Hyper Light Drifter

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Hyper Light Drifter

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:16 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Hyper Light Drifter for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Yacobg42 » January 29th, 2018, 3:54 pm

Hyper Light Drifter might be one of the most aesthetically consistent games I've ever played. Like with the best pixel art, it's hard to imagine the game ever visually aging a day- the environments are so rich in detail, the little animations so expressive...I mean, the opening cutscene by itself is astonishing. Many of the environments feel specifically inspired by Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky, two Ghibli films that reckon with what happens to technology when it's taken over by nature.

It's hard for me to even separate the audio design from the visuals, because they fit so well together it seems the music might have been extracted from the pixels itself. The swells and falls of each track fit effortlessly with whatever locale you happen to be exploring. It holds its big crescendos close, only giving them at truly awe-inspiring vistas or bosses.

There is, of course, a game under all the aesthetic spectacle, and things get a little more inconsistent here. The combat is incredibly quick and responsive, but has an inverse difficulty curve- nothing was as difficult as the first boss (the sword guy to the west) I fought, and I was able to steamroll everything else pretty easily. The angle of the camera can make navigation challenging, doubly so for all the secrets that amount to "hug every wall in every environment."

There's a good amount of content hidden behind these secrets. I ended up using walkthroughs to find keys to open up the fairly enjoyable Colosseum, but stopped looking after that. I just don't think that searching through old areas for invisible doors plays to the game's strengths. Maybe it would have been better for them to be challenge-gated, hid behind particularly difficult combat encounters or the like.

I still quite enjoyed my time with Hyper Light Drifter. I played through it with each character, and never lost any admiration for the art that the game is built around. That's probably what I'll remember most; not the invisible platforms or looping dungeons, but a lonely synthesized horn, wailing over a fuschia sky.

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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Simonsloth » February 22nd, 2018, 9:26 pm

I’m not sure how I feel about Hyper Light Drifter.

On the one hand the visuals and audio are sublime. The gameplay on the other hand is a mixed bag. There are times where it is fantastic and I can zip around a room clearing it of enemies without receiving a single hit. However on another occasion I could press the exact same buttons and be killed within seconds. Perhaps it’s me but the timing just seems a fraction off so the deflection and dash chain skills were incredibly difficult simply by being unpredictable. Often in the busier moments the frame rate took a nose dive which made me feel like my character was wading through treacle rather than drifting through hyper light.

The game rewards exploration but often this involved either wall hugging or leaping into the unknown. Embarrassingly it wasn’t until about 3/4 of the way through that I realised the small squares in the ground meant secret path or switch.

I also found the game to be slightly unbalanced in that I found the initial enemies far harder than the final areas or boss. I think a lot of this has to do with which order you take on each geographical area.

I only recently finished the game having put the game aside for a long time as I was put off by the issues above. The infamous patch which improved the frame rate to 60 frames per second allowed me to complete the game and I definitely enjoyed it more as a result but the issues are still there.

I think the game could do with a little bit more hand holding and perhaps locking off areas to ensure the territories are played in order of rising difficulty. Apparently I did the hardest area first but had no idea and this almost stopped me playing it entirely.

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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by shadowless_kick » May 15th, 2018, 3:15 pm

Due to competing interests and the Call-of-Duty-ization of mainstream gaming, I essentially stopped playing console games around the early 2000s. When I finally felt the itch to return, having completely skipped the PS2, 360 and PS3 console cycles, indies like Shovel Knight and Transistor pulled me back in. Among the short list of titles piquing my interest was Hyper Light Drifter, and everything I saw — its dark, pixelated aesthetic — and everything I read — about its moody, ambient soundtrack and threats of punishing gameplay — pushed just the right buttons for me. It was easily the game I wanted to play the most, and I purchased it before I even bought the PS4 to play it on.

Amazingly, it lived up to and even exceeded my lofty expectations; I loved almost everything about this game.

I found the wordless world and characters, in addition to the vague, fragmented narrative incredibly engaging. The choose-your-own-path structure gave the player agency while also feeding the air of mystery: "Is going East first going to affect something else later?" "Is that frozen giant clutching the mountain up North going to reawaken?? Why is the South still blocked?!"

In contrast to Shovel Knight, which was ultimately a letdown for me, Hyper Light Drifter controlled beautifully and was difficult in a way that felt fair and surmountable with patience and practice. Boss fights (particularly against the archer) and special areas where wave after wave of baddies descend upon you — all while the subdued music swells to match the on-screen action — were some of the most exhilarating moments I've ever experienced in a video game. Even after winning, I'd immediately want to start the fights again.

