A Short Hike (PC) Review

This review will be a bit of a switch (ha!) up, as I won’t be playing the game on the Nintendo Switch. I received this game in the “Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality” on itch.io back in June along with 1,740 other items which included games, game assets, reading materials and dungeon manuals. Given that this game was released on Nintendo Switch last week after being announced in a Nintendo Direct Mini, I thought it would be appropriate to review this adorable little game for anyone who may be interested in buying it on Switch.

Story

A Short Hike is a game about hiking. That’s it, that’s the game. You can all go home now. See you on Thursday!

Okay, I’m sorry. No, really, it is a game about going on a short hike. A blue bird named Claire is visiting a nature park with her aunt, and is waiting on a very important phone call. Unfortunately, there is no cellphone reception ( which automatically makes this game a seemingly dystopian setting for millennials and Zoomers), and Claire must trek the mountain trail to get to Hawk Peak so that she can be ready to answer the phone.

There’s not much else that’s presented to you, and you’re made to quietly ask yourself questions as you face the challenges that await on the trail: Who is calling? Why is the phone call so important? I think it’s a nice, simple set-up that suits the game’s light-hearted nature.

Presentation

Upon seeing this game for the first time in still pictures, I thought that it would hurt my eyes. The game is presented in a very pixelated 3D art style, which reminds me of one of my favourite games, Animal Crossing: Wild World. You’re also able to change the size of the pixels in the settings, to customise how “crunchy” you want your game to look.

This is where it all begins.
(Credit: Adam Robinson-Yu)

As you progress up the mountain, environments and weather patterns change. Rivers look amazing, rustling leaves are everywhere, and you’ll eventually see snowflakes billowing through the wind. The characters are all anthropomorphic animals, such as birds, rabbits, turtles and bears, each with their own witty dialogue and charming personalities. The world feels very authentic, children actually act and sound like children, and for a game that is so heavy on the pixels, it is extremely immersive. This game was developed by a one-man team, Adam Robinson-Yu, and I’ve gotta say, this is impressive. The fact that almost everything in the game, from the graphics to the writing was the passion project of one person makes the experience that much better.

In my previous reviews I didn’t talk about music very much, because it’s something I don’t often notice unless it’s really good. But man, the music in this game is really good. It was composed by one person, Mark Sparling, whose immense talent was also featured in games like Shantae and the Seven Sirens by Wayforward. The soundtrack exudes emotion, with peaceful melodies in the forest, playful ones at the seashore, and determined crescendos as you reach your goal. It’s one of the few games whose soundtracks I actively listen to, it’s so amazing.

Gameplay

Given that I played A Short Hike on PC, I used my keyboard and mouse to navigate the world. Players can move around in 8 directions and jump to get around the environment. As you progress, you realise that you will need several Golden Feathers to traverse the increasingly difficult landscape, which are boosts that allow you to flap your wings and double-jump, or climb scalable surfaces along the cliffs. The more Golden Feathers you have, the higher you can jump/climb, and these can be obtained through purchasing them or by completing various quests around the park.

Put on your coat, it gets way colder on the way up!
(Credit: Adam Robinson-Yu)

You can collect money from holes you dig up with a shovel, or from treasure boxes scattered across the park. There are other items that you can pick up, such as seashells, sticks and pickaxes. What do you do with them? You’ll have to find out yourself!

Traversing the trail gets more complex as you venture forward, and your Golden Feather usage is limited in the cold. There is a way to create shortcuts to help you in your journey, which you’ll be grateful for once you figure it out. Once you make it to the end of your hike, you’re treated with even more feel-good visuals and dialogue.

Final Thoughts

I didn’t expect to feel the way I did while I played this game. I planned to just get through this game for my blog because it was short and I wanted to know what the hype was about. But I left it after a little over 2 hours feeling brand-new. The music, the visuals, the sound design, the crunch of snow under my little bird feet, the feeling you get when you just make it over a ledge with your last Golden Feather – it’s simply amazing. I enjoyed going back and forth with quests, finding money to buy items and helping other NPCs out with their troubles. It’s a game I think everyone should play if you just want to unwind for 2 hours – trust me, you’ll feel better at the end of it.

VERDICT – “Loved It”

Rating scale for games, from best to worst:

  1. Masterpiece!
  2. Loved it
  3. Liked it
  4. I mean… it’s aight
  5. Just… don’t.
  6. Certified trash, burn immediately

A Short Hike is available on Nintendo Switch for $7.99 USD/€6,99 EUR, and on itch.io for $7.99 USD.

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