Release Date: 06/30/2019
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You can’t really call this a walking simulator or a platformer. It’s a bit of both. A Short Hike doesn’t have a touching story that tugs on your heartstrings that a lot of short indie “walking simulators” have, nor is it a skill-based platformer that requires precision timing. It reminded me of something familiar from the 32/64-bit era such as Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, or Kingsley’s Adventure. This is an isometric “retro pixel” style 3D platformer with tons of charm and a fun island to explore. The entire game can be completed 100% in less than four hours, and the main story finished in one hour, but if you just race to the top of Hawk Peak to get the cell phone reception you need to hear back from your mother then you are robbing yourself of an entire game.
There are dozens of characters dotted throughout the island offering challenges, golden feathers, hints, and just plain silliness. The writing for the characters is very similar to 16-bit and games of yesteryear. Your main goal to progress is golden feathers. These are single jumps or stamina for climbing. I found 11 on my journey, but there were a few more I missed. You can do more than a single hop without the first golden feather. You really should glide around the island and explore. Some characters want sea shells, one runner is missing a headband, and there are treasure maps, chests with coins, digging spots, fishing spots, and a few other activities like Stickball and parkour races. You won’t discover these without talking to creatures and exploring. I love the exploration in this game. It’s not overly difficult and you can always figure out how to get to a seemingly hidden spot. Just upgrade your feathers.
Coins are used to buy feathers from a couple of characters, and you can sell caught fish to get more coins. This all sounds like a lot of game, but it’s packed into a single hour and somehow doesn’t feel overwhelming. The island seems big at first, but you will easily remember the landmarks and there are signs everywhere pointing to the different trails and landmarks. You eventually unlock shortcuts by watering spring flowers and using a pickaxe to knock through a tunnel. It’s incredibly satisfying to find all the objects for a creature and then run back knowing exactly where they are and get your reward and it’s always one step further to progress. No matter what you do in the game it will always push you closer to your goal.
Even after reaching the peak, you get an opportunity before finishing the game to complete everything. By the first full hour, I had almost all the feathers and I could go anywhere I wanted. I didn’t 100% the game, but I got close to it. The platforming itself is wonderful with great physics and tight controls. I never felt slippery and gliding never felt off or wrong. You do eventually get a sprint ability and this helps you get around the island even faster on foot. Thanks to the short length there’s a constant sense of progression with every action you do. The visuals are bright, colorful, and charming and the music is fantastic. There’s not much to hate about this game other than its length and lack of an overall story.
A Short Hike is one of the highest-rated games on Steam for a reason. It’s a bite-sized chunk of gaming goodness that merges the exploration and fantasy of adventure from the early days with better controls and tighter designs of today. It may only take an afternoon to complete, but it’s incredibly satisfying and isn’t something you will quickly forget.