This game made me glad to be playing games again.
For a first release by Heart Machine, it is a very good one. Hyper Light Drifter checks all the boxes. Intriguing aesthetics, gripping thematic, appropriately intense soundtrack, and most importantly, super tight controls. Not to mention the huge amount of time you can sink into this if you’re a completionist, with tons of collectibles and difficult opt-in challenges.
The game’s handholding is very subtle, very light, but definitely purposeful. It builds up slowly for the first few minutes, but then throws you out to go explore on your own. A sudden spike in difficulty (learning to deal with actual enemies) forces you to get used to its gameplay. And it’s doable enough to not make you feel defeated right off the bat.
All interfaces in the game are low on verbal communication, high in aesthetically-coherent presentation. Maps seem cryptic at first, but they’ll become “good enough” once you learn to read them. And this roundabout, not-quite-obvious method of communicating with the player extends even into the game world itself, where barely noticeable glyphs and markings hint at the presence of possible loot.
Where the game really comes together though, is the point where you start becoming comfortable enough with the controls to get cocky. It feels fun and exhilarating to push yourself to the limit. Had the controls been any less responsive, this would’ve been painful. But the controls are incredibly tight, yet user mistakes in it fairly punishing, which just makes playing balls-to-the-wall that much more fun.
It took me approximately eight play-hours to wrestle my way through the story. That still leaves me with a lot of achievements left to attain, from collectibles to challenge modes. I don’t think I’ll chase all of it, but I’ll definitely return for a boss rush, maybe even a new game plus.
All in all, I can highly recommend Hyper Light Drifter if you’re into action adventure!