Review

Hyper Light Drifter Review

  • First Released Mar 31, 2016
    released
  • PC

Drift your way into my heart

Hyper Light Drifter's setting is so beautiful, so haunting, that I long to know all I can about it. I wish to hear the stories its citizens tell of the world it once was, and the one it might become. I want to hear the music that they sing, and see the places they have been. As stunning as it is, Hyper Light Drifter's greatest triumph isn't in the story that it tells, but in the stories that it doesn't. I don't know this place's entire history, but its desolate elegance inspires me to fill in the gaps myself. Such is the power of artistry this rich and thoughtful.

It is more than simply pretty; Hyper Light Drifter uses its visuals to both guide and relax you. The grandest vistas calm your pulse between difficult, breathless combat sequences. Developer Heart Machine applies to its visuals a lesson music composers learn early in their studies: rests are as important as notes. Heart Machine uses the number of notes required, no fewer and no more; during the rests, you explore the world, looking for secrets and valuable health packs. You take in sights such as a colossal mechanical hand--iced over, disembodied--and wonder about the titan it belonged to. You speak to citizens, who warble at you unintelligibly and warn you of danger with simple graphical speech bubbles. In each of the game's regions, the color palette grows more complex. Yellows and soft pinks turn to rich greens and mauves, and even later, deep purples. Few games use color so well, with its sandy browns and blistering oranges depicting the blazing desert heat.

Visual and narrative mysteries translate to structural ones, too. Aside from some plain-text coaching, Hyper Light Drifter largely uses its own wordless language to lead you. Its structure is simple once you learn: you travel to each of the game's four primary regions to fight bosses and ultimately unlock the final area, collecting objects that serve as currency and returning to your home village to upgrade skills and weapons along the way. Combat arenas and environmental dangers are the primary obstacles in your path, and they prove formidable ones, particularly when you must contend with both at once.

The simple creatures that first drop in to harass you provide little challenge, but they help accustom you to your fluid melee attacks and the way those attacks charge your guns. These early hours are also the time to master the slick dashes known as drifting. Eventually, you can string together an infinite number of drifts, but the timing can be elusive. (I know of players performing chains of an awe-inspiring 1,000 drifts in the village's practice arena.) With these tools, you face magic-wielding vultures, crystalline spiders, and vicious gunners, and taking down a mass of them within a confined space can be a Herculean labor.

You are not Hercules but Hermes, quick and cunning, moving in when opportunity strikes, and dashing away.

Yet just as the exploration and visuals follow a satisfying and varied rhythm, so too do individual battles. With each drift, you leave a series of brief afterimages in your wake, which makes the mechanic inherently enjoyable. When you slip around and between projectiles and attack dogs, drifting is even sweeter. You are not Hercules but Hermes, quick and cunning, moving in when opportunity strikes, and dashing away. Amidst the chaos, automated turrets rise from the ground and fleet-footed ninjas fling shuriken at you from disconnected platforms. You drift to the turret controls and shut them down, then across empty space to the ninja, taking him down in a few swipes of your sword. You do all this in the space of a second or two, calculating the right trajectories and timings on the fly, and hoping you get the math right--or at least, close enough to stay alive. It's not like there are health packs raining from heaven, and you can only hold so many.

No Caption Provided
Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10

These battles are fluid, demanding, and--usually--fair. Hyper Light Drifter's primary drawback is, ironically, found in the same visuals that make it such a vibrant success. Its pixel art is a wonder, but the depiction of 3D space isn't always crystal clear. You might get stuck behind a simple object in the overly cluttered spaces, or hemmed in during the busiest battles. Even outside of battle, you might wander behind some trees or buildings looking for secret areas and hidden objects, only to fall off a ledge that's hidden from view.

It’s only because Hyper Light Drifter is so masterful that its rare blips stand out at all.

It’s only because Hyper Light Drifter is so masterful that its rare blips stand out at all. Consider the boss battles, which require a measure of skill, particularly if you only have one or two health packs on hand. Avoiding trouble doesn't just mean drifting away, but drifting into a position that makes your next drift or next attack successful. More calculations, more measurements, always staying two or three steps ahead. Consider the audio, too, particularly the chiptune soundtrack, which gets your attention with deep rumbles and a simple two-note motif, then allows tension to build in its silences.

