On the surface, Hyper Light Drifter looks like your typical indie fare. Pixel art aesthetic, retro throw backs, deliberately light on plot and exposition. It has all of the trademarks of the independent scene, but when you look beyond the retro sensibilities on display, you’ll soon discover that Hyper Light Drifter is by far one of the finest games to be released this year.
Presenting itself as a mid-point between The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Dark Souls, Hyper Light Drifter is the perfect meld of both old and new-school sensibilities. There’s a great sense of nostalgia that absorbs the player from the word go but enough new tricks thrown in to keep the game feeling fresh and original. The top-down/isometric approach is a nice throwback to the days of yonder, but the high adrenaline twitch combat really helps pull it into the modern age. Things that were never possible in the SNES days are so easily done now and Hyper Light Drifter is a testament to the power of simplicity.
You are the Drifter, a lone wanderer in a world that is beautiful on the surface, but full of so much death and despair it’s hard to really see the light from the dark. The opening cut scene hints at larger forces at play, giant demi-god like creatures and a creeping darkness that threatens to consume all who come into contact with it. The Drifter also appears to be suffering from some form of ailment which causes them to cough up a lot of blood. These are all things you’re shown but there’s very little exposition past this. Much like Dark Souls, very little of the narrative is spelt out for you, you must journey through the world and see its sights to get a sense of what is really going on; and let me tell you, you won’t piece it all together in one play-through.