Hyper Light Drifter sheds light on the struggles of a dying man who is pursuing one last goal.
From the instant I started Hyper Light Drifter, one fact was very clear: I would be revisiting playstyles from some classic games, such as Legend of Zelda and Diablo, and some more recent games, such as the Soulsborne series. Traveling to the four different world areas within Hyper Light Drifter and attempting to find three of the eight potential Modules so I could take on the boss felt like fighting through dungeons in Legend of Zelda. Running into large groups of enemies felt similar to Diablo. The overall combat felt similar to that of Soulsborne, where you give a hit or two before rolling out of the way of huge hits. These feelings of nostalgia and excitement were only the first way developers at Heart Machine managed to create a truly stunning game. They did so much more, including: telling a phenomenal story, showing off a beautiful pixel art world, creating a wonderful game play, and providing moving music for the journey.
With a vast majority of the game’s storyline being inspired by the life events of developer Alex Preston, who struggles with congenital heart disease, I knew that I was going to be experiencing a sorrowful story of fighting death, literally. From the opening cutscene, you see images of a war with Titans, your character reaching for the light but only being met by darkness, and a black dog that seems to be at the center of it all. All the while the protagonist is fighting some inner demon that, just as he makes the slightest progress, has every desire to stop him in his tracks. On top of it all, this tragic, but astounding, story is told without a single line of dialogue; all communication is depicted through pictures of events from computer players.
The moment I stepped foot into the world, I was greeted by a wide array of colors that brought the pixelated world, full of creatures that want to kill me, to life. Each area that I went into presented its own color scheme and felt unique in its own manner, from an Amazonian-styled jungle filled with ruins to a dying forest that hides secrets of an apocalypse. Each space provided a scene that left me wanting more and excited to explore further. The colors of the environment were complemented by both the enemies and the structures that you explored. Hyper Light Drifter manages to put pixel art to good use from the first cutscene to the closing credits.
From the beginning, the game provided a sword and a simple pistol, both had the ability to cause one point of damage to enemies. Then, as the game progressed, I found new guns that dealt varying amounts of damage and allowed me to adjust my playstyle to overcome any challenge. Along with being able to “purchase” new abilities from shops, at the price of in game currency that you collect along the journey, I reached new areas and conquered each horde of enemies my way. A setback I experienced was the massive learning curve to effectively use the abilities I purchased. There were a handful of times that I had to use the multi-dash ability to avoid death, but I struggled to understand the timing and died anyways! There were also times I wanted to perform a dash attack, but I simply dashed into an enemy. And…low and behold, I was injured!
Even with the difficulty level at the easiest setting, I still felt that the game presented enough of a challenge to get enjoyment from almost every fight. The feeling of satisfaction when using all my skills and weapons, as well as seeing my character spin his sword and stab it into the ground after a fight that I attempted a few dozen times, was priceless. I felt that the most challenging, and rewarding, battles were where I had to juggle numerous enemies by dodge rolling all over the platform, using all my weapons and skills, and tactfully picking off the enemy! However, on the other hand, I felt the boss fights were lackluster, and they were rather simple to defeat once I understood the attack patterns. There were a few mini-bosses that I felt were more imposing than that of the main storyline bosses. I would have enjoyed seeing the mainline story bosses present an equally difficult battle as some of the ambushes I encounter.
The story, world, and gameplay were all brought together by the astounding music. The speed of the music matched the intensity of the combat, getting me in the mood to take on the next horde of enemies. Whenever the music changed, my heartrate quickened, and the depth of the story was further enhanced.
Hyper Light Drifter is a well-rounded game that can satisfy any gamer who is looking for a challenge, and it can be completed in a short period of time. Hyper Light Drifter provides an outstanding story with deep meaning, enjoyable challenges, and a wonderful soundtrack. While combat and movement of the map is relatively straightforward and enjoyable, the frustration of button combos occurred just often enough to be a nuisance.
Hyper Light Drifter is an amazing game that provides a fantastic time and never a dull moment.