In this day and age, especially for the younger generations, it seems like there is no way to escape technology. Even worse, when we do escape the technology, either by accident or intentionally, it is very easy to feel “lost” or like something is missing. I know, personally, that when I lose my reception for more than an hour on my phone, I feel this impulsive need to get into an area with reception just to make sure that no one has been trying to get a hold of me. A Short Hike, a game by developer Adamgyru, tasks you with just that motive: getting your reception back. The question is, though: what can we learn without being tied to our phone?
In A Short Hike, you play as Claire, a young bird who is spending the summer away from the city with her aunt on a campground island. When you wake up the first day, you realize that you have no phone reception and must travel to the highest point on the island in order to be able to make a phone call. What was supposed to be “a short hike” actually becomes a relatively difficult and taxing ordeal. Along the way, you run into a bunch of unique characters with amusing and kind personalities, usually encouraging you along the way. Also along the way, you begin to realize that maybe this whole “outdoor” thing of being away from technology and all that comes with it isn’t such a bad thing.
The first thing you will notice upon starting the game is its simple, cute graphical style. The best way I can describe it would be as Nintendo DS era Animal Crossing visuals – pixelation and all. For me, this just worked. I am self admittedly a Nintendo fanboy, and the whimsy that Animal Crossing carries and the joy the visuals and charm bring is rivaled by very few other titles.
The characters are cute and colorful animals, the environments are vibrant and varied, and the overall tone of everything is just pleasant. (I will admit, that maybe it went a little too far in the emulation of the style, particularly with the visuals of the fish and the buried treasure locations, but I really did not mind). Similarly, the sound design and soundtrack are calm, charming, and honestly uplifting. The use of the score by Mark Sparling playing behind all that I was doing made it impossible to wipe the big, dopey smile off of my face.
While the overall quest itself is simply to reach the top of the mountain, there are (naturally) things to do and collect along the way. Most importantly, there are golden feathers to collect and purchase that allow Claire to flap her wings once more as another jump. These are crucial to climbing the mountain, as they allow her to reach new peaks and climb up higher cliffs to reach the top. Also scattered around are tons and tons of coins, with which you can purchase more golden feathers or other cute things like hats and scarves.
If you venture off the beaten path (which you 100% should), you might also find some random items that don’t have a use right away, but are often things that the vacationers have lost and are looking for. None of these things, other than the feathers, are required to collect, but I loved exploring this little island and all of its nooks and crannies to get to know every character possible.
In terms of gameplay, much like the rest of the game, it is very simple, but successful. You climb hills and cliffs, glide to lower ledges, do small amounts of puzzle solving, go fishing, and (as mentioned before) collect a lot of trinkets. The heart of the game really is about exploring this island and seeing all that it has to offer. I completed the main story in an hour and some change, and I was not ready for it to be over. So, before actually doing the last thing that triggers the credits, I went and tried to find everything that I missed. Much like any good vacation, I forgot about why I was originally there and I just wanted to take my sweet time and enjoy every second that I could!
Honestly, and this is something that surprised me greatly, A Short Hike is one of the best games I have played this year. While I loved the art, music and gameplay a lot, the real reason I connected with it is because of the message. Sometimes, it is good to escape our escapist tendencies, to simply go somewhere away from all of our distractions and just enjoy life. Work, hobbies, and other distractions take up so much of our time and it is easy to miss out on other important things, like just taking time to relax, slow down, and go on a short walk outside. It’s just ironic that I am reminded of this by a video game.
Yes, if you:
- Love Animal Crossing’s aesthetic
- Enjoy short, 2-3 hour games
- Want a game to encourage you and make you feel happy
- Are a fan of Platformers and Collectathons
No, if you:
- Aren’t a fan of colorful, simple, happy games
- Need a Platformer to be challenging
- Prefer longer games and extended narratives
A Short Hike was originally released on PC exclusively as part of the April 2019 Humble Monthly Bundle, but now is releasing on Steam and Itch.io on July 30th.
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of A Short Hike from the developer in exchange for a fair and honest review.