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Hyper Light Drifter Review

A Link to the Past?
The story behind Hyper Light Drifter is an inspiring, yet somewhat depressing one. With that much to deal with how would game development turn out on top of it?

Developer: Heart Machine
Publisher: Heart Machine
Format: Xbox One
Release Date: July 26th
Copy Purchased by Reviewer

Hyper Light Drifter, for those that don't know, is an action adventure game in a similar style to the original Zelda. There is very little direction on where to go and most of the game is spent with you exploring the world before trying to figure out what exactly is going on.

The core gameplay is simple, yet effective. You have a sword and a gun. You utilize these to dispatch the villains between you and the objective you seek. Couple that with the games smooth dash ability and the combat flows incredibly well. Certain things can be upgraded, such as the ability to chain dashes or deflect projectiles, but nothing to increase the power of your weapons, which is a breath of fresh air from most games these days.

The game is very heavily skill reliant. It's expects you to come to grips with the mechanics quickly and doesn't mess around in punishing you for messing up. The game does not have any kind of difficulty setting to begin with, so if your stuck, too bad! One thing that the game is not however is unfair. Whenever you fail, you will know exactly what went wrong and how you can improve upon it. In my initial playthrough of the game I died a whopping 119 times and not one of them did I feel cheated.

Where the difficulty comes to it's peak is the boss fights. There are 5 main bosses with a few optional mini bosses sprinkled in. Each boss is unique in his skill set and each one will require you to learn their patterns. They don't change, so it really is a case of learning what they do, when they do it and how you can avoid it. It's a really simple concept, but its executed perfectly and once you finally slay the boss you get a real fist pump moment.

Story-wise the game starts out with some pictures to let you know what is going on. It's not all that clear what exactly is going on and you are seemingly jumping around at random. There are no words to help explain it either and this is true throughout the entire game. There's a basic story of hero saving the world there for all to see, but all the smaller details are left up to the players own interpretation.

The music in the game is absolutely phenomenal. It manages to portray a real sense of sorrow and dread. Just travelling through the world is a pleasure when listening to the music. As mentioned previously there isn't a word spoken, but the background music says more than most games can in a whole cutscene.

Graphically the game is one of those games that chooses to use 16 bit graphics. As of late, I have grown very tired of seeing pixel art game after pixel art game and going into this game it was my one gripe with what I had seen prior. But it didn't take me long to fall in love with it. The 4 different areas of the map all have a unique look to them and feel fresh with each one you enter.

If you were only going to play through the game once you will get around 10 hours for your money. However there is a surprising amount of replay value to be had with the game. First off there is New Game +. Most of you will see this and think it's just the same game but keeping your upgrades. This is not the case! This mode challenges you with beating the game with only TWO health points! This is quite the challenge as a lot of enemies have the ability to take two health points in one hit, thus instantly killing you.

If you don't fancy that kind of challenge there are plenty of secret areas and items to find out in the world to achieve that perfect 100% save file. Although the outfits you collect have bonuses, the game doesn't tell you what these bonuses are, not that I could find, and I had to look it up online. Something like that I feel should be in the game. The game also keeps track of the time on each file which makes the game ideal for speed running!

Achievements/Trophies are obviously present and they aren't the type you get given. You could easily beat the entire game and never see a single one. There are a few easy ones, like sit still for 10 minutes, dying in the tutorial section etc, but the completion is not for the faint of heart. One achievement requires you to beat the game without dying, which in this game is quite the feat. Expect to replay the game a few times until you know the game like the back of your hand.

Here's where my big knock on the game comes, the cutscenes in the game are unskippable, while there are very few in the game, restarting the game over to attempt a no death run requires watching a fairly long cutscene at the beginning, which soon becomes tiresome. This will also be an issue to anyone looking to better their times for speed running purposes.

Hyper Light Drifter is another one of those indie games that tries to recapture the "good old days" and with so many games attempting to do that you would be forgiven for overlooking this one. However, this one actually stands up and is a fantastic title. It is well worth investing in and is an incredibly rewarding experience.

+Challenging but fair
+Fantastic music
+Fluid combat
+Very rewarding
-Unskippable cutscenes
-Outfit bonuses not clear

9.5/10 Amazing
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