Hyper Light Drifter Review

Hyper Light Drifter is a 2d action rpg game developed by Heart Machine in which you play as an unnamed character in a dystopian world. You spend your time exploring, fighting, and platforming through this forgotten world starting in a central town and going either north, south, east, or west, and all in a 16-bit art style. What makes this game stand out from the rest is that the creator of this game, Alex Preston, has a heart disease, which is a major source of inspiration for this game.

Hyper Light Drifter isn't a big story game. You just know you play as some person in this dystopia of a world, and the story is not told by words, but by pictures and video. But the environment that is set up from this is fantastic. It's dystopia that isn't bleak. This world is full of beautiful colors: From the bright pink of the trees to the light, vibrant blue of your sword, this game is a neon beauty. Each area is unique not just in color, but in style and enemies as well. You fight ninjas in a white and bright blue water city in the east, robots that are littered underneath the ground of a barren wasteland in the south, samurai-like characters in the pink and green forest of the west, and birds in the snow covered mountains in the north. It's all beautiful, diverse, and ready to be explored. Because this game is open world as well. Having the ability to explore this land was also great. It allowed me to go on my own pace in each area. But having this open world also allowed a lot of secret rooms to be placed into the game. All of these secret rooms have a faded symbol in front of the entrance, so finding those symbols was also a lot fun.

The western part of the map, filled with pink trees and light green crystals.

The western part of the map, filled with pink trees and light green crystals.

Going back to the different areas, each area has their own set of unique enemies and bosses. Each of these enemies and bosses are unique, both visually and in attack patterns, and are a lot fun to play. The enemies were great, but the bosses were the ones that shined. Ranging from pretty easy to extremely difficult, but even the hard ones I had a fun time with.

Some other things includes a simple yet fun combat system that was easy to learn yet hard to master. You need to know going into this game that despite you having a gun and a dash ability, this game is difficult. So having the combat be a simple light or heavy attack and having the guns be simple in the game was a real help. One minuscule thing that I found pleasing is that going to the edge of the map will not just throw you off. You stick to the ledge for a few seconds before falling off. Why I found this small item meaningful is that their are a lot of platforming sections and secret areas that require you to dash to a non-connected block, so not falling off the ledge immediately made it way easier to do so.

One last thing I had to say was amazing was the music. It's a synth heavy music style that mixes well with the environment and is finished off with a beautiful piano piece that is quiet yet emotional. All the synth music was great, but it was the one piano song that I found that wrapped up the game nicely and told you hoe tolling this fight was on your character.

The map of the eastern area. Even in all different modes of displaying the map, the map didn't help me that much.

The map of the eastern area. Even in all different modes of displaying the map, the map didn't help me that much.

Now all games have their negatives, and this games is no exception, despite them being rather small. One hiccup that I experienced while playing this game is that their is no real path to anything. Their was a point in time when I was stuck in all four areas, where I could not find the required materials to open doors to move forward in the game. The map, despite being fun to explore, is a maze that is hard to go through. I found myself a couple of times seeing two branching paths in an area and needing to go to the other branch, but finding myself not going to that second branch because in my mind, I have already been to that area before. All of this was made worst by the map in the game. The map was very vague on where to go. I wasn't expecting a fully detailed map, but at least a slightly more detailed map and a better zoom function with the map. One final problem I had was some rather frustrating platforming sections. Their weren't many really difficult ones, but the ones that were really pissed me off. The only was to get past it was to press the dash button at the exact right time every single time to get through it, which proved to be a challenge. Not only was it hard to stay consistent, but it was hard to control because of how fast you were going. But overall, the amount of these sections were too few to really say bad about.

The verdict: Hyper Light Drifter is a challenging yet fun 2d experience whose developers backstory gives the game an interesting twist and beautiful colors and music makes it visually and aurally pleasing. It is hard to stay in two hours into the game, and some map difficulties and frustrating platforming sections adds a bit of weight to the title. But overall, Hyper Light Drifter is a great indie experience that is definitely worth picking up and playing.