Another huge plus was the main character. As a person of color, I've frankly grown tired of always playing as white protagonists, and the Drifter, who looks like no one, was a great surrogate whose perspective I could easily adopt. Additionally, the fact that your weapons are completely concealed unless you are in the actual process of attacking was, I feel, an excellent design choice that says a lot about the type of character the Drifter is. Without a single word, I was invested in this hero, and the intermittent coughing fits never failed to alarm me and make me push forward to find every secret I could in hopes of uncovering a cure for my mysterious ailment.

That point, however, leads to my only sour note: I found the final boss fight and ending to be anticlimactic and more than a bit of a letdown — not because of what happens, but because of how it was presented. The game seemed to demand more by way of closure. Perhaps that was intentional on the developer's part; I don't know. It's an unfortunate downside, but the game gets absolutely everything else right for me, and has taken a place among my all-time favorites. I can't wait to see what Heart Machine does next, but they have an incredibly high bar to clear with the precedent they've set with Hyper Light Drifter.

3-word review: Moody Mysterious Masterpiece

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Re: Our next podcast recording (30.6.18) - 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Scrustle » June 26th, 2018, 11:49 am

I first heard about Hyper Light Drifter when they announced the Kickstarter campaign for it many years ago. The visual style of it instantly drew me in, and having Disasterpeace attached to compose the soundtrack, I was fully on board. I didn’t back the game then, but I was still eagerly awaiting it right from the start.

When I finally got my hands on it myself when it first released on PC I was very impressed. I was instantly enthralled with the atmosphere of the game, and quite surprised how little it tells you up front. But I appreciated that, as it added to the mysterious feeling of the game. It has this amazing dreamlike quality which feels ethereal and intriguing, but at the same time ominous and slightly unnerving. Like you’re seeing a glimpse in to a world that has so much that you don’t understand. The world design and aesthetic do a fantastic job of portraying this with its ancient ruins and architecture of old civilisations, the decayed corpses of colossal creatures from some long forgotten cataclysmic conflict, and the strange abandoned underground facilities, leaving you asking questions about what kind of horrors were going on there long ago. All rendered in beautiful pixel art with striking, evocative designs and a gorgeous palette of neon and pastel colours. Wrapped in masterful audio design and soundtrack, full of booming synthesisers creating an almost overpowering soundscape. In terms of art design and ambience it’s up there as one of the best in the medium, and the soundtrack in particular is one I come back to listen to quite often.

Exploring the world is also executed similarly impressively. Mirroring the minimalism and sense of mystery that the game as a whole tries to go for, at first you’re given very little information about what you need to do or what anything means. No dialogue or words, just a map that seems to point towards something of importance outside of the town you wake up in after the surreal intro sequence. It creates this fantastic sense of discovery and wonder as you piece things together, working out what little narrative you can through the environment or the few vignettes of images that take the place of character dialogue in a handful of rare occasions. It manages to avoid becoming frustrating with this lack of information thanks to how relatively simple the game actually is, and how it uses visual conveyance of things rather than just spelling them out.

Combat too keeps to a relatively minimal but effective philosophy. You don’t have a huge range of abilities, but you have enough to deal with any situation, and do it with style. With just a dash move, a handful of sword attacks, and a modest arsenal of guns, it creates this sharp, quick, and very tense combat system where you can feel like an untouchable and exacting dealer of death. But you have to earn it. You are very fragile, meaning you need to keep on your toes, and use everything you have access to in order to stay alive in some of the tougher sections. But it feels amazing when you pull it off. The bosses are real highlight too, since they have enough health to make the fights last a decently long time, and really put your skills to the limit, and are a real joy to clash with.

There was a rough patch playing through this game around initial release however. As was frequent point of contention floating around the internet at that time, the original version of the game was incredibly hard. It still remains pretty tough in its current incarnation, but when it was first put out, it was even harder. Too much for me. I managed to beat one of the major bosses in that state, but simply couldn’t beat any of the others, and it did feel overly punishing. It did put something of a damper on my earliest experiences with the game. But then they made some changes which made the game feel much more reasonable and enjoyable, without taking away too much of the challenge. Sometimes I’ll hear people talk about how the change from 30fps to 60fps was responsible for this, but I don’t think that’s what did it. While that change was appreciated, and very admirable considering how much work it must have taken, I had already beaten the game before that change was made, as I found others they did much closer to release made a much bigger impact. Initially the game didn’t have any invincibility frames during the dash move. This made trying to avoid certain attacks from bosses feel near impossible, and kind of unfair. So in response to this, the developer patched that in, as well as speeding up the animation for healing a little. Just those two small changes made a huge difference in how the game felt to play, and was a massive improvement. I get the feeling many of the people who put the game down early for how punishing it was, and then got back in to it later with the 60fps patch, could have likely come back much sooner and had a similarly improved experience if they had done what I did instead.

