Sometimes we need to disconnect from technology and escape on a short hike up a mountain. When the title was announced and released during the August 2020 Indie World presentation, viewers we’re captivated by A Short Hike‘s serene setting and cute aesthetics. It’s a short adventure ahead, but it delivers on what it promises.

Gameplay

You may instantly find that the controls are a little floaty, but they’re very simple and intuitive once you grow accustomed to the bird’s movements. Gliding around the hill is a lot of fun and while the depth perception can be hard to judge at times, the game certainly provides a calming sense of flying and getting to hard to reach places.

As you continue to explore and fulfill the requests from other hikers, you’ll obtain (or becoming closer to obtaining) Golden Feathers. These increase your stamina, allowing you to further explore, jump higher and ultimately, make it to the top of Hawk Peak.

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World Design

A Short Hike provides no hint of handholding, giving you the freedom to explore to your heart’s content whilst still maintaining an overall goal of climbing Hawk Peak. Along the way, you’ll find crevices to uncover, islands to hop and something new around every corner.

I was initially frustrated and complexed that A Short Hike doesn’t contain a map. However after 30 minutes of playtime, I realised that the game benefits without one, relying on the player to use signposts, become familiar with the hill’s intricacies and explore freely. This can also be said about the game’s lack of a quest log but only to an extent because after a while, I certainly forgot which quests I had previously encountered.

The beauty of the game is in its calming exploration. It certainly captures that Breath of the Wild essence of always being able to see something that you can freely explore.

Story / Personality

A Short Hike is exactly as its name suggests, whilst its social commentary suggests that we all need to take a break once in a while and get back to nature. Its characters and their dialogue are ripe with satirical humour that pokes fun at video game cliches and island life. That isn’t to say that the game is nothing but nonsensical silliness, rather it can tackle hard-hitting topics like mental and physical illness with a direct but empathetic undertone.

Graphics / Art Direction

The aesthetic has a simplistic, isometric pixel direction that highlights its own wonderful charm. Whilst I’m not fond of comparing games to others, there’s no mistaking the clear comparison that can be made here with Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo fans can take this in with comfort but A Short Hike isn’t exactly a carbon copy as it provides its own subtleties and charm.

If you’re not a fan of the emphasised pixel art style, this can be adjusted in the game’s settings. You can adjust the sharpness to not be so taxing on the eyes and simply providing this option shows that the game’s developer (Adam Robinson-Yu) put a lot of thought into this.

Music / Sound Design

Mark Sparling, the game’s composer, has done an inspirational job on the soundtrack with beautiful melodies that harmonises well with the tone of the game. Topped off with the calming ambient sounds of nature and the familiar mumblings of the characters interacting with each other and you’ve got yourself an audibly pleasant game.

Final Score: 88%

A Short Hike provides wonderful serenity in a world that tends to take itself a bit too seriously. Its premise is so simple and yet its messages are so powerful. The price point at $7.99USD is perfect for what it offers in such a short and concise time and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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