The Double-A Team: Steamworld Heist is all about the hats
Double-A games are like a comfortable woolly beanie, simple and warm. When hats and gaming combine, the first game I generally think of is Mario Odyssey and Cappy! The greatest cap in the world. Such a brilliant thing to play with: you could pretend you were Oddjob throwing his bowler hat at James Bond.
Well, Mr Bond. I'm chucking Steamworld Heist into the ring. A hat-heavy masterpiece. Captain Piper Faraday leads a ragtag team of ten steam-driven robot pirates with unique skills and a joint affinity for snappy headgear. No self-respecting robot pirate should be seen hatless in this steampunk world.
Along my numerous turn-based treks through multiple enemy spaceships, I've collected hundreds of weapons, consumables and useful gadgets, but I'm truly fishing for that sweet incentive of a hat. They don't improve your character stats, but shouldn't looking cool be a stat? (Thankfully, Cyperpunk 2077 does have a cool stat. I wonder what its hats are like.)
The most entertaining way to acquire hats is by shooting them straight off enemies' heads, like a gunslinging badass. The intuitive 2D aiming mechanic allows for precision shots, as most weapons have the capacity to ricochet bullets off the environment for pinball-like trick moves. Guns with long laser sights give you even more precision with a ricochet guide.
Pinging your shot off three walls before you find your mark from an impossible angle is sublime. Even missed headshots have the benefit of hat acquisition - but don't make a habit of it. Nothing better than the sight of your enemies' bald shiny hatless metal domes and your next favourite hat. It definitely keeps you coming back for more.
Steamworld Heist has a big replayability factor with the New Game+ transferring your hat collection. I've played through five difficulty levels and upgraded skills for all ten teammates but I still haven't found all of the hats.
The visual enjoyment of actually seeing your character wearing a new hat creates a sense of freshness even if the game mechanics can eventually become repetitive. I always select a hilarious new hat for each member of my crew before a mission - but the big Russian Ivanski always rocks a nurse's cap. It feels like camaraderie, deepening connection with your squad. You expect this level of immersion in a triple-A strategy game like XCOM 2. The narrative is pretty bare-boned, but the interaction between characters is quite hilarious which also elevates the whole steampunk world.
For an indie studio, this small addition of hats elevates Steamworld Heist from a good game to a Top Hat Production. I'd say that Steamworld Heist accomplishes hat collection and the gunplay of shooting hats off enemies' heads better than the triple-A Sombrero of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Steamworld Heist will always hook me back in. After all, it's that comfortable woolly beanie of a Double-A game.