Lastly, consider how enjoyable it is to navigate Hyper Light Drifter's spaces--the networks of elevators and shimmering force-fields that lead to more discoveries, more hidden regions, and more locked doors begging to be opened. I vanquished the final boss after six or seven hours, but I'm still exploring, hoping to find every last crevice, every opening I've missed, every invisible platform. There are untold stories lurking out there. And once I have uncovered them, I hope Hyper Light Drifter's community has multitudes more to share.

Back To Top

The Good

  • Skillfully depicts a colorful, beautiful, ruined world
  • Fantastic balance of exploration and action
  • Fun, challenging combat encourages speed over force
  • Great boss fights
  • Lots of secrets and hidden areas to discover

The Bad

  • Sense of perspective can sometimes confuse

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd used to work at GameSpot. Now he just writes sometimes. When he isn’t writing, he’s making games, and hoping they turn out to be even half as good as Hyper Light Drifter. He’s still amazed that people can string 1,000 drifts together. He can barely make it to 200. Kevin is currently working with Cleaversoft as a designer on Earthnight.
386 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

24221

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 603

User Lists: 4

Edited By Gelugon_baat

I finished a playthrough, and I am really frustrated with the game.

The optional content is infuriating, made so because of some questionable design decisions, like the timing requirement for the chain dashes. This is made worse by the limited options for using the rewards from the optional content.

Also, the hitboxes for just about everything are HUGE.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for naasum
naasum

71

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

look, i'm not saying this is a bad game. i'm just saying that taking Indie9Spot seriously is getting harder each year.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ploppyman
ploppyman

7

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I wish this trend of blocky graphic games would go away.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for mfdobolina
MFDobolina

8

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@ploppyman: that's hilarious because your picture is a"blocky" character.

3 • 
Avatar image for beantownsean
BeantownSean

1691

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By BeantownSean

@ploppyman:

"Pixels"...and clearly from a gaming Era that Pre-Dates you.

2 • 
Avatar image for Taffy872
Taffy872

27

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I got so hyped when I saw this was a Kevin review.

3 • 
Avatar image for Garbage943
Garbage943

70

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I missed Kevin's writing here! I'm so glad to be able to get some more <3

Great review :)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for HellaStoned
HellaStoned

427

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

30 fps? Sorry, I'm a grown man and know better.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for darksouls
darksouls

1640

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 211

User Lists: 0

@akassassin11: True

2 • 
Avatar image for muddrox
Muddrox

250

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 28

User Lists: 0

@HellaStoned: You realize that most games still run 30 fps? It's not as enamoring as 60 fps but 30 fps still looks good even though it's not as buttery smooth. Hyper Light Drifter is incredible and it has some of the greatest visuals I have ever seen produced gloriously in 2D. Trust me, you'll forgive its 30 fps lock if you give it a chance and play it.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for mirage_so3
mirage_so3

828

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Ugh I like this game but I just can't figure out where to go. Game play is fun and what not but I'm wandering around with no idea how to get to my destination and no real clues to help.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for muddrox
Muddrox

250

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 28

User Lists: 0

@mirage_so3: That is one of the game's key factors. It does little to guide the player to heighten the sense of mystery/discovery. Look for visuals queues in the game as you'd be surprised how many hidden paths are marked with a box looking symbol. Look at one of the hidden paths you have already discovered and see the symbol for yourself. They're small and easy to miss but clearly mark the path on a good majority of hidden routes.

3 • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@mirage_so3: Other reviews mentioned these sorts of things. Watched a review in Australia on Good Game and he found it extremely frustrating despite the game having fun combat. I think he gave it 2.5 out of 5.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wingsandstache
wingsandstache

9

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@deviltaz35: Oh, I didn't know it was a joke. Usually people are just talking out of their arse about this stuff so I assumed that is what was happening. And if you are playing enough fast paced games or just watching with 144fps all the time, your eye gets used to that and so it is different when going back to 60fps.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@wingsandstache: No worries, i actually thought something was wrong with my monitor at 60hz until other people i spoke to said they experience the same thing. It's hard to explain but it's suddenly like 60 fps is no longer smooth. Annoying actually as you need considerable hardware to obtain 144fps in every game . I have a single 980ti . I am worried seeing Dark Souls 3 is locked at 60 it is not going to look smooth on my display.

