Hyper Light Drifter is an excellent game that I've enjoyed a great deal. The combat is challenging but satisfying, the secrets are fun to discover and figure out, and from the environment to the creatures the artwork is simply incredible. You need to like pixel art of course, but my favourite part of the game has been exploring and admiring the vistas you encounter. Apart from the central home city area, there are four other regions, with themes like snowy mountain and aquatic city - I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know three of them - the fourth I haven't visited.
I won't claim to be good at the game. I'm a bit clumsy with the special moves, and my timing isn't good enough to reliably dodge enemies. This doesn't matter for the most part. Sometimes a battle will go badly and I'll die, returning to a checkpoint (mostly well placed, I seem to recall only one situation where I had to replay a tough battle repeatedly due to an annoying checkpoint position). More rarely a battle will play out perfectly and I'll feel like a hero. This all seems right and good, as a game should be.
But then we come to the bosses. Each area has one - I assume the last area has one, anyway - and you need to defeat the first three to gain access to that last area. I've taken down two of them. Neither battle was particularly fun or rewarding for me. I basically used the same 'strategy' each time - wildly drifting around (a kind of short range teleport, a key part of combat) to try and evade attacks while firing off every shot in my gun, popping med-packs as necessary, and when the boss got to a point where they seemed vulnerable I'd leap in and hit them repeatedly to recharge my gun, then go back to jumping around like an idiot.
I couldn't really figure out what pattern there was to the individual shots of their ranged attacks, beyond when it was sometimes possible to survive getting close to them and when it totally wasn't. After a certain point, I didn't get closer to killing them with each attempt through practice, it was down to luck and where their attacks landed. There's a limited upgrade system in the game, and more ammo for my gun and carrying more med-packs were also key factors. This of course has nothing to do with my personal skill.
Perhaps this is intentional, but I found one boss easy to kill (maybe 2-3 attempts), one was tricky (I tried many times early on before realizing I just didn't have enough health kits to do it with my skills), and the third... I have found impossible. I tried to just grind through to a lucky win as I did with the second boss I fought, but it's just too tedious and I'm not enjoying it at all. I don't get how to beat them. I'm at a point where I would happily use a blatant cheat if I could. It strikes me now that I could look it up online - hopefully there's some technique or easy weakness I'm missing, but I'm not optimistic.
When I try to think of memorable bosses that I enjoyed beating, not too many come to mind. I think I have more positive memories of 'bosses' from puzzle games, where they have a special puzzle to finish a set, or after you beat all the standard puzzles in a game. Also sometimes from strategy games where you are put in a tough situation (or you put yourself there!) and have to make do. I think I prefer to be able to beat a situation through planning or puzzle solving than learning patterns and muscle memory. VVVVVV is an honourable exception here, but it also has absolutely no nonsense and gives you instant restarts, whereas in Hyper Light Drifter you have to wait for your character to drag themselves to their feet at the checkpoint, then run through a screen or two before trying again. It's not an especially long delay, but it soon began to make me mad.
I understand that Hyper Light Drifter is meant to be a challenging game, and I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if it hadn't been, but for me it's been much more pleasurable to overcome the arenas with lots of regular enemies than fighting the bosses ever could be. If I fight and lose against the normal enemies, I still feel like I was dangerous and capable. When I fight and win against a boss, I feel like a faker who lucked out. I want to see the fourth area and the end of the game, but I'm afraid there will be a final boss even more annoying than the one I'm stuck on now. I think I'd rather leave it a mystery and call it a day while my memories are still mostly positive and not too much of frustration.
What's All this then?
I like making and writing about PC games - mostly strategy games. Expect after action reports, thoughts about design and gameplay, and maybe even a few prototypes.