A Short Hike

Developer: Adam Robinson-Yu
Publisher: Adam Robinson-Yu
Year: 2019
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, Linux, Mac

Rating: 9

My five year-old daughter saw this game on my desktop and asked if we could play it. Fifteen minutes later, my ten-year old son joined us. I had to slow the game down a bit so I could read aloud everything to my daughter, and they doled out advice on what I should do. Two hours of giggling later, we finished it together. And it is one of the best gaming experiences of my lifetime.

A young anthropomorphic bird named Claire is driven to Hawk Peak Provincial Park by her mother to spend some time with her aunt who is the park ranger. She immediately discovers she has no cell phone reception, and because she is expecting an important call, she decides to climb to the tippity top of Hawk Peak. As the park is open world, you can decide whether to head straight for the top or play around as much as you like. However, the path to the top is quite vertical, requiring Claire to collect golden feathers to aid her in her climb. Collecting feathers requires collecting money, discovering treasure, or helping other animals on the island.

Two essential pieces of gameplay make this a winner. The first is play control, which is about perfect. Moving with Claire (at least with a gamepad) is easy and intuitive. She can’t fly, but she can jump and glide around the 3D voxel environment at ease. And since Claire can’t be hurt, if you mess up your timing you can always keep trying. And since the mountain is not very large, no mistake will set you back more than a minute. Accompanied by gentle upbeat music, A Short Hike is nothing but relaxing.

But the ultimate joy comes from interactions with other animals and their eclectic personalities. You’ll find a rhino trying to reach the peak. You’ll run into birds who are trying to profit from others reaching the peak. You’ll find a raccoon on a mission of self-discovery. And many more who are just chillaxing on the island. They’re all doing their own thing, and as Claire makes progress many move onto other things; hence, there’s little that becomes stale .

Several mini-games are available to get money and achievements, including beachstickball, fishing, and believe it or not parkour! All of them are amusing and challenging in their own way. After the main game is finished, you can spend another three hours or so on the island seeing everything there is to see and it never stops being delightful.

About the only critique one can throw at the game is that it’s too short. But I mean, come on, it’s in the title. And when it comes down to it I think it’s the perfect length. A game should always leave you wanting a little bit more, and if there’s a sequel I would gather my children round immediately.

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