understanding, you get amazing ventures like Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, Octodad, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Absurdity meshed with meaning or attempted reason is a brilliant combination, and that’s the likes of which I encountered within the story of Mr. Sun.


The first thing I see in settings. This…this is going to be something, isn’t it?

Mr. Sun’s Hatbox sets the stage with Mr. Sun attempting to get a new hat delivered. Unfortunately, he is immediately robbed at gunpoint by Mr. Moon and his cronies, who take the hat and seal it in their massive fortress. Mr. Hat did choose the right delivery company, though, and they pledge to get his hat back no matter what. All they need to do is occupy Mr. Sun’s basement in order to start their base of operations.

Hat retrieval, after all, is a complicated affair, and they need the space and resources to have a barracks for their units, research new technology to steal hats, brainwash captured enemy soldiers to fight and a self-contained black market. If your delivery service isn’t actively operating support logistics from within your basement to steal you several hats you didn’t order to make up for the one you did, then you’re using the wrong company.

Terms of Service

This same clause exists with most orders from eBay. Go on, press the issue with them!

A roguelite platformer seems very straightforward in today’s day and age, and, in theory, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is deceptively simple. Each stage consists of some sort of platforming, be it vertical or side scrolling, and you have an objective: deliver an object, steal and object, kidnap an NPC, “neutralize” an NPC or simply just be the last one standing in a free-for-all raid. You can choose your character for each stage depending on your stable of either hired or kidnapped entities, and then also decide on a hat and/or weapon to bring along. Succeed and you get rewards in the form of XP, cash and/or items, fail and the dude you sent on the mission is lost forever. My graveyard, at the time of this writing, is several pages deep and filled with names like “Limp” Broderick or “Mannequin” Thompson.

Mr. Sun's Hatbox Brainwashing

Yes, break them down mentally, but in a fun and cute way!

Gameplay is also straightforward: move around, jump, pick up, put down or throw items as you find them. Melee and ranged weapons alike have limited uses, with the ranged attacks having the advantage of being throwable once you run out of ammo. Jumping on enemies usually stuns them, and then you press ZR to snap their necks (wait, what?). Dead NPCs drop gold, but living ones can be kidnapped by tying a Metal Gear Solid 5 style balloon to their feet and extracting them from the stage.

In fact, you can tie a balloon to anything (hat, gun, empty box) and have it whisked back to your base for future mission usage, but there’s a limited number of balloons per stage. Finishing a level gets you XP along with certain bonuses for not being spotted by enemies, not killing anyone, not taking a hit, etc. Basically you get better rewarded the better you play, and you can improve more and more through precision accuracy.

Mr. Sun's Hatbox Flyweight Franco

Oh, and a sweet cardboard box hat, which in no way hampered my sweet bow skills.

As always, though, the devil is in the details, and the demonic presence here is large, vascular and downright awe inspiring. Each character you obtain has a number of “quirks” which directly affect their play style. Some are simple: can only aim in a straight line, can’t snap enemy necks. But others are thinks like pooping when you get hit (poop can be a hat or ranged weapon), having an anxiety attack when you kill someone (start hopping around uncontrollably for a few seconds) or having dry eyes (constantly blinking, giving the screen a slow strobe effect).

Leveling up can mean eliminating some of these quirks, or maybe adding positive ones like cannibalism (eat an enemy once per stage to regain health) or necromancy (come back as a skeleton NPC after you die). It makes the gambit to get new troops exciting and confusing, combined with the risk/reward of sending out your favorite grunt on a mission and risking losing someone you’ve had for several in-game days worth.

The randomization of the quirks can create some truly worthless combinations (this character is too light to stun an enemy, too weak to snap their necks and faints every time they kill a mob). Thankfully, they have a bright future in research and development, because Mr. Sun’s Hatbox also is a resource management sim. Not my favorite aspect in any game, Kenny Sun has done a good job of incentivizing my time spent here without asking too much. Add rooms as you level up, invest more NPCs to flush out the ranks, and get rewarded for the attention to detail.

Some rooms, like the Support room, are invaluable the more you play (have another troop at the ready to swap out should your selected grunt die/get too damaged during a mission). Being able to increase the number of brainwashing machines or medical beds means a more well oiled machine overall for keeping the process going. And the Black Market rewards you daily for having a certain number of things in your storage unit (600 gold as long as you have three cooking pots on hand), so that can be a passive source of income as the levels get harder.

Mr. Sun's Hatbox Daily Contracts

Hell, two more whoopie cushions and I get a skeleton that can only shoot in a straight line. Ka-Ching!

