Review: Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
1.24GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, Windows, OSX, Linux
Release Date
7/25/2016/th>
Developer
Heart Machine LLC
Publisher
Heart Machine LLC
Modes
Single Player

Hyper Light Drifter is an old-school 2D action adventure game with RPG elements that harkens back to the original Zelda on the NES. Funded by Kickstarter, the game smashed its original $100,000 goal and raised over $640,000. The game is Alex Preston under the developing name of “Heart Machine”. Preston has had a terminal heart condition since birth and wanted to tell his story through his game. Hyper Light Drifter is an incredible game that feels simultaneously new and refreshing yet somehow classic and nostalgic. Every aspect of the game is developed with love and care and it’s bursting with a personality unique to itself. Few games leave me thinking and feeling the way I do about Hyper Light Drifter. And fewer still remain in my mind and heart for years to come, I believe Hyper Light Drifter is one of those few true treasures in gaming.

After a short cryptic opening sequence, the game plops the player into the world controlling a nameless hero known as a drifter in an open world. From the start the player can go in any direction in any order to progress through the game and story. There are four main areas to discover; North, South, East and West and it’s up the player to choose in which order to explore. This truly open world feels a lot like the original Zelda for the NES to me. The game opens in a small lively town hub. There isn’t a single piece of text in the whole game, the story is told through the world and through interactions with the characters of the world. Even the NPCs communicate through storybook style static images. Although the story is very mysterious it’s incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, and the added knowledge of understanding that the developer has a terminal condition fleshes out the story in even more intriguing ways.

The gameplay of Hyper Light Drifter is fluid and challenging. The main weapon is a sword but in time guns and bombs can be earned. The drifter has a dashing ability that can be used to dodge and maneuver around enemies. There are multiple guns to collect that all have varying attributes like a long range sniper and a powerful up close spread shotgun (my personal weapon of choice). Back in the hub town there are shops that sell upgrades to the guns, more room for health packs, new dash and sword moves, and more. These upgrades are purchased with yellow collectables that are hidden throughout the world. Speaking of things being hidden, Hyper Light Drifter is showered with secrets, yet another aspect that reminds me of old-school classics. There are hidden things everywhere and there’s always a reward at the end of the rainbow. The game can get perplexing at times, as there are few clues as to how to get to each objective. But it’s extremely rewarding discovering the answers to the various puzzles and they never feel unmanageable. Enemies are diverse and clever. Each enemy seems to have its own character and style and learning how to dodge and attack each enemy is key to surviving. And surviving is not easy! The game is very challenging, but in a completely fair way. I never died and thought that I had been screwed over or that the game unfairly attacked me, if I died it was my own fault for not managing the situation properly. And if I did die, it would always place me at a checkpoint that wasn’t too far back from where I was. There’s a fine line between satisfying challenging combat that feels amazing to master and overbearing impossible gameplay that drives the player crazy. And Hyper Light Drifter walks that line to perfection.

The world of Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous. Every aspect of the game seems like it was hand painted, like it belongs exactly where it was placed. The game was partially inspired by Studio Gibli’s “Nausicaa of the Wind” and it can’t possibly look any better. Created in amazing 8/16bit, it feels both like something that could have been on the SNES or NES and like something that those consoles wouldn’t have dreamed to create. The enemy and character design is flawless, they all feel real and full of life. The carnage after a bloody battle is awe-inspiring and even with the entire screen filled with enemies and projectiles the game never even hiccups. The music and sound design is also remarkable, it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard and it fits the world perfectly. The sound design and music fit the tone like a glove and it never lets up. The quiet somber moments are met with ominous music reverberations echoing through the game. And the action packed moments are met with powerful melodies and sounds.

Overall I can’t say enough about how remarkable Hyper Light Drifter is. The gameplay is perfect. The story is cryptic and mysterious in the best ways possible. The art direction and music is unique and beautiful. Every aspect of the game is married to itself perfectly. Often times I play games that don’t agree with themselves. The world and gameplay and story and art direction just don’t fit, there’s always something that just doesn’t feel right. Hyper Light Drifter is that EXTREMELY rare game that somehow manages to pull everything together to create a game that fits perfectly in itself, every aspect of the game feels like it belongs and fits perfectly in its world. I haven’t played a game this magical for a very long time. Hyper Light Drifter looks and feels and sounds and plays like a game from a lost era, almost as if the 3D world of gaming never happened and this is what 2D games have progressed to. In fact Hyper Light Drifter feels like a dream—or possibly nightmare. Like the type of dream you wake up from wondering and wishing if it could be real but thankful that it’s not, but wishing you could somehow return.

