Hyper Light Drifter: Review

Platforms:  Steam, PS4, Wii U |  XboxOne

Currently on 10% sale over at Steam – £13

Hyper Light Drifter, the debut title from Heart Machine, is set in a  post-apocalyptic world, channeling a pixelated stylistic bleak Zelda-like world fused with the essence of Dark Souls, in terms of ambiance (minus the grimy colour pallet) and difficulty. The world is vibrant in it’s chaos and the detail in every area is truly commendable. There’s so many nods, intentional or not to other games or shows or stories that feature unsettling, yet beautifully drawn imagery. One scene evokes a maniac Evangelion (you might guess which).

The story is somewhat difficult to described given the lack of interaction with the world around you. How is the story told you may wonder? Well through pictures. Perhaps a narrator would have really brought more interest to this, similar to Bastion. We would have loved to have seen a really enthralling story unfold in a more interactive narrative. Nevertheless the opening cinematic still reels you in and there’s no lull at the beginning, after a bery brief tutorial to give you the basics, you’re off.

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Gameplay

Timing, skill and sheer endurance is what’s needed to survive the trials of combat within this game.  Try to brute force via a flurry of button mashing and you’ll quickly find yourself mashing the screen with your controller.

Hyper Light Drifter’s brutal combat is no doubt delightful to those that enjoy punishing themselves via intense, sometimes downright impossible, game combat, but this game still allows a more casual gamer to become hard, better, faster and stronger. Combat lets you dual assault via swordplay and a nice selection of guns, with the lifesaving, method of phasing by dashing, to avoid attacks. You will want to use that a lot, because enemies are after your ass and they do not run away. Dashing feels more fluid in boss battles, due to more space to use it without hitting objects. Finesse will save your live. many times over. The health restore can sometimes seem extremely delayed and before you know it, you’re ninja’d to death.

For a game of it’s type, Heart Machine have put lots of effort into character design or there is a pleasant amount of enemy variation, no endless repeats of zombie enemies, which certainly keeps the already frenzied combat fresh. As you beat through enemy hordes you’ll feel as if you’re the brightly coloured offspring of Zelda and Duke Nukem

Experience in game

Hyper Light Drifter can be deemed too tough, depending on the player, that could be a fair assumption. It’s not a game that any experienced gamer will find easy to sail through. Mechanics may sometimes seem like they’re against you but that’s what comes with these type of games, the type that end up being treasured, even moreso if you manage to complete them. This game, like Guacamelee and Shovel Knight, to name a few, is one best played with a controller. Play with a keyboard at your own peril.

Camera angle naughtiness and bugs can impede the flow when playing, but nothing substantial that ruined our playthrough.

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One issue, because there’s always something, is the map in Hyper Light Drifter. Discovery is a major part of this game and the map does not aid the player as well as it could, perhaps on purpose to encourage exploring every nook ‘n’ cranny yourself, but it can be too vague at times. Exploration leads to secrets which lead to advancing your character and experience. Some parts of the game seem to take cues from Inception, by having secret spots within secret areas. Just as importantly you can collect tokens needed to buy upgrades in town, where shop owners offer improvements to your weapons and your evade roll (get that!).

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Coming to a close

Despite a lack of deep story presentation, the soundtrack for this game is wonderful, possibly something worth checking out even on it’s own, if you need a break from the combat. Hyper Light Drifter is without a doubt worth picking up, whether you loved Meatboy, Shovel Knight or Demon Souls or even if you just think it looks pretty and you’re up to the challenge. If you take your time to immerse yourself in the world and fill your pockets with treasure this game can hit the 8hr mark. The game is cram packed with secrets, charm and is an experience, despite the lacking of story, which would have really shot this through the ratings roof and the flaws, it’s made with love, even if it does try to kill you.

 

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