Thursday, September 6

Review: Hyper Light Drifter [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There are some indie titles that I somehow perpetually have missed on the PC side, have heard nothing but great things about, and then simply hoped would eventually come to Switch. One such title, Hyper Light Drifter, has gotten particularly positive attention, turning it into one of those games you approach with some caution for fear of it not living up to the hype. After spending some serious time with it I’m happy to report that the storied look, feel, sound, and challenge of it absolutely live up to the legend, making it yet another title in the last month that proves the indie scene can crank out high quality titles.

The first thing to know is that the only way to digest the game’s story is through still images and small in-game moments, giving the game a somewhat mysterious and often melancholy feel. The creatures you’ll encounter along your journey are beaten down and for good reason, your encounters, especially early on, will tend to be tense and challenging as you try to get your bearings and a foothold on success.The fact that you’re given minimal guidance on which direction to attack in what order exacerbates this, but if you’re finding the path you’ve chosen to be too perilous you can always try another.

Though you’re increasingly capable over the course of the adventure, working with a variety of dash and slash moves as well as a variety of guns for mobility and offense. Progress is hard-won and will require carefully exploring the landscape, being sure to find every enhancement opportunity and health pack. Of particular note is that opting to take on the Tower Climb challenge can unlock a piece of gear that will help you with finding these secrets along with some other enhancements that may help you on your journey if you persevere. Where you’ll need to really heavily apply your skills will be in the game’s seriously challenging bosses, who tend to be lethal and will require you to push yourself to knock them out.

The flaws in the game’s armor will mostly come down to personal tastes. The unapologetic degree of difficulty and the lack of direction can certainly be frustrating and will require some fortitude as well as skill to work through. Success is very much possible, and gets easier as you develop better tactics for dealing with various enemy types, but you’ll make many mistakes and die quite a lot getting there. The way the story is revealed can also be hit or miss depending on whether you’re sucked in by the room left for your interpretation versus being given a more typical narrative.

In the end if you’ve been itching for a game that mixes top-down adventure with challenging combat and secrets to discover pretty well all around you Hyper Light Drifter is a very appealing package. The added Switch content is a terrific touch worth the trouble to try to take advantage of as it will make finding those critical elements that will help you on your way a little easier. There’s simply nothing quite like it on the platform and it’s well worth your time if you’re up to the challenge.

Score: 9

  • A terrific art style and soundtrack to boot
  • Challenging but responsive combat that pushes you to hone your skills
  • The value-added Switch-exclusive content is a nice touch

  • The lack of direction can lead to disaster and frustration
  • Requires an investment of effort and core skill to get over the difficulty hump