gameplayAt its core, Hyper Light Drifter is about survival. There is plenty to do and see in the four corners of its vividly-detailed world: hitting switches, collecting shards of big, old squares, and hearing the tales of its non-playable characters, who speak in picture frames rather than words. But all of these are distractions in comparison to the more active and demanding combat segments peppering the landscape. The Drifter is capable of dashing, slashing with a signature sword, and firing an assortment of weapons via inputs mapped across the controller. While it isn't all centralized in one place, the controls feel comfortable and natural enough that they will become intuitive. This is fortunate, as the hordes of enemies found throughout the world of Hyper Light Drifter are more than willing to take a bite. The game's auto-save feature is a blessing, saving the amount of health packs and ammo the player has as they enter each new room of the map, crucial because enemies can, and often will, overwhelm and push the player back to the start of a room. While some of these are simply waves of enemies, others use a mixture of environmental hazards and interactive elements to impede the player, hoping to chip away at their health reserves as they venture towards each of the four major boss encounters. Though these rooms can serve as an interconnected gauntlet, some are difficult enough to take multiple separate tries.
Fortunately, though combat is the central focus, it doesn't leave the player without anything else to do. Throughout the environments, players can find golden currency as well as triangular fragments and key cards, items that serve as keys for each respective region, locking out some of their greatest benefits for later and other secrets for a smooth sense of progression. However, currency, fragments, and other goodies are often hidden away behind secret walls, a staple of the Zelda series that sees usage here with mixed results. On one hand, players are trained to keep their eyes open for a very specific floor indentation, which often signals a hidden passageway. Often, but not always. There are also camera tricks that the game uses to highlight areas of interest, but these can often be obscured behind its gorgeous visuals. Getting 100% completion is truly a test of patience, and seeking out all of the hidden trinkets is the primary method Hyper Light Drifter uses to bolster its playtime.
PresentationIf Hyper Light Drifter uses gameplay to drive themes of harsh survival and perseverance, its aesthetics counterbalance this with their rich color palette, vivid detail, and stylistic tendencies. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting, the game balances natural peacefulness and the consuming power of nature in order to communicate its simplistic narrative. Each of its four main environments have vastly different features, from appearance to layout, that differentiate them drastically from one another. All of this is paired with a stunning synth OST from Disasterpeace, giving the whole game a surreal, soothing feeling. Sometimes, it is easy to become lost not because of the complexity of the environments, but rather the overwhelming visual and auditory stimulation, something that can be somewhat daunting when swamped by enemies or encountering one of the more serious boss enemies. Hyper Light Drifter is a feast for the eyes and ears, and its atmosphere is worth the price of entry alone.
Other features and impressionsAside from new outfits, this Special Edition also features a few new challenges, tricks, and weapons. Although if one were unaware of their addition, they may think these elements are merely a part of the base package. However, two instances in particular, involving the Crystal Shot and Blade Caster, do seem to be high-difficulty challenges meant to be tackled by the experienced player, they don't come across as supplemental material. In fact, if Hyper Light Drifter had a bit more optional content, such as its odd soccer mini-game, and these optional weapon challenges, it would feel a bit more like an adventure title and less of a contemplative exploration game.
For newcomers and veterans alike, Hyper Light Drifter doesn't overstay its welcome. Much of what it has on display in this Special Edition represents the most the developers could get out of their player avatar's move-set, though some of the enemy designs are still tame and predictable. In other words, there's fewer robotic monstrosities that one might be led to believe, initially.
Great: Must Play.
Good: Worth your time.
OK: Some notable flaws.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Resident demon-monger and hype parasite. I'm a fiercely opinionated RPG fan, although I dabble in other genres. Raised on Nintendo devices, I have branched out somewhat with Sony and PC games, but I still love the variety and honest fun that each Nintendo console brings.
I am a huge Paper Mario (1 and 2), Xenoblade, SMT, Zelda, and Atooi fan. Oh, and I guess I like Metroid too.
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