If I am to be honest, I am a little burned out of playing video games. I currently have no deadlines on when I need to publish things and I still find myself dropping games after a few play sessions. The only one that I have stuck with in recent memory is Marvel’s Spiderman (In all fairness, it was amazing). I do not know if I can contribute this development to working longer hours than I am used to or just being older but games just do not hold my attention like they used to. Enter A Short Hike by developer adamgryu , a little indie game that I picked up on the sole fact that it was free. I never really intended to play it just like all of the other free games that I never really intended to play, but between another rabbit hole of youtube content and staring at a blank wall I decided to give it a shot. Man oh man am I glad that I did.
A Short Hike is just as the name implies as you play an anthropomorphic bird, Claire, who is out on a vacation with her Aunt May to the beautiful and picturesque Hawk Peak Provincial Park. She wakes up after arriving at the camping spot only to realize that her phone does not have reception. She is expecting an important call later on and the only way she is going to receive it is if she goes on a short hike to the top of Hawk Peak. From the moment you take control of Claire, you have the freedom to do whatever you want. The ultimate goal is to climb to the summit of Hawk Peak, but the game does not force you to that goal. You come across a host of different characters during your time camping. From the fisherman who teaches you the calming nature of fishing, to the climbers club that trains you how to get to the top of the mountain faster, everyone here seems to be enjoying there time and they all have interesting things to say. Because of this I found myself going out of my way to talk to every character to see if there was anything that I could do for them.
I may have spent a little to much time searching for collectibles in order to trade for other collectibles that I might need. In my play through I never found a use for the fish I was collecting, or beat a certian hiker in a foot race even though I had at least 6 golden feathers, but I still found this weird joy in doing the activities. I also played about an hour of beachstickball until I was able to get the 20+ hits because I was that determined. The game found subtle ways to make me want to participate in its activities beyond the rewards I would get from them. I ended up doing it because Claire and I were on the same journey of relaxation.
Aside from the smaller activities your goal is to get to the top of the mountain, and you accomplish this by collecting feathers. The feathers act as your stamina gauge and dictate how long you can climb as well as how long you can glide, with you using one ever time you flap your wings. The gauge refills when you touch the ground so if you mess up a climb you can normally reset and try again without much fuss. That being said when you get closer to the peak of the mountain it does get colder and that will effect your feathers. It seems like you only need 7 feathers to get to the top and I finished my game with 11. Once you reach the top the game will trigger a cut scene that I will not spoil here, but I will say that it hit me straight in the feels. And once that is done you will be able to glide down while taking in an awe inspiring aerial view of your adventure.
I went into A Short Hike looking for something to take away my repetitive boredom and left it feeling shockingly relaxed. Right from the start you and Claire are along for this ride together and it is your decision how she spends her time at Hawk Peak. The game does not take itself too seriously nor does it make you feel like you have to accomplish anything at all. A Short Hike is a game designed to get you lost in its characters and organic story telling, and it leaves the rest up to you.