Hyper Light Drifter is beautiful. Beautiful in not only its pixel-inspired visual aesthetic, but also through its gripping and addictive gameplay, Hyper Light Drifter simultaneously contains an underlying tone of somberness that lingers throughout the adventure. This creates a tense atmosphere and world that kept me wanting to explore every possible inch of its world.
Hyper Light Drifter begins with an explosion. You are then left with control of the Drifter, as he takes shelter from the rain on a Cliffside. I could not help but look around and admire my surroundings at this point. The world is gorgeous; the animations are clean and fluid. Just a few steps later and the Drifter coughs blood, bringing that feeling of wonder to a halt and eschewing in a feeling of morbid curiosity.
The story of Hyper Light Drifter (HLD) is unique in that it is not told through words; in fact, there is not a single spoken word throughout the entirety of the game. Instead opting to tell its story through its world, similar in nature to the From Software games of recent memory. The world is extremely eerie, with the sense that a civilization long passed once ruled these lands. As you journey, it is hard to miss the enormous statues and remains of titans, along with monuments and monoliths paying homage to a mysterious force.
Upon meeting new characters or encountering new story segments, you are able to see a view a sequence of scenes that depicts a certain event. Admittedly, this makes the plot a bit more difficult to follow, but thankfully,yet manages to not detract much from the overall experience.
Gameplay in HLD is fast and fluid, with an emphasis on player skill. The Drifter is armed with technology from that of a time long forgotten, one where technology seemed to be powerful enough to create beings. With a beam sword, firearm, and the ability to quickly dash in any direction at his disposal, the Drifter is well-equipped to face the dangers head-on and come out alive. Make no mistake, Hyper Light Drifter is a difficult game. Every encounter feels unique and the possibility of death constantly looms overhead.
Of course, that isn’t to say that the game is frustrating, quite the opposite really. With the heavy emphasis on player skill, it never felt as if I was cheated upon death. Death was always because of a mistake that I made. This lends itself to a very rewarding loop that kept seeing me get better after every encounter. The feeling of quickly deflecting an enemy’s projectile back at them, then dashing in for the kill was more than enough to keep me going.
Additionally, the boss fights here are more than worth mentioning. These fights are amazing tests of skill forcing me to use everything in my arsenal in order to come out victorious. Bosses can essentially be tackled in any order with one in each direction of East, West, North, and South. After defeating a boss, the Drifter will be granted a new upgrade such as a powerful rifle, or shotgun that can make your life easier.
Exploration plays a relatively large role in HLD, and the game will reward players who choose to pore through its world. Rewards can range from the always useful health vials and upgrade tokens, to collectibles that offer more world explanation. That being said, navigation can sometimes prove to be a bit difficult, yet I found myself just enjoying my time spent looking around for secrets.
However, while there are usually pretty obvious visual cues hinting the player towards a hidden path, sometimes this is simply not the case. There were times when I saw myself constantly running along the walls in hopes that I would find something hidden along the edges. It did not bother me much but I can definitely see others getting a bit annoyed by this.
The good thing is that your time spent exploring will be accompanied by an amazing score. The music in HLD manages to set the tone remarkably, with tunes ranging from a more slow-paced sorrowful tone, to a more fast-paced action oriented theme. There was not a single time where I thought the music was misplaced, lending itself beautifully to the experience.
Hyper Light Drifter feels as if The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls were to somehow combine and present itself through gorgeous pixel art. HLD is a wonderfully crafted adventure whose story can be a bit difficult to follow, but is more than made up for through its gripping gameplay. Its difficulty is spot on and never feels cheap or frustrating. Thanks to its great music, beautiful world, and addicting gameplay, Hyper Light Drifter is an experience you will not want to miss.
+ Beautiful Aesthetic
+ Addicting Gameplay
+ Great Musical Score
– Story Can Be Difficult to Follow
– Sometime Navigation can be a hassle
Hyper Light Drifter is a fantastic game that pays homage to some of the icons of gaming, while managing to differentiate itself in a multitude of ways that creates a journey like no other.
Kevin Green is a writer for The Game Bolt whose engine runs off of sarcasm and spectacle. He is a JRPG connoisseur and sternly believes no other genres are necessary. He’s new to twitter but you can follow him @bLaZnYs