Game: A Short Hike
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC)
Developers | Publishers: Adamgryu|Whippoorwill
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E
Price: EU €6,99 | USD $7.99 | UK £6.29
Release Date: August 18th 2020
No review code was used, bought the game myself
A Short Hike is a special kind of game, dropped as a surprise release during Nintendo’s last Indie World Showcase. It can be, as the title suggests, a short game. But if you take the shortest road, you’d be missing out. That’s because A Short Hike isn’t about the destination, but about the journey!
Travel to Hawk Peak
You play as Clair, a young bluebird on vacation (yes, even bluebirds need a vacation it seems). She is uneasy, as she is expecting an important phone call but has no reception. Her Aunt May suggests that she hikes to Hawk Peak Provincial Park as the only place that has reception is the Peak’s top.
When Claire starts out, signposts are helpful in telling you which direction to take for Hawk Peak, you can’t really miss it. Soon though I found myself diverted. I wanted to know what was waiting for me at the end of the other road. What characters I could meet; the white Rabbit who needs a red headband to feel confident enough to take part of a race. The little green frog that only has an unwieldy big shovel while a little plastic shovel would be much easier to use to build a sandcastle. Some of the encounters brought a smile to my face. Like meeting the overly zealous members of the resident climbing club imploring you to join.
These encounters and little side-quests you get make this game so much more enjoyable. Collect seashells, searching for buried treasure after you get the shovel, get a fishing rod and catch fish, or helping other visitors to the park find lost items.
Golden Feathers Needed
The side quests mentioned not only serve to give you a relaxing time, they have another purpose too: they help you get to Hawk Peak. You need Golden Feathers much in the way that Link needs to build his stamina bar to being able to climb. And although you can find some in the game, you’ll also need to buy more to be able to reach the top.
You see, Claire has to scale mountains, walls and other surfaces to get to all the worthwhile places. At the beginning she can’t go high, but the more Golden Feathers she has, the more stamina she builds. It’s not like she loses lives or has other awful consequences when her stamina is depleted though. No, that wouldn’t fit in this Wholesome Game. Claire just gets to try again. And if she can’t reach it now, she might do so later in the game.
Where A Short Hike Shines
A Short Hike is not linear, you can go wherever you like and explore whatever you want. Do all the side quests, or go straight to the top, using money to buy the Golden Feathers. That’s what makes this game so special: the feeling of exploration. It’s the same feeling I had in Breath of the Wild: wanting to see what’s behind the next hill! But I must say that for me the comparison isn’t entirely accurate: the sense of wonder is there too in A Short Hike. But let’s face it, this game is on a much smaller scale, and has less variance in landscapes to offer.
Where the game truly shines for me is in the flight: Claire glides and soars through the air. The game controls perfectly on the Switch anyway, but flying is an especially smooth experience. I often had her jumping off a cliff just to fly for as long as she could, giving me a sense of freedom without having to worry about how and where she’s land. She always found her footing!
A Short Hike offers a wholesome experience for a small price. Though the game is short, it’s worth every penny. Put yourself in Claires shoes (do bluebirds wear shoes?) and explore this lovely landscape. Meet all kinds of characters and help them in their quest. Most of all: glide through the air, truly as free as a bird!
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up