Hyper Light Drifter Footage Looks And Sounds Exquisite

By Jim Rossignol on November 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am.


Hyper Light Drifter wasn’t just the perfect name for a videogame, it was also the perfect concept art, the combination of which acted as an accelerant for a Kickstarter that asked for $27,000 and ended up buried in over $645k. It seems like all this isn’t a fluke, either, because the game itself looks like a fever dream from the minds of those of us who grew up with such top-down exploro-combat games in the ’90s, only to see them vanish with the cathode ray afterimages of that era. Of course it’s stomping on the unclipped toes of a sleepy and unimaginative Action RPG genre too, so that’s to be welcomed.

You’ll want to have a look, and have a listen, below. It’s beautiful.

I’d say something like “more of this sort of thing”, but I am acutely aware that there’s an eternal scarcity of beautifully imagined, concisely realised games of this kind. Perhaps this will be enough. I look forward to next summer, when RPS writer drones will be scrapping with each other to play this.

As a related note, it’s worth having a read of this Q&A.

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61 Comments »

  1. tobecooper says:

    I believe, next summer, RPS writer drones will be writing about the game’s delay to 2015.
    I’m pretty sure that’s how Kickstarter works.

    But I look forward to being proven wrong, and absolutely look forward to the game itself because it looks lovely.

    • ColdDeath says:

      Given how much more money they made than they initially asked for and expected, a delay is pretty much a given, that is pretty much how especially the very successful Kickstarters work and expecting anything else would be kind of illogical ;)

    • luukdeman111 says:

      Why would you not want a delay in this case? They planned their release date for a budget of 30k. They now have 600k to spend… Asking them to spend that in the same time is incredibly stupid because that way money is bound to be wasted…

      • tobecooper says:

        I don’t really care how long we’re going to wait.
        But do take into account some of that money went towards hiring more people to work on the game. So there’s more content, but also more hands to work on it.

        • Convolvulus says:

          Double Fine seems to have the Kickstarter crowd trained fairly well when it comes to release date expectations. If what you’re saying is illogical then I have no idea how reality functions.

          • Shuck says:

            It’s amazing how many people are still having fits about Double Fine making a bigger game that’s taking longer.

          • KevinLew says:

            This is really a response to Shuck: Delays are one thing, but they also run out of money. I don’t care what kind of project you’re on: If you decide to make the final product bigger and better, but you end up delaying its completion and going over budget, then that’s really poor management. By doing that, Double Fine just made game publishers look good as their whole existence is to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen.

      • Moraven says:

        They could always stick to the original scope at 30k… Maybe spend 100k towards the game, release it then use the rest towards more content or a new game.

  2. Loque says:

    Looks cool but I still don’t get why we’re living a “retro-graphics” era. The amount of retropixel-based graphic engines is insane.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Because people are happy to see “retro-graphics” as just another stylistic choice. Which in this case it is.

      • Wulfram says:

        Which does nothing to explain its current popularity

        • Makariel says:

          Simple: small studios can achieve a pixel-style game much easier than a Unreal 4 or Cry-engine WARFACE of Duty title.

          Besides, as someone who normally doesn’t care much about pixel-style games: the pixel graphics style of hyper light drifter looks amazing.

          • RobinOttens says:

            Also, nineties nostalgia. There a whole generation of people who grew up with these graphics and are now old enough to be nostalgic for those good old days, either through making or playing these pixel-graphics indie games.

          • gwathdring says:

            90s Nostalgia doesn’t really cover Hyper Light Drifter. It’s not your typical retro game look at all …

        • DantronLesotho says:

          In my humble internet opinion, it’s easier to bestow fluid animation and artistic appreciation with pixel graphics because your brain abstracts a lot more of it to fill in the gaps. If you take a game like A Valley Without Wind for example; it has more animation frames but because of its painted design, it doesn’t look as good animation-wise as a game like this, or Fez, or Cave Story, etc. Because you have a smaller pixel-set to work with, it’s harder to screw it up and make it look worse. Now there’s some bad pixel art out there, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just an easy way to improve animation quality.

          Now don’t get me started on “it’s just a retro thing for old people who like nostalgia” because I remember talking with people when the Final Fantasy 7 came out; people were polarized. Some people appreciated the pixel painterly quality of the previous games while others would say pixel art was limiting in its animation scope. So then you had the stark difference in taste, which for some reason is still debated today.

    • StranaMente says:

      Well, first graphics != aesthetic. A good, or unique art style is almost always preferable to “bling” graphics, compare old 3d games and old 2d games and see how the first ones feel really old today, except for those that chose a unique simplified style (tf2 or WoW).
      Basically it’s an artistic choice and with good art direction an excellent choice.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Because the pixel style is relatively easy to do, makes it easier to enforce conformity, has a recognizable history, and looks really nice. It’s just a great technology for the purpose of indie games.

    • Viroso says:

      You know I don’t call these retro. They’re pixel. They aren’t retro because they make no attempt to look like older games. Their aesthetic doesn’t even resemble older pixel art and the stuff they do with the sprites would be impossible to be done in any older console.

