Hyper Light Drifter, a 2D action role-playing game, began as a 2013 Kickstarter campaign launched by lead developer Alex Preston. Preston was born with congenital heart disease, and he wanted to create a game whose story related to his struggle with his chronic illness. (Chris Priestman’s 2016 article for The Guardian explores this in detail.) Preston also wanted his game to incorporate elements from Diablo and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After launching his Kickstarter campaign, Preston quickly met his fundraising goal of $27,000, and by campaign’s end, he’d raised more than $645,000 from 24,150 backers. Preston used the money to make an excellent game, and we’re excited take a closer look at Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Switch.
Take control of the Drifter, a wanderer dealing with an undefined illness; he often coughs up blood, stumbles, and faints, and he sometimes experiences nightmarish visions. Guide the Drifter on his quest for a cure, traveling through a remarkably detailed world rendered in stunning color and gorgeous pixel art. You won’t encounter any text in Hyper Light Drifter, aside from the obvious text on the title screen and in the credits. You won’t encounter any voice acting, either. Unlike any game we’ve ever encountered, Hyper Light Drifter takes a visual approach to storytelling, allowing players to interpret the game’s story on their own terms.
The name of the game is exploration, and while you’re given a few hints and nudges on where to head next, you’re generally on your own. Navigating Hyper Light Drifter’s world often involves combing through areas in search of secret paths, which can be well-hidden but are sometimes identified with special markings. The game’s NES-Zelda-style formula is complete with hack-and-slash combat and top-down adventuring, and you’ll explore four distinct areas that branch out in the cardinal directions from the game’s central hub. This hub contains shops that offer new abilities and upgrades available for your weapons, health, and movements.
As the Drifter, you can slash with your sword, dash to move and/or dodge, and shoot a variety of guns as you find them. The controls are tough to master, but they’re easy to learn, although some players may have trouble with them when they first start out. The Drifter’s sword has been described as an “energy sword,” since using it to break objects and kill enemies steadily charges your ammo. In fact, there’s no ammo to be found or picked up in Hyper Light Drifter, so using your sword is imperative if you’re low on ammo.
As you explore, you’ll encounter a wide variety of enemies. We advise taking the time to adapt to their patterns so that you can take them on with success. Boss fights can be menacing, but if you’ve mastered the controls and secured a few upgrades, they shouldn’t be too hard, especially if you have a solid understanding of their patterns. Secrets abound in Hyper Light Drifter, including special clothes with abilities and super-powerful guns. When you find something special, you’re bound to feel an immense sense of accomplishment, and the game’s secrets might even motivate you to keep playing long after you’ve beat the game.
We say this about almost every indie we review, but it’s so true: the sights and sounds of Hyper Light Drifter are incredible. Since the game eschews text and voice acting, graphics and sound are more important than ever, carrying the game’s story and communicating its core message. You’ll hear a brilliant, ambient soundtrack focused on piano- and synth-based tunes. Hyper Light Drifter’s stunning pixel art features a bright neon color palette that never fails to impress. Whether you’re exploring a lush forest, walking on platforms in the sky, or watching a cut scene, you’re always in for a visual treat.
While Hyper Light Drifter isn’t for everyone, it’s an absolute Nintendeal for the right player. This Switch port is a Special Edition, offering the base game with added exclusive content. Hyper Light Drifter unfolds slowly, and the vast amount of exploration paired with a general lack of guidance may turn some players away. Then again, players who don’t usually have the patience for slow-burn games may find themselves sucked into this game’s immersive and mysterious story-telling. Either way, don’t write Hyper Light Drifter off too quickly, but don’t jump into it blindly. Consider what this game has to offer and whether it may be a good fit for your particular play style. But if you’re on the fence, we definitely recommend giving Hyper Light Drifter a shot. It’s one of our favorite indies released for Switch this year, and it just might become one of your favorites, too.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Abylight
Developer – Abylight
Price – $19.99
Genre – Action, Role-Playing, Adventure
Size – 833 MB
Nick and Sarah are the ultimate gaming couple. Nick is a Super Mario Maker 2 enthusiast, but working with Nintendeal has fostered a love for tough-as-nails indies such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and Cuphead. Sarah prefers sim games like Animal Crossing, Don’t Starve, and Stardew Valley, but she challenges herself by grinding Slay the Spire from time to time.