Hyper Light Drifter is an Enchanting Love Letter to Retro Gaming

Hyper Light Drifter is an Enchanting Love Letter to Retro Gaming

Hyper Light Drifter speaks volumes without saying a single word.

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What you said here about the art style really resonated with me. Pixel art in this day and age can go either of two ways. It can be treated as a medium in itself, similar to mosaic, pointillism or impressionist watercolour. It utilises its strengths in simplicity, impressionism and clear form. It utilises a wide palette of colour, depth and perhaps integrates some subtle higher resolution effects like gradients and blur to smooth out and deepen the images. Games like Sword and Sworcery, Downwell and Fez fit into this category. To me, this is pixel art that feels genuine and sincere. It respects the medium as opposed to just trying to emulate outdated technology. It captures the spirit and strengths of pixel art while still utilising all the advancements we've made.

And pixel art can also be treated with a nostalgic, cultural lens. Intentionally stunted, simple sprites, garish clashing colours. Limiting yourself to a palette and style decades old which at the time was necessary. This is when it is less about the art and more about how to invoke a 'retro feel'. I understand why some people choose to work like this but to me personally it feels diminishing to the medium. Not that it's inherently bad. I think the outcries of 'lazy' directed at pixel art are seriously misguided. Shovel Knight for instance looks fantastic. I just personally prefer the other approach.

HLD definitely sits in the first category. Wonderful game and great article.

There's nothing "retro" about the game design philosophies in hyper light drifter and pixel art has become its own style, reducing it to a "call to nostalgia" is reductive at best and demeaning at worst especially since there is no way this could've run on any 8 or 16 bit era hardware to begin with.

This is very much a modern game with its own, distinct identity.


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