Hyper Light Drifter is one of those huge Kickstarter success stories, and drew a great deal of attention by taking in over 600k more than they needed for their initial goal. Heart Machine’s first project is ambitious and the pressure is on to deliver for their backers. So how does the game hold up?
I got the chance to play a small demo and talk to Casey Hunt from the team, who serves as the worldmaker, artist and producer of the game. He gave me the pitch: you are a drifter, and you are exploring this world in search for a cure to a technological sickness that has destroyed an entire civilization, and now your character has it, and exploring this lost planet is the only chance you have to find a cure. Casey told me that you are not the only drifter, and we settled on the comparison to Rangers from The Lord of the Rings series, as rogues who “drift” for lack of a better word.
Your powers in the game include a kind of jump, which will let you past gaps and up walls, as well as two magical abilities and laser-type sword. One of the powers was a kind of radial shot, and the other was a boomerang move that looked like a thrown sword. The controls were super responsive, and gave a tight action-game feel much like Diablo. As the enemies became increasing in number and complexity, each fight felt more like a match of wits, where I dashed in and out of battle, avoiding traps, projectiles, and ranged powers from several opponents, all at once. The final encounter in the demo was vicious, but the combat never felt unfair or too cruel. It felt balanced and completely justified. I died many times, but with each attempt at the area, I got better and better.
The game takes on a pixel art style that was just beautiful. It reminded me a lot of some of the other Capybara projects out there, like Super Time Force, but with its own flavor as well. It had a very science-fiction-meets-fantasy style, kind of like Star Wars. The Drifter you play even wields a sword reminiscent of a lightsaber.
Casey told me that Alex Preston, the man behind the Kickstarter and the lead artist, was heavily inspired by animes like Evangelion and Miyazaki’s work. At the end of the demo I was graced with the final image of a gigantic humanoid machine crumbling in the distance. The game definitely was beautiful, and set up it’s sense of scale almost right away with that final shot. I was disappointed that the demo had to end there, as I just wanted to see more.
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Hyper Light Drifter was immediately impressive mostly because the controls just felt responsive and tight, and the combat was something I could definitely dig into. Though the demo was only a mere five or ten minutes, it made me want to play more, which is the best I can say. Casey told me we can hopefully expect HLD this year; it will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One, as well as Vita. I asked him if we’ll see some kind of Cross-Buy for it on Vita/PS4, but he told me they just don’t know yet.