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Hyper Light Drifter: Preview Build Review

by on December 13, 2014

You explore ruins of some futuristic society. Everything is a mystery and no story is given to you. However, clues are scattered around and it is up to the player to decide what it all means.

# of Players

Final product will support co-op of an unannounced amount.


+ Challenging gameplay
+ Interesting plot development without giving you a solid story
+ Amazing for a preview
+ OST that I would listen to daily
+ Amazing graphics and layouts
+ Intelligent enemies
+ A nod to the SNES console
+ Future product will have many many more features


- Small variety of background music
- Loading and respawn wait times
- This is only the preview build :(

Editor Rating


Sound Effects and Music


Writer's Score

Bottom Line

An absolute must have for indie game-lovers as well as SNES fans.

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At least that bird doesn’t want to kill you… YET!

If you haven’t heard of Hyper Light Drifter allow me to give you a little refresher course. Hyper Light Drifter is the product of an extremely successful kickstarter from the developer Heart Machine. Out of the $27,000 goal they achieved a whopping $645,158! And with all of the extra pledges they expanded platforms, added characters, game modes, a co-op campaign and even hired a few extra people. Two people in particular are already quite famous on the indie game scene, Disasterpeace and Teknopants. Teknopants is known mostly for Samurai Gunn and 0Space while Disasterpeace made the wonderful music for the game Fez and many other games. The game is inspired by The Legend of Zelda and Diablo series and pays homage to the SNES console.



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Idle animation…gotta find time to rest sometimes right?

The graphics pay homage to the late-great console SNES. Truly the game is a love letter to the past in every aspect, with graphics being the most apparent. It seems that there will be a good variety of locations in the game as well. You start in the lush green field with crumbling pillars, once you pass through the field and enter some ruins you find yourself in a futuristic looking cave or laboratory. The main colors that are repeated through the levels are shades of blue, pink, red, and purple with blue and green making up the background. Some of the levels had me staring into the background for a very good while thanks to the gorgeous patterns and interesting layouts. Trying to drink in all of the details and small motifs in the game can take quite a bit of time as there is definitely a lot of things going on in the level design.

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The story isn’t given to you in this preview build; you determine it from your surroundings and from situations you run into. This will perhaps change in the final release but currently it works great. The enemies are also a sight to see as they are very menacing. From regular goblin-looking guys to robots, slimes, and insanely intimidating Swamp Thing-esque jumping guys.


Swamp Guy!

I find the variety of enemies to be very intriguing from a story perspective. How did all of these creatures come to be your enemies? My guess is that the goblins are ransackers of these ruins, the slimes are just regular fodder, robots are remnants of these once beautiful futuristic ruins, and that swamp guys are products of the downfall of aforementioned ruins.



The game is based on a very simple control scheme of WASD for movement, the space-bar for dashing, and the mouse for attacking and aiming. The camera angle is a sort of top-down but more of like an angled view which gives a very dramatic feeling to the game. Once again we see the pattern of SNES game being repeated, I find it liberating that the continuance of the pattern is repeated in nearly every aspect. The game also specifies that it is “recommended to use a controller” but I saw no problems with keyboard and mouse whatsoever.

The combat is easy to pick up and hard to master, how cliche right? Well it’s true, the combat system is very much a love song to the SNES – that is to say: it’s difficult as fuck sometimes. The AI is fantastic and will use different tactics depending on your behavior. Are you swinging wildly? They’ll try a flanking maneuver. Are you being cautious? They’ll try attempt a zerg rush. Are you being a badass and killing everything? They’ll turtle the hell out of you and wait for you to fuck up. This adds a good amount of strategy to the game as you carefully need to assess various situations. You also need to keep in mind your distance to the enemies, they have great eyes, apparently, and will usually try to dodge your attack as soon as you are beginning the swing. If they are close enough their dodge won’t matter thanks to the reach of your sword. You also have a dodge mechanic but it is originally meant to be a dash. It cannot be used within so many frames of your attacks, that way it won’t be op’d as hell. The dash also grants you a whole lot of speed but you sacrifice control. You have to judge your distance to ledges because of the dash mechanics, if you dash several times, 3 I believe, you will slide a good distance and stop. This has led to several of my deaths and frustrations.

The weapons that are showcased in the early preview are: your trusty sword, a pistol, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, and what I describe as the RC ball of exploding. The weapons feel very powerful since it takes less effort to kill enemies, it isn’t a huge deal though since they use a type of laser-thermal ammo that needs to cool down after consecutive shots.



I don’t want to give very much away but… here is a screenshot of… something, click it for full size.

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I apologize but those are supposed to follow you wherever you walk but this was already the nth time I’ve been there and so they are “powered” down. You continue through the ruins exploring and looking for something that is not explained to you. Heck maybe you aren’t looking for anything. Perhaps you’re an exterminator, or an unfortunate soul who has lost his way. Regardless, the world is a mystery and you are supposedly the hero of it all. I continue saying that you are able to explore, however there is no backtracking. Once you go through a door you cannot go back. The only remedy is to exit the game and start from the beginning (with everything you have found so far) or you continue on – through the ruins until you eventually exit from the rear and make your way back to the front door. There is a secret in the game which I wasn’t able to complete until… well now actually.

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While exploring you find these square looking things. Once you find them all you are able to unlock this room.

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After you unlock it…

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You gain his cloak. Why? I have no idea, it’s a very elusive find though, during the preview build’s availability it was unlocked by only 54 people. Out of how many people I am unsure, thousands for sure but I am not able to find an exact number. This cloak seemingly has no special properties as far as I can tell. Further research has shown nothing of particular interest other than the fact that it is indeed white instead of red.

The bad:(

Yes despite my praises and overall fascination with this game there are, unfortunately, some aspects I do not like. When you die there is a short pause before you respawn. This isn’t awful but the wait adds up. I believe it’s about a 3 second wait and if you constantly die… well you won’t be very happy as to how long you waited. Some people argue that this is to add a sort of “balance” but that’s just crap. Copy everything from the SNES just please don’t copy the loading screen 🙁

The music is fantastic so far but from this build it was very repetitive. Actually it stayed the same for me due to the path I took (there’s 2 ways to get to the end of the ruins, short way and long way basically) and I just happened to pick the path with the same damn track. There was only about 3 or 4 different tracks but only 2 were heard throughout all of the levels. The other 1 or 2 tracks were heard at an end battle, and then after said battle. They were good but god damn I hope they make more.

Future of the game:

The future looks promising. There are a multitude of enemies, the music samples are sick, and the art designs are to die for. This is a game I’m seriously looking forward to and I’m very proud to have helped with my miniscule pledge. If you want a glimpse as to what will be in the final product you can visit their kickstarter update page here.

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