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Game Picks: ‘Hyper Light Drifter’ an indie game for ‘Zelda’ fans

The pixel art in “Hyper Light Drifter” sets it apart with captivating environments and an unexpected color palette.
The pixel art in “Hyper Light Drifter” sets it apart with captivating environments and an unexpected color palette.

‘Hyper Light Drifter’ an indie game for Zelda fans

From its opening cutscene, “Hyper Light Drifter” created a world I immediately wanted to know more about. Titans walk along the landscape, but immediately turn into dilapidated robots before your eyes. The drifter clutches his chest as a violent cough causes him to buckle over. The montage and its soundtrack from composer Disasterpeace sent chills down my spine and caused me to involuntarily lean into my computer monitor – and that was only the first three minutes.

The game plays like a classic “Zelda” from an overhead 2D perspective, but the Drifter moves with a speed Link could never hope to achieve. He fights with a sword and gun, and uses the invaluable ability to quickly dash in any direction. Dashing is integral to exploration and combat as the Drifter blinks across chasms and dashes from enemy to enemy while avoiding their attacks.

It’s not a matter of mastering combos or mashing buttons, as the Drifter only has one slashing sword attack. Success is tied to moving in for a quick attack, getting out of the way with a dash, and finding another angle to drive in before the enemy has an opportunity to counter. Guns help expand your arsenal by giving you long- and mid-range options to mix in with your slashes and footwork. Mobility and speed are required, and the controls are able to keep up with the pace. Combat is fluid and fun.

Fighting is fast and often difficult. Your health is limited and every enemy packs a wallop – but so do you, leading to a firm-but-fair rhythm to the action. Forgiving checkpoints help alleviate frustration, giving you plenty of opportunities to master a scenario with quick restarts and no fear of lost progress. This extends to the difficult bosses, as well. They all offer distinct challenges and designs; some have abilities comparable to the Drifter, while others focus on specific weapon loadouts. Each has enticing rewards, like new guns and upgrade currency.

Upgrades are purchased with a currency earned exploring the environment. Every upgrade is worthwhile, subtly changing how you approach combat. You can unlock bombs, the ability to continually dash, and a power that makes your sword absorb enemy gunfire.

“Hyper Light Drifter” has already positioned itself as one of the best experiences of the year. It’s a challenging game, but it never feels unfair. The promise of seeing more of the world and hearing more of the fantastic soundtrack are worthwhile rewards for your tenacity. Despite seeing the finish line ahead of me, I did everything I could to prolong the experience by exploring every nook and cranny. I didn’t do it out of necessity; I did it because I wanted to stay in “Hyper Light Drifter’s” world for as long as possible.

Hyper Light Drifter

Concept: “Hyper Light Drifter” provides action-packed combat while painting a mysterious world at odds with technology

Rating: NR

Platform: PC, Mac

Graphics: The pixel art sets itself apart with captivating environments and an enticing, unexpected color palette.

Sound: Composer Disasterpeace’s soundtrack lends a sense of awe and scale to the world.

Playability: Bouncing between enemies is fluid and fast, making every fight a pleasure – even the ones that don’t go well.

Entertainment: “Hyper Light Drifter” sticks with you long after the final boss, thanks to its impressive wealth of secrets, amazing soundtrack, and mysterious world.

Price: $19.99

Score: 9.5/10

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