      I for one really like pixel art, not because of nostalgia. I think that it really does look great for reasons specific to pixel art. Think of it this way, doing pixel art or something like what you see in Rayman is kinda like an painter choosing between oil, watercolor or acrylic.

      Even if the developers call these retro, which I don’t know if they do, these aren’t retro.

      • Consumatopia says:

        You could call them “low fidelity”, especially when it applies to the sound and music as well as the graphics. Definitely agree that we should distinguish between outright nostalgia (e.g. Locomalito’s works) and lo-fi aesthetic (this). I would also separate out games that choose a simpler look because it’s well-suited to their mechanics (Minecraft).

        • Nest says:

          What’s wrong with “primitive”?

          • The Random One says:

            Primitive would be something else entirely – graphics designed to look childish and garish, like thecatamites’ work.

    • fenriz says:

      yes this is very pretty. Beautiful.
      if this fanatism is all about graphics then just to make the hype drones angry i say i’m not impressed.

      I don’t wanna play Gauntlet, i’m old, it WILL unnerve me. Besides, all the games back in the ’90s included adventure elements, puzzles, items to collect. See Shadow of the Beast, Gods, Cadaver, all rpg’s Beholder style.

      I really hate how one-sided we are today about game design. Why must a game be just about one type of action?

    • DarkFarmer says:

      Is this the new thing people complain about on the internet? It’s pixellated because its easier to produce and its nostalgic and looks great. Why do people still paint when there’s photographs? Artistic choice of medium.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      If only that were discussed in a link from the very article you’re commenting on!

      When I started sitting down to seriously design this game, in 2012, I started out with a look of high-resolution art, believing I would do an HD game. It was going to be super illustrated, highly stylized and whatever else. But I quickly found that would actually be kind of ludicrous for one person to really do. So I — like many other small game developers — I found that working in a lower resolution, working with pixel art is much more efficient.

      I didn’t want to do just boring little pixel art. I especially didn’t want to do ugly pixel art. And so I had to infuse it and wrap it with my own style. It took a while to get there and push it in a direction that I was actually satisfied with, but I’m pretty satisfied with how it’s looking right now.

      TL;DR retropixels look good and are easy to make. What’s the problem?

  3. Cinek says:

    Looks decent as for such an early demo. Though it does have an issue I was afraid of – you see very little of these fancy animation in whole crowd of stuff going on and exploding.

  4. daphne says:

    One of these days, you’ll discover Radio the Universe, too. I have hope for it.

    • biggergun says:

      Also, Stealer.

      • vivlo says:

        Please, kind and wise RPS crowd, list more of these. The closest thing that this reminds me is Dokoutsou (Cave Story). Someone else speaks about STEALER in this thread, but it’s another non yet released one :/

  5. Aberaham says:

    sick of pixel graphics and boops and beeps

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Yeah, so unfortunate that there are absolutely no other kinds of games, like those with gritty “realistic” graphics and…wait

      • Lim-Dul says:

        Not to mention that there are tons of different styles of pixel art. This one has quite a unique feel to it. This is definitely not the way games looked in the past and more of a neo-retro art style that is becoming quite popular these days.

    • Makariel says:

      I heard those Gears of WARFACE titles on them consoleboxes are very grim and brutal, you might have a look at those. No bleeps and bloops there.

  6. TekDragon says:

    Anyone who hasn’t already seen it should watch the original Kickstarter video before they comment on the graphic technology. When I first watched the video it went something like this:

    First few seconds: “Meh, another retro graphic game”
    Epic bloody sword in background: “Well, that got my attention”
    Offline robots and vat creatures: “This is amazing”
    Cliff Scene: “WTF I NEED THIS NOW”

    Say what you want about the graphics technology used, but the developer has an absolutely incredible visual style that reaches right into your soul and pokes places you didn’t even know existed.

  7. AngelTear says:

    This reminds me a lot of Bastion, just in 2d and with possibly more interesting combat. Really looking forward to this.

  8. Guvornator says:

    It’s weird, and obviously this is a very personal opinion, but I’m slightly disappointed. The gameplay doesn’t seem to evoke the sense of mystery that the graphics style suggested to me. Maybe that’s just my love of Another World and Flashback talking, but when I saw it I thought it would be an evocative and strange world to explore, not slaughter across.

    • Lim-Dul says:

      This is one of the first gameplay videos and appropriately named “Combat Video”, so I don’t know what you were expecting. ;-)

      We don’t know how this will fit into the grand scheme of things and what the balance between combat and exploration will be.

      • Guvornator says:

        But that’s sort of my point – the combat doesn’t look particularly interesting to me. There’s no sense of otherworldliness to the weapons or enemies. It’s just a bit…I don’t know…samey?

        EDIT: It should be worth mentioning, before everyone jumps down my throat, that I’m hoping I’m wrong as much as any potential repliers are. I’d rather have a good game than be right. I’m just expressing a reservation, is all.

        • Commissar Choy says:

          I think the video description should at least allay some of your fears.

