Many games in recent memory seem to be afraid to be ‘too difficult’. Sure there are plenty of hard games out there, but many of them have difficulty settings or in-game mechanics that can make the game easier. Hyper Light Drifter doesn’t follow this idea. Instead, many areas and bosses will be nearly impossible without having certain attacks or skills. I’ll talk about this more later. Hyper Light Drifter is an action heavy RPG in which our protagonist uses a sword, gun, and a dashing power that allows for some crazy, high speed action. At first, I thought the game wouldn’t be able to handle this kind of fast action with more than a few enemies on screen, but I was quickly proven wrong.
I believe a large part of why the game flows so smoothly is how simplistic the game looks and sounds. Sure, each slash of your sword, shot of your gun, or any other action has an accompanying sound effect, but they are very quick, short sounds. On top of this, the game is presented in a very pixelated style that almost feels like the soul successor to the style used in older Legend of Zelda games. The only issues I’d say I have with the game’s looks is just how often it flashes, and how the boss music isn’t always the best.Everything else about the looks and sounds of the game are beautiful and sometimes even awe-inspiring. Some points in the game perfectly frame the background to create very gorgeous moments. These moments combined with just how pretty the action can be help to create a game world that players will want to explore thoroughly.
I hope exploring is something you enjoy though, because there is a lot that can be found and looked through. With every area being slightly different from every other area, it makes it really easy to keep crawling through each dungeon time and time again. The world also has many NPCs that players can interact with. I want to make sure I point out I said interact and not talk, as you won’t be talking to any NPCs in the usual sense. When our protagonist interacts with other NPCs, they will do one of four things. These include opening a shop menu, making a sound specific to that NPC, showing special things on the map, or showing the player pictures to tell their story without words. This lack of actual dialog was rather jarring at first, but becomes commonplace and even nice to see as it adds a layer of depth to the game’s world.
As I mentioned, some NPCs run shops that the player can use to ‘buy’ upgrades such as higher capacity for guns, sword abilities such as deflecting bullets or charged strong attacks, and dash abilities like dashing through projectiles without damage or the almighty chain dash. These abilities can be bought with these little yellow squares you’ll pick up on your way through the game’s world. Once you find 4 of these little squares, you’ll be given one large square that can be used (when you have enough) to purchase stuff from different shops. These little yellow squares aren’t the only thing you’ll find in the world. There are also first aid kits all over that can be stored and used when the player chooses. Learning when to use these health kits can mean the difference between life and death when the player only has 5 health throughout the original playthrough (players only have 2 on the New Game + mode). It seems odd that health can’t be upgraded at all, but beating the game with 5 health isn’t nearly the hardest thing I’ve accomplished in my time gaming. I would be remiss to not at least mention the stellar local co-op available in the game. It’s very simple, you turn on a second controller, press Menu on the main controller, turn on co-op and return to the game, then press Menu on the second controller. Once this is donc, Player 1 will lose 1 health so that Player 2 can fight beside them with a full 5 health. I didn’t get the option to play co-op myself, but I did test it a little and it was quite enjoyable even if my partner died a lot.
It feels odd waiting until the end of my review to talk more about the actual gameplay when it’s so good in this game, but I felt I needed to mention all the things I didn’t know when I started as it vastly changed my opinion of the game. When I played the demo of this game a while back, I didn’t really like it. It was only after I was able to add more abilities and skills to my roster that I really started to like this game. The issue I had is that the fighting can be fairly simplistic if you let it. I mean, mashing X 3 times over and over again just isn’t fun. It’s when you learn that hitting X once and then holding it on the second press allows you to replace your third strike with a charged hit that the game starts to feel more complex and deep. Combining abilities with the boring 3 hit combo is what really shows how great the completely fluid combat can be. It takes a little while to get over how hectic battles can get with many enemies or just really tough enemies mixed with some ranged foes, but once you can get past this (and the obnoxious enemy stunlock) the game feels like it wants you to succeed as long as you work for it.
I know I didn’t mention the story at all in my review, but there’s a reason. Simply put, I don’t know what to tell you. Even after finishing the game, I don’t understand much besides there is darkness and you must fight the darkness. This is a weakness in the game, but I became so enamored with the fighting and exploration that I quickly set the story aside so I could spend more time beating down baddies and bosses. I would’ve mentioned the bosses more as well, but I only fought a handful and they were fun, but not that hard once you learn their attacks. Even though the game has a few quirks and faults, it is still extremely fun, rewarding, and aesthetically pleasing. In the end, isn’t that all that matters in a game?
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