326: Hyper Light Drifter

This is where you'll find threads specific to the games we're covering in Volume Six
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JaySevenZero
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326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 4:16 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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Yacobg42
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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Yacobg42 » January 29th, 2018, 4:54 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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Simonsloth
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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by Simonsloth » February 22nd, 2018, 10:26 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 been put off by the issues above. I know it received a patch which improved frame rate which allowed me to complete the game. I definitely enjoyed it more as a result but the issues are still there. I’m glad I played it but 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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shadowless_kick
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Re: 326: Hyper Light Drifter

Post by shadowless_kick » May 15th, 2018, 5:15 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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