          “This is a pre-alpha basic demonstration – leveling has been left out, and the weapon set is very limited. We want to highlight a few key things for everyone, like the shield push, missile deflect/cut, and enemy management.”

        • Muzman says:

          I haven’t seen a video of a game where the combat looked interesting for a very long time, even of games I know I enjoy playing.
          Combat rarely looks interesting if you’re not doing it.

    • Commissar Choy says:

      It IS a combat video ;)

      [E]: ^Damn it.

      • Lim-Dul says:

        ^ :-D

        Oh, and while I don’t want to speculate too much on how the finished game will play out like (a mistake many people are making with all the Early Access/Kickstarted titles that are popping up), I’m kind of glad that it will have action-rich scenes as well.

        There’s been A TON of pure exploration games in most recent times, especially when it comes to indies. This looks more like Zelda: a few monsters to slay in each room to keep you occupied.

    • fenriz says:

      bingo. my thoughts exactly. I think about those two games too.

      Problem is players are immature. We just discovered the beauty of 2d, we know nothing still about the old gameplay. This game is a proof, the programmers are like children, stuck with arcade and consoles.

      we are oh, light years away from those programmers in the ’90′s who could easily imagine the depth of the 2 games you mentioned(That’d be Eric Chahi and co’, i guess?). My god those guys could non-chalantly and naturally conceive a game that’s a happy mixture of action and puzzles and dialogues. That pioneering taste for miscellania that couldn’t imagine a game without puzzles and items, one that’s completely lost in today’s one-sided mechanics mindset. We simply know nothing about gameplay, we must have had like a total reboot or something, cause we forgot we lived in Atlantis!

  9. saturnine says:

    Transistor meets Sword & Sworcery? Most welcomed.

  10. stkaye says:

    That music…

    This looks like the kind of game I’d love to be good at actually playing, but won’t be. All the same, that soundtrack puts it damn near to an instant purchase for me.

  11. InternetBatman says:

    It’s worth noting that one of the villains in there (guy with the lightning axe) was a piece of fan art, and they hired the artist to work on the game which was neat.

    A friend and I were talking about videos like the Night in the Woods, Hyperlight Drifter, Confederate Express, and Radio the Universe pitches; they’re great short films in their own right. Eventually he’d like to see a collection of pitches for games that would never be made, just like Borges’ reviews of media that didn’t exist.

    • The Random One says:

      As someone who has considered making games based on Herbert Quain’s works, I’d love to see that. Or maybe even just a history of a fictitious game company, from the inventive text adventures in the late 80′s to its bad 3D action games in the mid 90′s to its near downfall and ressurrection into indiedom in the late naughties.

  12. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I’m not too big on pixelated art choices in games, but I really like the way it’s been pulled off in this. I’m interested in seeing how it turns out.

  13. Turin Turambar says:

    Beautiful graphics and the combat seems solid, but you know, I was expecting a few more “verbs” apart from -kill-.

    • gwathdring says:

      Er … this is a combat video. How many verbs did you expect?

  14. guygodbois00 says:

    Music, art, animation, fx…I am floating on a tide of high hopes and expectations.

  15. Tommando says:

    A big part of what sold me on this was the quiet, harmonious beauty of the pitch video. The sense of mystery and wonder and poetry. But I’m not at all surprised(or disappointed) by the display of rampant violence here considering the preview image to that video was the hero very brutally and almost casually decapitating some poor alien bastard.

    • Josh W says:

      What I’m hoping is that they make enemy management something that you can do quite serenely when you get to a high skill level, so that they can blur that enjoying the world with the kind of peripheral vision absorption of a certain kind of top down fighter. That way both will be about taking in the whole scene and moving through it elegantly, although the latter will obviously include more killing.

      • Tommando says:

        Highly skilled, elegant, harmonious violence. Sounds great, sort of like the ideal of the samurai.

  16. The_invalid says:

    I must admit I’m a tad bemused at some people dismissing this out-of-hand for being a ‘retro pixel’ game.

    That’s kind of like saying you don’t think Johnny Cash is worthy of attention because you dislike country music.
    Or that Spirited Away is redundant as a piece of storytelling because it’s an anime.
    Or that Chuck Close should have stuck squarely to photorealism because pointillism is overdone.

    Just because something utilises a trope you personally don’t like, doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of praise or attention. A lot of the work that’s been shown on this game so far has been absolutely beautifully realised, and there’s quite clearly a ton of love and dedication been put into it. The use of colour in particular, I think is pretty amazing.

  17. Stuart Walton says:

    Had the opportunity to play a little of this at Minecon and chat to one of the developers. They still have a lot to do but there’s enough game there to get an idea of it. Combat was easy to get into but is going to take some time to master. I didn’t play for too long, they are still tweaking the timing for cooldowns and such and I didn’t want to get used to something that will change. Scene lighting is currently baked in and the special effects like the blood spray and dust kicking up are a mixture of normal sprites and particle based sprites. If they have the time they will improve the lighting and make the effects more dynamic.