I actually didn't end up buying it because it was locked at 60.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wingsandstache
wingsandstache

9

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@deviltaz35: If you want games that play at 60 you may as well switch back to 60hz and yes, it will be stuttery but you will get used to it. It will also help when you are watching videos on youtube and such.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@wingsandstache: I don't want games that run at 60 , i just want an unlocked framerate . Gsync takes care of anything and remains smooth as long as it doesn't drop below about 40.

Sorry that was more what i meant to say. In any case Hyper Light Drifter wouldn't be affected as much as something like Dark souls. I am still getting the new Ratchet and Clank on PS4 tomorrow anyway and just learned that is locked 30 fps so i'll have to get used to it hey :). Always loved that series so i'll compromise lol.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wingsandstache
wingsandstache

9

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@wingsandstache: OMG I CAN ACTUALLY REPLY NOW YAY!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for wingsandstache
wingsandstache

9

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I wish I could reply directly to comments but I can't, anyway @deviltaz35I never said anything about 20/20 vision. 20/20 is how well you see near and far. And yes, there is a limit. Please do your homework before making assumptions like this.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@wingsandstache: Why can't you reply directly, in any case i took the 20 from what you said and ran with it. Sorry it was meant to be a joke. There is no perceivable limit on what the eye can see because no two people can see exactly the same is what i meant to say anyway. In any case i use a 144 fps monitor myself at home and it is incredibly fast and smooth compared to 30 fps or 60 fps. It gets that way even 60 fps is too slow once you are used to it. You can actually see the frame update if you jump back from 144 to 60 in a game. It looks like a very slight stepping motion.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Higher score than Grim Dawn yeah right that is believable.

3 • 
Avatar image for StaticPenguin
StaticPenguin

3433

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 67

User Lists: 0

Edited By StaticPenguin

I like this game. I just wish I knew what was going on. lol

Upvote • 
Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

4539

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 43

User Lists: 0

People should give pixelatad games a chance before stammerin' shit about how they're not 'real' games. There's a few great ones lately compared to how dry gaming is in really good AAA games: you don't need a hand to count these in last 2 years.

2 • 
Avatar image for antigomez64
AntiGomez64

33

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

This game has serious issues on Mac

Upvote • 
Avatar image for antigomez64
AntiGomez64

33

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

IGN and Gamespot is home to the most vulturous 12 year olds in gaming, below is the most childish comments about framerate and graphics. What happened to actual FUN and GAMES.

4 • 
Avatar image for darksouls
darksouls

1640

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 211

User Lists: 0

@antigomez64: Those times are gone unfortunately.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Princess_Rectum
Princess_Rectum

204

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@antigomez64: You don't think a bad framerate can affect the amount of fun? Sure adds to frustration at times...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

4539

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 43

User Lists: 0

@Princess_Rectum: constant and invariant framerate is more important than anything. I switch GPU every two years to be sure of that.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for muddrox
Muddrox

250

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 28

User Lists: 0

Edited By Muddrox

@Princess_Rectum: 30 fps isn't bad though. I am really surprised by how many people gripe about 30 fps lock when we have so many games that aren't running 60 fps. For example, Bloodborne is excellent and considered by many to be among PS4's best games but yet it only runs at a steady 30 fps.

2 • 
Avatar image for wingsandstache
wingsandstache

9

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

To all those complaining about the frame rate, you can only see at 20fps. So 30fps is plenty fine. I have played the game and it works just fine at 30fps.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@wingsandstache: That is not what is meant by 20/20 vision :).. There is no limit to what framerate the eye can see.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ianpac
ianpac

28

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

@deviltaz35: Not true that there is no limit to the human eye. Most people see between 45-60 frames per second. But you can train your brain to see faster so race drivers and fighter pilots can see up to 250 fps.

