Friday, April 15, 2016

Tech: Hyper Light Drifter review

I love a good top-down action-adventure, and "Hyper Light Drifter" is a stylish take on the genre that scratches the itch felt by old-school Zelda fans:


Developed by Heart Machine and directed by Alex Preston, the game is about a mute swordsman fighting through a ruined post-apocalyptic world. The swordsman is never named; in fact, there's no text in the game at all, except for tutorial tooltips. Instead, the story is conveyed entirely through some of the best pixel art I've ever seen : pictographic word balloons used in interactions with townsfolk, cryptic cinematics, and subtle graphical details (your swordsman coughs up tiny pools of blood from a mysterious illness). The visuals are nicely complemented by a great semi-ambient score from Disasterpeace ("It Follows"), which lends the proceedings a desolate Ico-like flavor.

Many reviewers have dinged the game for being too difficult, but I found "Hyper Light Drifter" no harder than most 2D games in the NES/SNES era. There are frequent checkpoints, so you rarely lose progress, and the bosses are all pattern-based and telegraph their attacks appropriately. It is quite possible to beat the game without ever taking a hit, as evidenced by the ultrahard New Game+ mode that gives you only two points' worth of health.

I personally thought "Hyper Light Drifter" was too shallow, and over too quickly (there aren't many weapons and items in the game, or major puzzles to solve), but while it lasted, it was excellent.

Rating: 83/100

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