These days, everyone seems to have a mountain-sized backlog of unplayed games. “So I Tried…” is GameGrin’s series dedicated to giving a single, untouched title in our libraries the chance to shine. Whether good, bad or even unplayable, the game will get half an hour to make an impression and prove its value. This time, I’m trying out Hyper Light Drifter - Special Edition on the Nintendo Switch. It might leave me cold; it might capture my heart and become my next gaming love. Let’s see what I make of Hyper Light Drifter in half an hour.
What I Thought it Was
Briefly reading the various descriptions and summaries online seemed to paint the game as a sort of homage to A Link to the Past. Strangely, I couldn’t quite reconcile that with the screenshots, which seemed too surreal and confusing to draw comparisons to any Zelda title. To be honest, the game —while beautiful— looked like a chore to navigate: every screen filled with details to the point where the way forward would end up getting lost in the mess. Of course, these were my impressions before even booting the game up, so I was more than prepared to have my expectations shattered, exceeded or otherwise subverted. It’s worth mentioning that Hyper Light Drifter has received critical acclaim since its release; I’m hoping something ‘clicks’ with me when playing this game that the screenshots just couldn’t convey.
What it Actually Was
Something a little bit special.
I’m so very glad to report that my initial impressions were wrong, so very wrong. Granted, its relation to The Legend of Zelda remains tenuous like I expected: it’s an isometric game, there’s a semi-open overworld and you fight enemies with a sword, that’s more or less where the comparisons end. Hyper Light Drifter is a game worthy of standing alone, and it does so with a style that most games couldn’t dream of achieving. It’s set in an intriguingly cryptic, ominous world where nothing is made obvious and everything is up to player interpretation. I found myself exploring the game’s northern region: fighting enemies, picking up collectibles, solving puzzles and piecing together my overarching objective. These were my on-screen activities, but —really— most of my attention was drawn to soaking in the world’s atmosphere. The desolate landscape, harrowing sound effects, inexplicable creatures and overall sense of ‘completeness’ overwhelmed me: this felt like a cohesive vision; inspired in a way that games so rarely manage.
Will I Keep Playing it?
Not only do I plan on continuing my playthrough of Hyper Light Drifter, but I’m considering having screenshots from the game on rotation as my desktop wallpaper. Aside from the world and its awe-inspiring visuals, the combat is joyously frenetic; I’m eager to keep practising and improving my skills with the sword/gun/dodge-based combat that’s currently kicking my inexperienced arse. Needless to say, this title has its hooks in me and I’m happy to let it carry me absolutely anywhere. I only wish I’d discovered the game earlier and could write a review for it. Alas, it came out three and a half years ago, it’s safe to say I’ve missed the boat on this one.