Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D 16-bit action RPG. Anyone who grew up in the SNES era will feel right at home in this wonderfully detailed world. Developer Heart Machine has captured everything that was great about those games with their Kickstarter title. This game feels like a ROM that has been ported onto your PS4, from the gameplay to way your character is animated and wonderful chiptune music.
Combat is more modernized with a mix of sword, guns, bombs, and dashes. Rushing into combat will leave you low on health and surrounded, combining all these skills is the key to victory. Sword attacks start simple, later upgrades include a 360° swipe and dash attack. Your gun is good for picking off weakened enemies, though your ammo is limited its recharged with your sword attacks. Bombs are useful for thinning out groups of enemies allowing you to dash in with a flurry of sword attacks and clear them out. Dashing is your way to both avoid damage and position yourself for a follow-up attack. Upgrades allow more consecutive dashes and the ability to reflect projectiles. After a few hours I found myself blazing around in the map in a flurry of all these moves leaving a trail of dead enemies in my wake. After a large fight the protagonist would spin his sword around and stick it into the ground, this left me excited and ready for more combat.
The way Hyper Light Drifter tells its story is by showing not telling, literally there is no dialog in this game. Instead all the dialog boxes are replaced with a series of pictures that tell the story. Without spoiling to much about the story, you play a hero seeking a cure for his illness. We are shown he is sick by the character coughing up blood, stumbling, and sometimes passing out. Telling a story through pictures leaves something’s to interpretation, which lets each player make their own conclusions to some of the smaller things happening in the game. Early on I encountered a man slumped down against a wall, three pictures told his story. The first was him arriving in at the village, second was him being back into an ally by villagers, and the third was him left bloodied on the ground. At first I thought maybe he committed a crime or was not welcome, but after exploring the town I noticed one of the shopkeepers was in the mob that assaulted him. I went back to look through the pictures a second time and I noticed in the first frame he has a big bag slung over his shoulder. This made me think maybe he was someone looking to open a new shop and was beaten to keep out the competition. Now none of these things could be true, but the fact the game leaves these small parts open to interpretation is great storytelling mechanic.
Hyper Light Drifter is somewhat linear but the game does not tell you where to go, which can be a negative for some. There are secrets and collectibles to reward those who take the time explore, but very little in the way of clues that hidden areas are there. The game also includes new game plus which drastically lowers your heath for an insane boost in difficulty. In the end if you are a fan of the action RPG genre then this is a must play.