Hyper Light Drifter: Brooding Action-Adventure Excellence

Hyper Light Drifter
It’s hyper!

This is a very impressive 2D action adventure game inspired by (unsurprisingly) SNES era titles such as the Legend of Zelda (principally A Link to the Past), developed by indie team Heart Machine. Featuring glorious, upgraded graphics from gaming’s golden years, and an absolutely fantastic synth pop soundtrack, this is a maudlin, but thoroughly enjoyable, must for fans of RPGs, action adventure, and hack and slash games such as Diablo II.

Recently, we covered KAMIKO as it was so bloody cheap. You get the feeling Hyper Light Drifter is what Japanese dev team Skipmore was aiming for there, but didn’t have the budget. Well, Heart Machine did and this is the complete result for an enigmatic, ethereal, often cryptic, and unusual experience which will have a haunting effect on you (especially if you play with your earphones plugged in). Groovy!

Hyper Light Drifter

Our esteemed editor, Mr. Wapojif, just enjoyed an all too rare week off, but despite being stricken down early on with man flu, he was able to get in a bit of quality antisocial gaming time. Hyper Light Drifter quickly became a highlight, as it riffs on the A Link to the Past heavily whilst developing a new legacy with its distinctive looks. It’s been very well received by critics and rightly so! So what’s going on here? On the official website, the company states:

"Explore a beautiful, vast and ruined world riddled with unknown dangers and lost technologies. Inspired by nightmares and dreams alike."

The key word from that lot is “beautiful” – there’s something genuinely quite wondrous about Hyper Light Drifter. The synth music atmospherically alludes to Vaneglis’ glorious soundtrack from Blade Runner without overdoing it (although there are Studio Ghibli-esque piano tinkles along the way), and the graphical style is stunning. Occasionally, you come across a ledge and are encouraged to stand on it and enjoy the backdrop of pixel-based brilliance.

Hyper Light Drifter in game graphics
Got to love a fireplace scene!

The story, and progress through the title, can be somewhat cryptic at times as exposition isn’t dealt out in massive detail. Characters you meet don’t “talk” either, they communicate in bloops and bleeps, or through graphic novel type text. Good! Frankly, we’re at a stage now where we’re so tired of how most AAA games handle storylines (i.e. terribly badly), we just want to be into the action ASAP. This approach does, however, make everything a tad cryptic at times, but it’s a relatively linear experience in order to keep you on your enigmatic track. Fantabulous.

Central to it all is the gameplay. Heart Machine doesn’t mess about – it’s a tough game. Brutal, in fact. As the Drifter, you’re really not given any hints with what to do, so you head on out and explore. Soon you’re collecting keys (an RPG staple) to open up new areas and advance the plot – the story is about a catastrophic event involving skeleton monsters who have disrupted the world around you, the Drifter, and you’ve been infected with an illness. However, there’s a real life reason which inspired this part of the game.

Channelling Life

The Drifter heads off into the wilderness to seek a cure (similar to Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke), and our protagonist even has episodic transmundane attacks of illness, like Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. As you can see from the clip above, Heart Machine’s director, Alex Preston, suffers from a congenital heart disorder, which inspired the whole game (along with his love for NES era gaming). He used Kickstarter to fund the project and, happily, it’s all come to successful fruition. A mighty fine effort it is, too!

“I’m So Hyper For This!”

Calm down! It’s available now, as mentioned already (please pay attention) on Steam, Xbox One, and the PS4. Translating this into fanboy mode, should there be sycophants amongst us, you can pick up this game with the rubbish graphics on Steam (ing pile of poo!!! LOL!), the Zzzbone, or the GayStation 4. Above is another trailer to tempt you – it’s worth it!

Dispense with some gibberish!

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