Review: Drifter

Silly Mare Games, SylrePony and others have joined forces, attempting to synthesize the best elements from several of their previous games. Drifter's a spiritual successor to Stroll and Derpy Buddy, among others, and comes from some of the same folks currently working on the Nightfall project.

Derpy Hooves must travel to the ends of the earth, and if you want to find out why, you'll have to lead her there. Find the review after the break!

If you're familiar with Drifter's precursors, you'll know not to expect points, combo multipliers, or other forms of rapid gratification from this game. However, while Drifter's certainly centered on artsy ambiance, it swings a little more toward the goal-driven side of things. Character maintenance is relatively important: Derpy's health, happiness, and energy levels must be maintained by eating food, meeting ponies, and taking regular naps. However, these stats generally don't warrant attention, as Derpy eats when she stops moving and sleeps when her energy bar falls to zero (although you'll take a small happiness penalty.)

As in Stroll, the goal of the game is to discover the various ponies hidden throughout the landscape. However, when you come upon them, they don't just sit there - instead, they'll disappear into the night after giving you a unique perk. Although the game doesn't tell you directly how Derpy's skill set has improved, names like "Double Food Perk" and "Half Fatigue Perk" are fairly self-explanatory.

Rather than controlling Derpy directly, the player must lead her around by moving the camera and waiting for her to follow. Although this can be cumbersome early in the game, once mastered it's an efficient way of moving her around - and it prevents Derpy from falling off a cliff by accident. After loading the game, make sure to locate the dot of tinted pixels in the center of your screen. That's the center of the camera, and it can't phase through walls any more than Derpy can. If the camera won't move, the central dot is usually stuck against an obstacle.

Twilight spends many a peaceful afternoon reading in the bowels of hell.

The game would be nothing without the eerie, meditative ambiance which sold me on Stroll - and fortunately, it's there in spades. It's impossible to tell whether the game's atmosphere comes from the music, the misty graphics and particle effects, or some combination of the two. My only artistic complaint is the ground texturing near the surface, which transitions awkwardly between several patterns.

The game becomes truly creepy when Derpy approaches the lair of a hunter, a mysterious creature that inhabits the game world deep underground. When you've ticked one off, the music is saturated by heavy, ominous bass beats while shafts of glaring red light herald the beast's pursuit. Fortunately, your progress is autosaved and discovered ponies serve as respawn points.

I played Drifter expecting to fault it for a confusingly large map, incoherent story-line, and repetitive gameplay, but was happily surprised. If you need an exploration aid, it's fairly easy to locate yourself by means of the included world map (at least, until you slip past the first hunters into uncharted territory.) While the game sometimes spreads itself thinly between a variety of mysteries, there were more than enough poignant moments along the way to keep my interest.

Overall, the game continuously impressed, and takes a solid place among my personal favorites. After a lengthy debate with myself, I decided on a score that, while debatable, reflects my impressions.

- Arctic Lux

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