I have very fond memories from when I was little of going camping with my parents, wandering around campsites, climbing over large rocks and splashing in streams. To be a little kid, going on your own great adventure over fallen trees and through forest paths… it’s a good feeling. And that’s largely the vibe A Short Hike gave me, though it still held onto a bit of the seriousness and gravity which came with growing up. It’s relaxing to explore the peaks and valleys of Hawk Peak, and you’re rewarded for your adventures with treats hidden in every nook and cranny. So take a stroll with me, won’t you?
Released on July 30th, 2019, the premise is simple: you are a young adult named Claire staying with her Aunt May in the Hawk Peak Provincial Park. The only place in the park with reception is Hawk Peak itself, and since Claire is expecting an important call, she has to make the trek up. With only loose directions, you’re released into the gameworld, a large island full of side quests, collectibles, and NPCs to chat with as you make your way up to the peak. The tone is relaxed, and while it’s clear that Claire does need to get to the top of the peak, there’s no rush nor any punishment for taking your time. And you will need to take your time to collect enough golden feathers to make the climb, either by buying them with in-game currency found in scattered chests or under rocks or by finding them while exploring the park and helping residents with their problems.
The entire setting of the island feels like the end of summer / beginning of fall, with the soft yellows and golds of late afternoon lighting really hitting home the nostalgia of camping. The island’s just large enough to continually hold secrets and unexplored corners without letting players get too lost. It does take a bit to get used to the graphical style, which feels pixelly and sharp, but it fades to nice outlines when you’re flying or looking at things from a distance, which is a unique artistic choice.
Considering its overwhelmingly positive reviews and overall positive reception, it’s an easy pick for escapism and exploration. The characters feel real, and though their problems are small, they tend to have deeper layers when you look for them, easily working as allegories for larger-than-life struggles like the challenges of moving away from home, growing up, and finding your place in the world.
So take a chance, step outside your comfort zone, and spread your wings.