So gamers who have been playing at high frame rates will perceive 60fps as choppy whereas everyone else will see it as fluid.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@ianpac: Thanks but in any case it's better than 30 :)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Cillerboy
Cillerboy

535

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 15

User Lists: 0

@wingsandstache: You must be joking. It's hard to tell on the internet so I just wanted to confirm.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for stabby_mcgee
stabby_mcgee

198

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 0

I don't know how the review could avoid talking about the game's lack of polish. There are all sorts of problems like cut scenes triggering when you're still in combat, projectiles sometimes coming out of nowhere, sometimes the pixels don't seem to quite match up leading to misjudging distances, although that might be a perspective thing.

It's especially noticeable because this is a fast paced game that relies a lot on precision and quick reaction time. It's already so easy to die, getting killed because of bugs or graphical problems causing you to make misjudgments becomes so much more frustrating.

There's also the low frame rate, which makes some of the precision movements/attacks harder than they should be.

2 • 
Avatar image for game_gt3
game_gt3

109

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

omg kevin is here :D

3 • 
Avatar image for Alecmrhand
Alecmrhand

473

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

YAY! Kevin came back for a guest spot! Still my favorite reviewer of all time. Thanks Kevin! We miss you!

3 • 
Avatar image for Fursnake
Fursnake

182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Gameplay is good and the visuals are good even with the pixelated, old school look, but on the technical side this game is lacking on the PC version. Straight up tells you that it is recommended to play on a controller, no resolution support options, locked at 30fps and no 4k support. I play on a large 4k monitor and this game scales like crap on 4k, this is the only game I can think of that I have played in the last year since getting the monitor that doesn't scale on 4k. Total console port which is disappointing.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dunoid
Dunoid

72

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Fursnake: To be fair, recommending a controller isn't all that rare, since most third person games play a lot better with a controller regardless of the quality of the port.

3 • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5e7f8a21de9dd
deactivated-5e7f8a21de9dd

4403

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 144

User Lists: 1

@dunoid: Bastion and Hotline Miami are two similarly controlled games that work just fine, nay, even better with KB+M.

2 • 
Avatar image for Fursnake
Fursnake

182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@dunoid:

It's pretty rare since I can't remember any game on the PC telling me I should play it with a controller, which the game does when you first launch it.

As for controllers working better on third person PC games, that's your opinion and you're entitled to it but I will never agree with you on that.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dunoid
Dunoid

72

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Fursnake: Well, I've seen it in other games. And is it really all that bad for a developer to be familiar enough with their product to know the most enjoyable way to play? Amnesia asks you to use headphones and turn off the lights, and that certainly doesn't indicate bad design. It just means they've designed it with a specific setup in mind and want the player to know that.

4 • 
Avatar image for Fursnake
Fursnake

182

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@dunoid:

Seriously? You're doing a poor job of trying to defend this. Yes, they have a specific setup in mind and that is the console version. There is next to nothing done to optimize it for the PC and nothing you have said changes that at all.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for T-ESI
T-ESI

89

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@Fursnake: I'll agree that not being able to scale the display to various resolutions is bad for PC. But having issues with being recommended an input device is bordering on hypocrisy. PC games get recommended hardware requirements all the time and no one has an issue with that. So why do people have an issue with a recommended input device. If I'm to play a racing game I wouldn't be surprised or even expect to have a racing wheel be recommended. Same goes for flight games and flight sticks/HOTAS. Some of the so called PC gamers have a hard time grasping that PC gaming is not exclusive to M+K.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

8041

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@T-ESI: I would prefer it as if i don't have the device and buy the game, then i don't have anyone but myself to blame if it sucks playing it without the recommended device :)

Upvote • 

Hyper Light Drifter

First Released Mar 31, 2016
released
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Linux
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

In Hyper Light Drifter you’ll travel a ruined land with a twisted past, delving deep to collect lost technologies and unveil secrets long buried.

9
Superb

Average Rating

74 Rating(s)

7
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen