On Easter I found myself in a spot I don’t normally find myself in. I started playing an indie game. This isn’t something I normally do, and I’ve only played a few true indie games in my time. It’s not from any allegiance to the AAA polish, but rather it comes down to down to stylistic choices these games tend to make. The Humble Original A Short Hike has me rethinking my aversion, though. Created by indie dev adamgryu, A short Hike is “a little exploration game about a short hike up a mountain”.
A good time for those having a bad time
Waking up after a long night of anime and gaming, I started my regular weekend self-isolation routine. I hopped on my PC and was looking through the Humble Trove games left downloaded but ignored on my desktop. After getting rid of a few, I finally decided to try A Short Hike.
What originally drew me in was the quaint art style and the ability to glide through the beautiful setting. What I didn’t expect is an hour-long experience that left me with a sense of happiness and contentment.
I started out kind of bored, only continuing for the sake of not giving up within the first five minutes – something I have a problem with when it comes to new games. Soon I found myself getting lost in the game. It’s nothing innovative, nor is it super unique, but the game is much greater than the sum of its parts.
A simple objective
After the initial cutscene, you find yourself around a campfire with your Aunt May. After some conversation, you’re given your objective – reach the titular peak of Hawk Peak Provincial Park.
Your character – Claire – initially comes off as a teenager who ignores everything and would rather just use their phone. According to Aunt May, there may be cell service at the top, and so you set out on the hike. You quickly learn that it’s not exactly an easy trek to the top. One thing that’s reiterated to you over the course of the game, is patience and perseverance.
It seems like a lot to do just for some cell service, but trust me when I say it pays off story-wise. Along the way you meet a handful of other anthropomorphic animals all going about their business. Most of them just serve to flesh out the world or explain mechanics. But even those characters serve to aid the story in some way. At various points on your trek you’ll find characters making progress alongside you, which gives you a great sense of directly influencing them during your own hike.
And then there are a couple of the characters who are a little more involved. Take for example Avery. She is a fellow bird who challenges… anyone really, to a race via a sign you find in the park. She missed the registration period for the marathon, and so now she just looks to have a friendly race with anyone who responds to her “ad”.
There’s also Bill. I’ll let you discover Bill on your own.
The game is a simple experience, and it’s highly enjoyable. I wouldn’t say it’s overtly “fun”, as that usually entails action of some sort. Instead, A Short Hike is a great slow burn, and it’s meant to be that way. It’s less like Breath of the Wild, and more like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. It’s a peaceful form of fun and made to be calming and enjoyable, which it does quite well. The music is beautiful and changes based on your location in the map, which adds to the immersion.
This game made me happy
Even as I was writing in my notebook I loved just listening to the forest ambience. As I reached what I believed to be the end, I was astounded by the way the game had drawn me in – if only for a moment. A moment which, while brief, was far from fleeting. My experiences in the game are still with me.
I loved A Short Hike, and clearly so did a lot of people – it was nominated for six awards, including the Golden Joystick award in 2019 for Best Indie Game.
Even though I finished the main story, I played it in bursts for about another hour during my speedy writing of this review. During that replay I discovered more and more about the park that I had missed in my initial hour. This game may be short, but something tells me it’ll be replayable for a while longer. And even if you only give it that first quick playthrough, the payoff is satisfying and definitely worth it.
If you’re looking for some peace and much needed distraction I recommend you try it out for yourself. I love heart in my games, and A Short Hike has lots of heart.