It seems that every few months, a new indie takes the Switch community by storm. We saw it with Golf Story, Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, and others. Well, get ready to see indie fever unfold all over again, this time for Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition. The special edition is portable, runs at a crisp 60 frames-per-second in docked and handheld modes, and adds a bit of extra content for those who have already experienced the original. The added portability in particular fits the game so well that, albeit a first-time player, I am convinced Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition is the definitive version of the game.
A treat all around
A delight in every sense of the word, Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition drops players into a cold, mysterious, and brutal world sporting treacherous mountaintops, seedy forests, and mysterious underground facilities. Hyper Light Drifter is very visually pleasing. The gorgeous effects and scenery are a constant treat for the eyes. Small touches, such as wildlife scattering upon entering a forest clearing or snowflakes floating across the screen on a mountain summit, help the game’s world feel alive. More pertinent sights–a colossal being lying dormant against a mountain, crumbling floor tiles, and scattered skeletons, to name a few–give the impression that that living world is on its last labored breaths. Meanwhile, the ominous soundtrack sets the tone for the game’s foreboding atmosphere. With little to no direction from the game itself, you are truly exploring this lonely world how you want and at your own pace.
The last page was torn out
The intriguing setting holds the player captive throughout the game, but it unfortunately never does much more. Keen players will happen upon mysterious scenes that beg the question–what happened here? The world of Hyper Light Drifter is so cold, unforgiving, and decrepit for a reason. Unfortunately, the game does not offer any answers up front. Instead, it just keeps going with that unwavering isolating ambiance.
Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition forgoes written dialogue for pictures. Encountering an NPC out in the wild, for example, will usually begin with the NPC stylishly slaying a pack of monsters before speaking with you. When you interact with them, you will only be given some somewhat ambiguous pictures that serve purposes such as foreshadowing an approaching battle. Concrete resolution, or something to really put a bow on the entire experience, never occurs. Hyper Light Drifter – Special Edition threw me into a secretive, dying world, and it retained that status even after I fought my way through.
Slash, dash, shoot
I have spent most of this review dwelling on the crumbling, heaving setting, but do not get the impression that Hyper Light Drifter is a slow, calm trek through an apocalyptic wasteland. The apocalyptic wasteland part is accurate, but to survive, players will have to dash, slash, and shoot their way through hordes of skilled enemies and hazardous environmental traps. This is not an easy game, but it is a forgiving one, and challenge suits it well. In such dangerous environments, the slightest mistake is rewarded with death. One misaligned dash and an entire horde of monsters surround you, leaving no chance of escape. However, as you learn the ins and outs of combat mechanics like slashing enemies to refill ammo, you slowly evolve into an agile, beast-slaying machine. Clearing once-daunting rooms in a dash-filled flurry of swipes and blasts feels so, so good.
Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition is fantastic–one of the best games on Switch indie or otherwise. You are doing yourself a disservice by not playing it. A wonderfully unique and ensnaring world boasting beautiful sounds and imagery is complemented perfectly by the incredibly smooth combat. On top of the portability and smooth performance, the special edition tune-up offers some peripheral new content for returning players such as new items and outfits. Abylight should be commended for this marvelous porting job, and Heart Machine deserves all of the praise they have received for this magnificent game.
A review code was provided by the publisher.