They do get a lot harder, which is a bit of a rub. At the beginning, I was enchanted by the silliness and straightforward approach to Mr. Sun’s Hatbox. It was easy to jump into a mission that was a single floor, bounce around, break some necks, kidnap some fools and then escape with my brand new turret hat (shoots when it touches something) and get a reward. I was rolling in gold, finding all sorts of fun items  – whoopie cushions, poisonous mushroom hats, a baguette melee weapon – and having a goofy romp all around. I quickly assembled the maps for two Hat Heists, which are the story progressing missions. Then, I got some dope crowns, appeased Mr. Sun, (sort of) and all was well.

While You Were Gone

The summary of each day really reminds me what a monster I am.

However, there is a sort of tedium that comes when things start to hit a wall. I was spending more time trying to complete little missions just to gather gold in order to fulfill further expansion of my base, which sometimes led to more frustrating losses when I had to start finishing three, four, five level stages. When RNG was feeling particularly spiteful, I would gather almost no gold, forcing me to just cross my fingers that I could get through a simple stage with a relatively useless grunt. Even when I was successful, it was a tad disparaging to realize that the money I had gathered didn’t mean anything because I still needed more warm bodies to further expand a research division or support target.

Plus, there were glitches and bugs, I can’t hide that from the overall review. Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is wonderfully wonky at times, but there were errors where suddenly my character just disappeared – not died, just vanished from the screen – and I was unable to do anything but force quit, resulting in my character just “deserting” my team.

Other times, I suddenly was caught in a looped section where I couldn’t move due to boxing glove hats that had fallen in an extremely inconvenient way, resulting in me getting knocked out, regaining consciousness, and then getting knocked out again the second I took a step or tried to jump over them. Or when I had a retrieval mission and an NPC picked up the thing I needed to retrieve and hurled it off a cliff, destroying it. That was a serious moment of head scratching bullshit. Fail states exist in games, that’s a fact, but for ones to crop up where no one, not even the computer, wins, then it feels like a massive misstep on the game’s part.


But then this frog happened.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the majority of my time with Mr. Sun’s Hatbox. Sometimes the silliness feels less random and more genius in design. I turned an enemy into a frog, attached a balloon to it, and, before it left, the frog promptly swallowed me.The frog got whisked out of the mission so it counted that I survived said mission because I escaped in the belly of a frog who was a rabbit a moment ago. That’s Nethack level of possible yet absurd elements, and it made me smile from ear to ear. You get more of this the longer you play: enemies that accidentally shoot each other, turrets that you knock out by throwing dead bodies, double barreled hats that end everyone’s lives…it’s the whole concept of “can, not should” executed on a grand scale.

Mr. Sun's Hatbox

At least try and be impressed, Mr. Sun! We’re doing this FOR YOU!

I found myself saying yes to everything, like I was trapped inside of a David Byrd song or some kind of weird affirmation chant that’s done by someone far less ghoulish than Tony Robbins. Someone in my underground bunker is willing to pay me to purchase a hat made of flan and a rubber duck? Yes. I can’t do any other missions because someone broke in and kidnapped one of my characters from the sick bay AND stole a shark hat, and top priority is stealing them both back? YES. Mr. Sun’s hat has been missing for eighty-four days, but that’s okay because I gave him four completely different hats, which cost the lives of thirty-eight of my crew, but I’ve estimated to have killed ninety-nine in turn? VERY YES.

I think this is another huge win for the roguelite genre, one that mixes up existing concepts and delivers something new, something that requires an attention to what a player can control paired with luck of the draw. Mr. Sun’s Hatbox has a laundry list of weapons, hats, quirks, and concepts that just seems to spin on for pages and pages of ideas. I still haven’t discovered all the quirks possible (immunity to animals was a nice find), and the full degree of research unlocks (I can balloon out medical boxes to heal people back in the sick bay??), but I plan to find more and discover more.

In an ocean of games both great and small, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox breaks the surface and gives an astonishing display of joy, irritation, irreverence, and nuanced detail. I am deeply pleased to have played, and sincerely hope that I find even more reasons to continue plumbing the depths of these mad missions.


Graphics: 9.0

Pixel art done right, Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is a never ending buffet of character sprites, wild headwear and weapons of all makes, models and effectiveness.

Gameplay: 9.0

Like playing Go, Dwarf Fortress, or Calvin Ball, the idea that you understand the basic concept and then anything could happen after that was a constant refrain. The core remains: jump, collect, run, escape. How you do it is the real excitement.

Sound: 9.0

Poppy, upbeat silliness both matches and clashes with the task at hand time after time. Yes, the characters are cute and unassuming, but there is blood on everyone’s hands and I think that man just exploded (as the explosion sound effect let me know).

Fun Factor: 9.0

The A-Team by way of Looney Tunes and Pendleton Ward, I couldn’t stop playing this game long enough to properly get angry about the nonsense I endured. I giggled, I told my family, they giggled, and then I dived right back in. It’s beyond my own imagination a times.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Mr. Sun’s Hatbox is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Mr. Sun’s Hatbox was provided by the publisher.