Indoor Adventures with A Short Hike by adamgryu
Over the weekend, I played through all of one of the new indie game darlings, A Short Hike, while it was drab outside in the real world. I really hadn’t heard much about it other than the name being mentioned on a few podcasts and some well-timed comparisons to Animal Crossing. I’m sure I’ll pick up the new Animal Crossing at some point, but this was a nice callback to the good, clean fun of the series. It especially hit the spot given the current pandemic state of the world around all of us.
There’s a story here, but it’s short enough that anyone should be able to make the time to experience it themselves. You’re a teenager spending time with your aunt who happens to be a park ranger at Hawk Peak Provincial Park. You wake up one morning with no particular plans and the only place in the park that has cell reception is the namesake peak. You decide it might be your day to see the view that you’ve heard so much about.
Your hike up the peak has you cross paths with a delightful cast of characters who are all on their own personal adventure and might need a hand. There are races, collecting, fetch quests, tools, and magical items to enhance your abilities. The characters are genuine and personable with some on the nose dialogue that made me laugh to myself a few times in the hour and a half I spent with it.
The art style and setting bring it all together. The world and characters are depicted in a sort of three dimensional pixel art that looks as fun as the characters that inhabit it. The park is a network of trails linking different landmarks, from beaches to crater lakes to mountain peaks with signs and color coded trail markers. It feels like a Saturday morning cartoon version of the perfect park experience.
Among the cast of humanoid animals, you are a bird with some limited flight skills. As you grow on your journey, so do your abilities to access new areas with your wings. As you climb further up the mountain, the opportunity to use your wings to explore the spaces you’ve already hiked through becomes possible. Its not Breath of the Wild, but given the scale of this bite size game, I was impressed. The mountain park space isn’t gigantic, but every bit of it is interesting and keeps you peeking around the next bend in the trail.
In addition to gliding down the mountain, A Short Hike also reminds me of Breath of the Wild through its well thought out areas. Just like finding an item, shrine, or korok seed anytime you followed a hinted path, A Short Hike rewarded just about all of my exploration. I found new tools, shells, and golden feathers whenever I ventured off the beaten path because of curiosity. Once, I accidentally slipped and fell into a ravine, only to find a camper squatting where they thought they wouldn’t be found by the local rangers and could camp for free. The park is littered with little treats like this.
A Short Hike was also just awarded the top prize at the Independent Games Festival, along with a few other honors. Its an achievement in a small scale game perfectly executing the experience they were aiming for in a way that nearly anyone can appreciate.
In these times, where more and more people are being asked to stay at home to keep their community’s safe, we could all us A Short Hike.