I’ll be honest, in half the games I play, I don’t have a clue what is going on. But in A Short Hike the premise is quite a simple one – you are going for a short hike up a mountain. That’s the objective, but along the way you meet other people and get distracted, yet the goal always remains the same. And that all comes together to ensure that A Short Hike is a beautiful little game. Get your walking boots on and let us take a wander together.
In A Short Hike you play as a small bird (in an anthropomorphic way) called Claire, who is being forced to visit her Aunt who works as a ranger in a lovely country park. As she gets there, pretty fed up, she is left waiting on an important phone call, yet there is no signal. It’s here where she decides to climb, trying to get as high as possible – the titular hike to the top of the mountain in the park.
As you go along, Claire meets a load of folk who she talks to, helping little mini-stories emerge and then disappear. Some help you with quests, others are just there for the scenery. What’s great about the story and the writing is that its charm is effective and always present, whilst the conversations you have with park dwellers are always pleasant and funny. It’s a well-worked family game and has serious Nintendo vibes about it; something which is a nice change for us Xbox players.
Gameplay consists of you moving around the beautiful world; starting with taking a small jump. From there you are tasked with taking on mini-quests as you try to make your way up the mountain. For example, there’s a race to be had with someone and a climbing school to master. One person even asks you to collect several shells for them. These little quests are a lovely distraction and are fun to partake in. But the main goal is always present – to get higher. One thing that can help with that are golden feathers.
Golden feathers give you the ability to double jump, as well as being able to climb up that little bit further. The more golden feathers you collect, the higher you can go. They are needed too because as you get further up the trail towards the mountaintop, you are faced with vertical faces that require the use of several golden feathers to ascend. When you get to the limit of your golden feathers you will need a moment for it to recharge.
These golden feathers come to be yours by taking in and completing required tasks and enjoying those mini-quests. You can also find them, or purchase extras from the park shop with coins you find lying around. But they aren’t the only addition as you also have the ability (you are a bird, remember) to glide from high up to down below. This is a brilliant addition as you get to see the park in its entirety and the secrets it might offer up.
A Short Hike is a short game; one that can be completed in under a couple of hours, but it’s that short play time which is ultimately why it works; it doesn’t ever overstay its welcome. But for all the good, if I was being hyper-critical I would say that maybe the cuteness overload that you need to put yourself through might just be too much for some people. Personally, it’s been a welcome breather from the horror of other recent titles.
This game looks wonderful too, with its gorgeous autumnal hues that colour the country park and landscape. The design of the world is brilliantly nuanced and full of detail for such a unique, rather low priced game. The characters are straight out of the Nintendo playbook and I defy anyone to be able to play this game without having a smile on their face and pep in their step. For the most part it’s able to deliver some great, yet simple, design choices, whilst the audio pumps away with great sound effects and a nice music track.
You know those cheap and cheerful games that play better than many Triple-A offerings? A Short Hike is one of those games. It’s an experience that will put a smile on your face and even though it’s not particularly lengthy, it’s one that comes across as the perfect length for the asking price. Good gameplay, a great idea, and such a relaxing world to spend a couple of hours in, is what A Short Hike revels in. A hugely rewarding experience.
A Short Hike is available on Xbox from the Xbox Store