Hyper Light Drifter

Heart Machine's slash-'em-up is punishing and precise - and incredibly beautiful.

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Everybody knows bugs. There are funny ones and stupid ones. There are annoying ones and actually-damaging ones. But however they manifest themselves, bugs sit right between a game's maker and its player, a sudden manifestation of mistakes that have been made, a crack in the simulation, a bump right back down to Earth.

Hyper Light Drifter review

RecommendedHyper Light Drifter review

Dashing through the glow.

Editor's note: Hyper Light Drifter comes to Xbox One and PS4 today, complete with the two-player co-op mode added since the game's release on PC. To mark the occasion we're republishing our original review, which first went live in May.

In a library at the top of the world, I found a few moments of peace. The journey up the mountain had been hard, past frosted willows and over ancient tumbledown staircases. Crows attacked - huge things in robes, capable of violent magic. Wolves sent deer scattering. And then I found my way here: to row after row of documents, scattered papers on the floor, shelves creaking and broken-backed. Sunlight angled in through shattered rafters. Silence except for a distant wind. I knew the nods towards secret areas by now, and I sounded them all out: health packs in a shuttered reading room where a skeleton sat at a desk, money out on a spar of rock overlooking an endless drop and a rosy horizon. Up ahead there was more of what I'd left behind. More encounters. More breathless dashing. And a boss was looming. But for now - only for a minute or two - it was me and the wind and the ancient bookshelves. A moment to simply enjoy the beauty of Hyper Light Drifter without the attendant carnage.

One of the strengths of this game is that it explains almost nothing. It hints at a basic narrative - you play a stranger in a ruined land, searching through the rubble of a long-gone civilisation for some kind of cure to a blight that has afflicted you - but it doesn't fill in the blanks particularly willingly. Its landscapes, filled with prison forests, mountainous archives and underground robot factories, all hint at rich depths, aeons in which nature and technology have twisted themselves together, and little of this is initially exposed to the player. In the first few minutes you have to learn to identify the health packs scattered about the place, and in the first few hours you have to learn how the game deals with the money you need for upgrades. The only thing Hyper Light Drifter is swift to make entirely clear, in fact, is that this is not the game that the dreamy, delicate art initially suggests. It is not a gentle Zelda dressed up in Topshop cyans and hot pinks, a place where dungeons succumb to quiet intellect as much as the sharp point of a sword. In fact, it is a relentless battle, grinding and exacting. It is a game about fighting, and an adventure that does not trade in joy so much as relief.

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Hyper Light Drifter: Exploring October's beta

What's the best way to describe Hyper Light Drifter's art style? It's the art, after all, that immediately excites. The world of this action RPG is organic and day-dreamy, but it's also tartly technological. Grottoes and forests and shattered twists of circuitry thread together and entangle. Heart Machine - the name of the developer - is also the phrase that ultimately seems to get at it most precisely: messy life meets cold hardware.

The whole thing's been given a crunchy megalithic weight, too. This is one of those games about exploring a broken and ancient world, rooting around in the debris and discovering its awful secrets.

I begin the current backer demo - popular demand has extended its run for the entire length of October, but it's only available on PC and Mac - in what can only really be described as a glade, and how many of those do you see anymore? A temple's gaping entrance beckons. The stones here are battered cubes, riddled with traces of primeval machinery. The doors have faces like Transformers and there are the dark, gloopy remains of experimental life floating, dead, in the crimson fluid that fills a handful of specimen tubes.

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Hyper Light Drifter details its combat in new trailer

Stylish neon retro action/adventure Hyper Light Drifter has shown off its basic combat maneuvers in a new trailer.

Developer Alex Preston noted on his YouTube channel that this is only pre-alpha footage and as such leveling has been left out and he's only showing off a very limited weapon set. Still, we can see the titular pink-caped wayfarer's pretty slick moves like slicing a projectile weapon in half, a swift dash, a rapid-firing pistol, and a "shield push" which emits a flurry of purple squares to manage swarms of foes. Also note Fez composer Disasterpiece's haunting, ambient soundtrack.

Hyper Light Drifter raised an astonishing $645,158 on Kickstarter, nearly 24 times its initial goal of $27K. As such, it will be released on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita and Wii U. The game has already been accepted on Steam Greenlight and is expected to launch in June.

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Hyper Light Drifter confirmed for PS4 and Vita

Hyper Light Drifter confirmed for PS4 and Vita

UPDATE: Now confirmed for Wii U too.

UPDATE 2: Hyper Light Drifter has now been confirmed for Wii U after surpassing its $550K stretch goal.

Developer Heart Machine has added a new $600K stretch goal for a B-Sides OST remix album. The developer noted in an update that it's currently in talks with Will Wiesenfeld of Baths, Luke Silas of Anamanaguchi, Ben Prunty of FTL fame, Ian Jones of Parisian and more, but nothing is official quite yet as these are very busy chaps and schedules must be sorted.

Hyper Light Drifter's current tally is at $575,569 with 26 hours to go before its deadline on 12th October at 8:38 p.m. GMT.

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