E3 ’14 – Hands-On With Hyper Light Drifter
By Macrus Estrada
Hyper Light Drifter gained a serious amount of attention (and money) during its Kickstarter campaign. All in all, developer Heart Machine saw funding climb over 2000% of the $27,000 asking cost. It’s truly an incredible event to see independent developers with a product that the gaming public goes gaga for. Of course, there haven’t been opportunities yet for many people to play the game. For the gaming press and media, though, Hyper Light Drifter was actually playable at E3! Here are my first thoughts on the E3 demo which was played on a PlayStation Vita.
Is it bad that I have no idea what I’m doing? I start up a game and am unceremoniously dropped into what appears to be an arena-style stage. The background is completely black aside from some colored cubes/gems/whatnot that dot the landscape. Oh, and there are enemies spawning too. They seem a bit geometric in keeping with the aesthetics. This is still a totally barebones area to start players up in, isn’t it?
I quickly recognize the main character that was plastered very notably all over the Kickstarter campaign. However, it doesn’t look nearly as beautiful as I recall it being initially. I mean, this was a crowdfunding project that astounded everyone with its amazing, unique pixel art. On the Vita screen things still look crisp, but also a bit cheap. Is this the fault of the non-OLED updated Vita screen? Or is it because the screen is so small in comparison to computer monitors? The pixel art is very crisp but so small it’s hard to make out any special details.
The fighting is something else I find difficult to get a handle on with the amount of time allotted to the demo. With one button I can dash around. Sometimes, dashing with just the right frequency appears to make the character do super dashes. According to the Kickstarter this can be used for far more than just momentum, such as dashing over chasms and such. There was none of that present here so I just tried to rush away from enemies that quickly charged me from multiple directions.
Attacking them, well, that’s even harder to work out (for me, anyway). There are two buttons for attack – one is a close range sword swing while the other fires a beam of light. The beam of light seems powerful but you have to spend a second or two for it to charge up. No matter how much I dash, the enemies always seem to catch up to me before I can charge and fire a strong shot. Am I doing something horribly wrong? Why is it that I can’t make a stand? The size of the stage seems too small as it all fits squarely within the Vita screen. In the end I try slashing up close even though that opens me up to more damage. Then I’m dead. There doesn’t appear to be any other modes available at this station.
Suffice it to say, my first experience with Hyper Light Drifter was confusing and disappointing. That doesn’t necessarily bode ill for the final product though. One must remember that E3 is actually a pretty terrible place to demo games because developers can only showcase a very small portion of the game (usually 10 minutes long or less). Story is almost always cut out, as are helpful introductions or tutorials. Obviously, Hyper Light Drifter is a game that probably requires a good introduction so players can actually learn the controls and intricacies. Hyper Light Drifter will be entering closed beta soon via Steam.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]