Hyper Light Drifter, which is available for Switch, ps4, Xbox One, PC, and iOS is a game that already has a reputation as an unforgiving, tough, and highly rewarding experience. It is a 2D action game with role-playing elements set in an 8-bit/16-bit kind of an environment and it is being described as a combination of Diablo and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. What set this project aside from the rest right at the beginning was that it was initially a Kickstarter project that asked for about $27K but ended up with more than $600K, which resulted in a production overhaul and this glorious splendor of a game.
Development and production
This game was both developed and published by Heart Machine, which is an indie video game developing studio. Its founder, Alex Preston, suffered from congenital heart disease which was the main inspiration for the name of the studio he founded in 2013 and is also a basis for the feeling he wanted to transfer to the game. Hyper Light Drifter release date varied depending on the platforms. It was out way back in 2016 on PC, ps4 and Xbox One, it came to Nintendo Switch in 2018, and finally, it arrived on iOS mobile devices and became available on the iTunes App Store on July 25th, 2019. The game scored very high on each, getting overly positive reviews wherever it was played. On iTunes App Store, Hyper Light Drifter iOS has a 4.9-star rating and is #9 in Adventure category.
Video games nowadays present their stories mostly in a simple, straightforward and linear kind of way. They do it with cut scenes and other narrative tools and fairly acquaint the player with the plot. It is practically impossible to not get the storyline of a game unless you do not pay any attention today. However, some games choose a different approach, and this is one of them.
In Hyper Light Drifter, you only get your goals and absolutely no explanation as to what they mean, which one comes first, and where to go next. The entire story is told only through some visual and gameplay hints like a few tooltips and puzzling pictograms. The increased danger which lurks constantly from every enemy and corner increases this feeling of unease, which is apparently what the leading developer wanted to achieve as it kind of reflects how it is living with congenital heart disease. Of course, this gives the players increased thrill and makes the game that much more engaging.
Part of the game’s allure is figuring out what it’s all about, but perhaps it won’t spoil too much to know that you play a Drifter which suffers from an unspecified illness and traverses mysterious plains accessing old technology only he can use, which are the previously mentioned pictograms of sorts.
Each of the platforms has gotten its respective adaptation of this game, but in truth, each is pretty much the same. That’s because this game doesn’t rely on any innovative or radical change in gameplay mechanics, but it’s rather its previously mentioned thrilling and desperate atmospheric effect on the player what works the magic. It is a 2D action RPG which takes hack and slash and its top-down view from Diablo, and its old school graphics and gameplay style from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, or at least that’s the official description. In truth, Hyper Light Drifter doesn’t look or feel like either of those these two, but as something entirely different. There were perhaps some recent indie games that might resemble this one at first glance, like Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, but once you try it you’ll know it’s something entirely different from everything.
The hack and slash part of the game is much more difficult than anything so far seen. In combat, you are constantly being overwhelmed by enemies that all dash and rush you, or use ranged attacks from all directions, and it gives the game a high level of skill cap for the player.
Progression is achieved through obtaining different and improved gear, as the Drifter’s main weapon is an energy sword, but you can also obtain other weapons and abilities later on. As you kill enemies, find secrets, and explore the maps, you obtain batteries that are necessary to power up your weapons. In general, you power up as you kill more enemies, which inspires a more combat-oriented approach to it. But, this game is also packed with secrets, like invisible platforms, secret passageways, and similar things that will inspire you to think outside the box and listen to your gaming instincts.
The 8-bit or 16-bit art style is a direct homage to the old school gaming graphics, as is this game’s difficult nature. However, as you get used to the pixel art, you will notice that this game’s visuals tell their own story in a way and it is all the more important to pay close attention. Character animations and models also give this game its unique flavor.