But overall, Hyper Light Drifter is a fantastic experience that earned its place as one of my favourite ever indie games from the moment I first played it. The mysterious and haunting atmosphere, along with the immense soundscapes and gorgeous visuals used to create it, are unlike anything else I had seen in a game before and remain among the best there is. Currently I’m looking forward to experiencing it all over again in the upcoming Switch version, although I’m somewhat cautious about some of the additions they are including. Either way, sitting back to enjoy this game in handheld mode with some headphones sounds like a great idea, and I eagerly await it.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (30.6.18) - 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by joyjoymoto » June 26th, 2018, 9:33 pm

I first played Hyper Light Drifter with my cousin while I was in town for a holiday family visit. We hung out in the living room of his apartment until early morning the following day trying to get as far as we could in a single sitting. Never before have I been so immediately-affected by a game's atmosphere. The visuals and music worked together perfectly. The feeling I got from the opening sequence of the game was similar to the feeling one would get stumbling out of bed with insomnia at 4am and flipping through TV channels to land on an esoteric Sci Fi film such as Altered States or Ghost In The Shell.

If I remember correctly, this was before the local co-op update, so we played single player, taking turns with the controller. I remember having a ton of fun trying to master the art of chaining together consecutive dashes, discovering secret rooms and trading strategy advice for defeating the first boss we encountered. The whole experience reminded me of staying up late with my friends as a kid trying to beat a game we rented from Blockbuster. Having this experience with a modern game as a 30-year-old man was very nostalgic indeed (I may as well state my age since I've already dated myself with the Blockbuster reference)

If I were to criticize the game for one thing, it would be that the story made very little sense to me at the time of playing it. Perhaps that had to do with my sleep-deprived brain. The enigmatic narrative symbolism and visual story-telling vaguely washed over me, and specific details were most likely lost altogether. However, this did not bother me at the time, since it felt like I was playing through an abstract, experimental film. The narrative impact was secondary to the atmospheric experience.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (30.6.18) - 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Redfield70x7 » June 28th, 2018, 2:58 am

Hyper Light Drifter is one of my all time favorite video games. I've completed the game twice - originally on PC and a second time when it released on PS4. I first became aware of it during its Kickstarter campaign and was instantly drawn in by the beautiful pixel art (unlike nearly anything I'd ever seen; though maybe FEZ came closest to mind), alongside what looked like tight controls, a mysterious setting/story, and compelling gameplay. I personally think that Alex and his team nearly achieved all of these points.

The controls are some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The first word that comes to mind is "fluid". I also believe that, more so than many other games, the art of moving the Drifter around during combat scenarios is one that can be increasingly mastered and, not to mention, is just downright fun. The sword slashing, quick-drifting movement, and gun shooting all feel so incredibly good. Admittedly, I was initially terrible at the combat but slowly began, however, to learn enemy behavior patterns and this, combined with my increasing mastery of the movement and weapons, led to me getting better and better at the game as a whole. I've read a lot of reviews describing the combat as being extremely punishing and difficult, but honestly didn't feel that it was really all that hard. Oddly enough, I'm actually rather terrible at Dark Souls and its contemporaries. The fact that I found myself able to tackle each area and it's respective boss without too much trouble has to say something about this. I died plenty, that is for sure, but felt that each death was due to me making a mistake as opposed to feeling that it was the games fault.

I believe that the general structure of the game works well. There is a simplicity to its core goal (i.e., explore the map, defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and defeat bosses) that I feel harkens back to older games. The weapons and health upgrading all worked well for me, too. While I am a little disappointed that some of the scenes/environments from the original trailer never actually made it into the game, I feel that what was included works well enough. It doesn't overstay it's welcome and provides moderate-to-high replay value.

Where I believe HLD falters is mostly in its story, of which the creator intentionally kept very ambiguous. While I admire HeartMachines attempt to do something unique in terms of employing virtually no understandable in-game dialogue or text, I feel that it ultimately hurts the narrative far more than it helps. I believe there is a lot of potential that was missed out on because of this. One example being the colossal Evangelion-inspired corpses you randomly encounter during traversal segments. Who/what are they and how do they connect to the overarching story and NPC's? What exactly is the Drifter doing? Where is he from? Why is he sick? Questions such as these just sort of hang over you as the player and never really get answered. I'm okay with some level of ambiguity in storytelling, but I felt that I learned almost nothing at the end of the game and that, to me, is a shame.

Hyper Light Drifter succeeds most by its controls, visuals, and overall gameplay design. The atmosphere remains tantalizingly mysterious and leaves the player with a desire to know more about the whys, wheres, and whats of the setting, characters, and story. I also failed to mention that the soundtrack by Disasterpeace is really good and fits the atmosphere of the game very well. While I believe intentional story-telling and at least some dialogue would have helped establish more of a player connection to the Drifter, his mission, and the world as a whole, I don't think it's failure to accomplish this is enough to hurt what is ultimately a beautiful and fun video game.

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