Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: Sep 06, 2018
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Hearth Machine
Hyper Light Drifter is a game that I was given the opportunity to review for the Nintendo Switch. The console is getting some fantastic games to enjoy on the go along with a huge amount of shovelware games that no one should waste their time playing. I am pleased to say that this homage to the games of the 16-bit era works wonderfully on the Switch.
In this game, you take on the role of the drifter in the story. This is a world that has survived a catastrophic event. The thing is, you don’t get a full explanation of the prior history of this world. The game has no dialog to speak of. You have to piece together what really happened entirely on your own. By giving players the freedom to enjoy the game at their own pace is a wonderful thing. However, I can see that for some players, working through the story on their own will be a nightmare. Some players prefer to have the story told to them like a traditional narrative but I for one enjoyed the fact that I could go in any direction I wanted to go.
Alex Preston, the man behind Heart Machine and Hyper Light Drifter, developed the game’s story with his own past in mind. He has had the displeasure of living with congenital heart disease. Just like Preston, the drifter in the game is going through some serious issues. Its great to see how Preston has taken something that has been such a huge part of his life and turn it into something wonderful for others to experience.
When I play a game, the audio is something that I can usually live without. Some games like Fortnite do require you to carefully listen for enemies that may be close or other audio cues. I never felt as if I needed to listen to the music in Hyper Light Drifter in order to enjoy the game but the subtle melodies and mixture of gameplay sounds worked in a way that soothed me as I became frustrated with the more challenging sections of the game.
The game doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue so don’t expect any voice acting. The game simply doesn’t use it. To me, this audio is really in the middle of the road. I can live without the audio even though the developer worked hard at creating it. I mean, that really is all that matters. Thanking them for taking the time to create something they enjoyed even though others may not appreciate is as much.
Hyper Light Drifter combines that nostalgic console RPG feeling with the difficulty and frustration that fans see in the Dark Souls series. Moving around can become difficult if you try to play this game with out a careful pace. The mixture between sword and gunplay is very much even. That is, if you remember to replenish ammo for all of your guns. Breaking different objects will give players back that sweet ammo. I found that you can’t really waste it on just any enemy that happens to be wandering around. Wasting ammo is one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over when I started my time with this game. The sword – along with being able to dash away from danger – are the biggest tools you will have in Hyper Light Drifter.
The combat (for me) became a literal hell. Some points I thought that I was making great progress until I would get to a section that required complete focus and the finesse that I was not naturally born with. After many attempts (and even a few curse words) I made it through that area. For me, this makes the game more memorable and something that I will share with others. The rest of the game is very familiar. Looks for keys that open certain doors and defeat the requisite boss. With all of that said, there are plenty of little moments that add texture to the game. Even something as small as destroying flowers gave me that Legend of Zelda feeling – even if it wasn’t the classic game. Overall, the gameplay matches my expectations of the game itself. It’s fluid and doesn’t have too many issues.
The look of the game is very much derived from the SNES era when a game was beautiful with 16-bit inspired visuals. Think of games like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Hyper Light Drifter features the same graphical influences with out all the polish that The Legend of Zelda has. That lack of polish adds to the story and keeps a player in the right mindset of being in a ruined land. This is a game about saving a world that was almost destroyed and it really looks the part. The best thing about this game is the use of bright colors from flowers to enemies – they all pop out at you.
Visually, this is one of the better games on the Nintendo Switch. Players don’t have to worry about looking at a game that doesn’t work on a smaller screen. When I think of something that failed to appeal visually, I think of DOOM. That port didn’t bring players anything good with the visuals. Even though Hyper Light Drifter has had releases on multiple platforms, this could be the best looking version of the game considering what you’re playing it on.
I was given the code to review Hyper Light Drifter from the developer Heart Machine. I really don’t think I would have jumped into the game until I was bored looking for something to dive into. From the look and feel of the game, I hope that many more will take a look at Hyper Light Drifter. It has so much to offer that it should be on every Switch console out there. With new features and Co-op, players really don’t have a reason to skip this game. Avoid Tennis and pick up Hyper Light Drifter.