A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hyper Light Drifter is a downloadable adventure game that's solid homage to older videogames like The Legend of Zelda. It has a heavy emphasis on exploration, trial and error, and lots of gun and swordplay. Aside from the cartoonish gore, there isn't much in the way of objectionable content here, but if dystopic or apocalyptic settings are upsetting for your children, definitely screen this or watch some videos of it in motion to assess for yourself. It's also a very difficult game, requiring a lot of practice, patience, and use of multiple skills at the same time to survive some levels, which could scare away some players.
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What's it about?
HYPER LIGHT DRIFTER doesn't really have a story. Certainly, things are going on and have happened, but the set-up is that you wake up as a wounded explorer in a bright and neon dystopia sometime after the apocalypse took place. Why and how it happened, you vaguely piece together as you make your way, but no one ever distinctly says anything. There's no dialog or any words at all in this game. Just a very colorful world that encourages you to poke, prod, and make sense of it for yourself.
Is it any good?
With only a few caveats, this fast paced action game is certainly worth your time. Due to the crazy action you'll need to endure and gymnastics you'll need to pull off, you absolutely need to play this game with a controller. It's doable on a keyboard, but as you increasingly need to fast-dash from one platform to another, blasting guns at enemies across the screen while doing crowd control nearby with your blade, it's just too uncomfortable and slow using the old-fashioned keyboard. It also doesn't help that the cursor used to aim can oftentimes disappear into the environment, as it's the same cursor showing where you'll dash to next. Regardless of how you play, expect to be thwarted by the controls a lot and accidentally falling off platforms when you didn't mean to, or shooting at nothing when you have precious little ammo but a lot of enemies coming at you.
While there's always a learning curve with any video game, it's worth sticking with and playing just for its amazing sense of atmosphere alone. The world positively glows and feels alive in a way many other aren't, thanks to the rippling soundtrack, marrying perfectly with the deep purples, reds, and blues in the world's color scheme. There are hidden pathways everywhere, which aren't just for show: The game's considerable difficulty forces you to be as resourceful as possible, so, exploring isn't a dalliance like in other games. You'll want to lilypad, grope, and probe at everywhere in the environment to shake loose the game's equivalent of loose change in the cushions, or small chips to power-up your various abilities. It all sounds like standard game fare, and in many ways it is, but when a refinement comes along that tweaks and balances the different elements you've grown familiar with, it rewards you for sticking with it and learning its subtleties. This is the sort of game where you'll enjoy it teaching you how to play, even if you definitely will be pretty bad at the outset. Stick with it, and it will reward you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the end of the world seems to pop up so frequently in fiction. Does thinking about how things will end give us more purpose or sense of anything at all in the here and now?
How can you tell when a piece of entertainment or writing is over-written? This game has stand-in noises and a few pictures to communicate everything anything has to say to you. Why do artists make this choice? Why not just use words?
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