Hyper Light Drifter: Special Edition on Nintendo Switch: Beginner's guide

hyper light drifter
hyper light drifter (Image credit: iMore)

If you're a fan of 2D action role-playing games that feature gorgeous pixelated worlds full of style, then you may have heard of Hyper Light Drifter. And if you've been living under a rock for the past few years, just think of Hyper Light Drifter as a mashup of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo.

Hyper Light Drifter started out as a Kickstarter campaign and launched on Windows, Linux, and Mac in 2016. Eventually, the game came onto PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well and now, it's finally available on everyone's favorite portable home console, the Nintendo Switch, along with some extra exclusive goodies.

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But Hyper Light Drifter pretty overwhelming when you first start, since it throws you into the world without many directions or even text. So how do you get started in this game? Fortunately, we're here to help you out!

Explore everything

If games like The Legend of Zelda and Diablo have taught us anything, it's definitely that you should explore everything. The same applies for Hyper Light Drifter, which is fitting since the game draws inspiration from those two aforementioned titles.

Hyper Light Drifter's unnamed open game world proves to be quite vast and daunting. While the game doesn't make it very obvious, there is a way to tell which way you should go, or even where you should start.

In the center of the hub on the map, you'll see a diamond platform with what appear to be arrows pointing in four different directions. Think of this as a compass, since the arrows point north, south, east, and west. Going in your chosen direction eventually leads you to new worlds and areas full of new NPCs, enemies, and items.

Be observant and pay attention to walls

Speaking of exploration, it's also important to note that in Hyper Light Drifter, you'll need to closely observe the environment around you.

While it may first appear as a wide and open area with little in it, you should still check everything, especially the walls. There are tons of hidden passageways, crevices, and secret areas that you'll only find if you check every last little thing on the screen.

It's also wise to explore and double check everything since that's where all the item pickups, such as precious health packs, Gear Bits, and keys, come from. You'll also get a view of the environment, which you can use to your advantage in battle, such as making your escape through narrow passageways if you're stuck in a rut or taking some cover.

Heal sparingly

Hyper Light Drifter is considered fairly tough in regards to difficulty since you're thrown into the world without any guidance and combat can get tricky. Think of it as similar to games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, except in a beautiful and colorful pixel world.

While you can heal at any time by pressing your L button, you'll need to make sure that you have enough health packs to do so. They're pretty hard to come by, since you need to explore every space carefully for them, so it's recommended to only heal when you absolutely have to. We're talking about slivers of health left, not just when you have a small chip in your health bar.

Since health packs come in limited quantities, especially in the beginning, you need to think about the right time to heal. The medkits do recharge after a while, but you'll still need to manage resources wisely for the best chance of survival.

Whenever you see a teleportation pad, make sure to stand on it. Just doing this refills both your health and ammo, so take advantage of it.

Slash, dash, slash!

Falling back onto the "pay attention" to everything tip, make sure you slash up anything in the area. This includes crates, grass — you name it! You'll never know what goodies may be hiding around in plain sight until you give the ground a good whack.

Dashing is another move that plays a critical part in survivability. If you're not slashing with your sword or shooting your gun, then you're probably dashing.

Don't underestimate the dash! It helps you traverse the area faster than walking, gets you across gaps, and helps get you out of sticky situations. Often times, Hyper Light Drifter throws swarms of enemies at you, and they can sting pretty hard. If you're surrounded by an encroaching horde, just dash out of it and exact your revenge!

Sometimes you'll uncover secrets only through dashing, so get used to it — you're going to do a lot of it.

Hoard those Gear Bits for upgrades

The golden squares that you'll find scattered throughout the worlds are what you call Gear Bits. Your Drifter collects these fragments that turn into a larger square, and then you can spend these in the shops found in the central hub area, where you find the diamond platform compass.

There are five shops total, and they all sell you different upgrades. These include more attacks with your sword before it needs to recharge, more ammo capacity for guns, improved dashes, grenades, and the ability to carry more health packs at once.

Gear Bits are incredibly important, and you'll need to get as many as you can to upgrade your gear! The game starts out pretty tough, but once you start upgrading, it gets a tad easier.

Proceed with caution

While Hyper Light Drifter looks gorgeous with its bright colors and fantastically detailed pixel art, don't think it's a comforting and calm world. The game is tough as nails, and you never know what awaits you around the corner.

The best piece of advice we can give you regarding Hyper Light Drifter is to always be wary and cautious when entering a new area. Also, try not to panic when using the dash mechanic, because falling off a ledge or platform as you're making a frantic escape from enemies is rather embarrassing.

Just take a deep breath, take caution, and don't stress out too much with this game. It takes time and patience, and you'll get better after the first few failures. Since there's no time limits to worry about, just explore carefully and plan ahead.

Get your Drift on

Hyper Light Drifter is an excellent addition to anyone's Nintendo Switch game collection, especially if you've never played the game before. It's challenging yet fun, and just beautiful to look at. Plus, the Nintendo Switch version comes with new outfits and weapons, as well as a brand new Tower Climb Mode.

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Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.