PROS:
1) Flawless Gameplay
2) Gorgeous art style and music
3) Engaging cryptic story-telling
4) Perfectly executed tone and feel

CONS:
NONE!

10
Perfection

 

Review: Bridge Constructor Stunts

Bridge Constructor Stunts
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Cost
$9.99
Format
Digital
Size
353 MB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], Mobile
Release Date
12/16/2016
Developer
Head Up Games
Publisher
Head up games
Modes
Single Player

Bridge Constructor Stunts feels like a mix of the “Trials” series and bridge building PC games from the 90’s. It attempts to take those two game play mechanics to mesh them into one game. It’s a cool concept and in theory it sounds like it could be fun. Building bridges and ramps to skillfully launch yourself through levels seems like a nice idea; but in reality what we have here is a game that feels unfinished and like it would be found on flash gaming websites in 2002.

The gameplay of Bridge Constructor Stunts (BCS) is quite simple. Build bridges and ramps through the creation tools and then get to the end of the level by driving through to the end.

BCS’ game modes are very lacking. The only option for playing the game is simply the classic level 1 world 1 type format. When you beat level 1 you move onto level 2. When you beat level 2 you move onto level 3. Once you complete a world you move onto world 2 and so on and so forth. I was honestly surprised when I saw this and it instantly reminded me of the mobile game market today, it doesn’t feel like an Xbox One game. The game was initially on mobile, but why not update the game when you bring it to home consoles? Why is there no creation game mode? I don’t see why this game couldn’t have a gamemode where we have empty worlds where the creator could build whole levels to replay or send to friends through Xbox Live.
Each level feels like a tutorial, as the game adds a new gameplay mechanic often, like steel beams, wires, and “no-build” zones. Giving me one gameplay twist at a time and letting me master one thing at a time is smart, but when I’m playing level 6 of world 2 and I’m still being introduced to new things, it starts to get old. At some point the game just needs to give me full reigns. And it takes a long time to get there, it feels like a VERY LONG tutorial. The best way to teach a player how to play a game is naturally through the gameplay. In BCS whenever I’m introduced to something new I get some boring text that says, “here’s this new thing and here’s the very specific way we want you to use it to get through this level”. That’s not fun and it doesn’t properly teach the gameplay mechanic in a natural way.
When I finally get to levels that let me play with all the tools, I still felt limited. The level design is such that it feels like there’s only a few ways to properly build, and that’s just the opposite feel of what creation is. Building should be something I intuitively do and find my own way to complete the task, instead it feels like the levels have specific options on how to get past the obstacle. It’s just not fun.

The building tools and the controls on how to use them work great. In general the building aspect of the game is its strongest point. If I could just have an empty level to use the creation tools, I would genuinely have fun. There are also smart options like a “simulation” button where you can test out the bridge’s or ramps’ structure to make sure they hold up before actually playing through.

Driving with the trucks is a mess. The button layout is ancient, no one presses A to accelerate anymore, but that’s how BCS handles it. The B button is breaking. Why RT and LT don’t handle these features is beyond me! It feels like I jumped into a portal to 2005! Also you can’t drive backwards. This is insane to me because it looks like some of the levels are designed with driving backwards in mind but it’s just not a feature, which is ridiculous! The truck feels very light and airy, it just feels off. And accelerating feels sloppy at best, having the tactile control of the RT button would have fixed this easily.

The graphics are also hideous. I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it’s an absolutely disgusting looking game. There’s no need to go into detail about this because the developer seemed to not care about detail either. The simple music that plays during the building moments of the game is nice, but it’s jarring that whenever I pressed the “simulation” button to test out my work the music resets, it instantly takes me out of that tranquil mood of just building and having fun. The music when you drive around is terrible, it’s some crazy over the top rocky sounding song that again sounds super dated.

Overall developer Headup Games has a really cool idea here. And honestly the tools in the building mechanics of the game are really neat! I wish the game did a better job of teaching me the mechanics without stretching out that tutorial over dozens of levels. I took one peak at the trailer of the game and suddenly I learned more about the building features and how to tackle tricky spots than the actual game taught me itself. The driving aspect of the game is just not good. In my opinion the game would have been significantly better if they honed down on the building mechanics and just let the AI drive the trucks around. This way I could learn the minor tweaks I needed to make to adjust ramps and bridges and not worry about the sloppy driving controls. If you LOVE to build things and like the idea of grinding through level by level and mastering each challenge than you might have found a decent game here. However I highly recommend the $3 mobile version because the price tag and lack of new features on the Xbox One version just isn’t worth a buy.

PROS:
1) Building Tools

CONS:
1) Driving
2) Lack of game modes
3) No creation game mode
4) Long unhelpful tutorial

5.2
Dull