WAYPT: Hyper Light Drifter

A pixelated character with a blue sword in a fighting stance, looking up at a black and pink glitchy tentacle creature

It's fascinating – when a film or TV show leaves the viewer to fill in details, we frequently praise it. Too hand-holdy, and there's an air of mild condescension about leaving nothing for the viewer to infer. But when a video game does the same, it's much more likely that players will grouse about it. Very loudly. Perhaps that's a peculiarity borne of a more interactive medium (that is, people want more instruction when playing vs. watching), but it's a surprising divergence nonetheless.

Hyper Light Drifter takes that to an ambitious level: it has no dialogue at all.

Which is not to say it has no plot. There is a definite concrete story, but it's told in pictures and lets the player's imagination conjure up the specifics. This will absolutely frustrate some people, especially considering that the only words it gives are in a very basic tutorial on the controls. It's also goddamn hard.

Two oval pink and green plant monsters, one of which has its mouth open attacking the protagonist
just prior to my 5th death on this bit

... I'm really not selling this well.

I love Hyper Light Drifter, to be clear. The developer describes it as a cross between Legend of Zelda and Diablo, but it neatly avoids ripping them off. It's a beautiful game both visually and aurally – the pixel art is shockingly detailed, and I've legitimately stopped playing for a few minutes to admire some of the gorgeous landscapes. The soundtrack is another auditory delight by Disasterpeace and brings the game's emotional undertones bursting to life. (He also composed the music for FEZ and It Follows.)

A pixelated landscape, trees and cliffs in the foreground and a shining pink city in the background
but actually tho

If you're completely new to games, I would hold off unless you want a real challenge in dexterity and focus. Even for longtime action RPG fans, Hyper Light Drifter is tough. You will die, over and over. The gameplay is easy to learn but extremely hard to master and requires both practice and finesse. I have gone through the same scenario upwards of 20 times knowing what I need to do and just not being able to get my dang hands to do the thing and having some cranky-ass bird-priest slap me into next week with pink magic. As usual with games like this, though, it feels awesome when you finally get it.

I love games that make me put in work for progress and reward – not exclusively, of course, but they're a major theme in my gaming. If you're the same way and even kinda like things that are pretty and sound nice, you will almost certainly love Hyper Light Drifter. Doubly so if you're as fond of 16-bit throwbacks as I am.



Occasionally reality-prone. Cross-stitch, synthwave, and video games.