A Short Hike Review

Matt Lorrigan

At the very least, A Short Hike does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It gives players the opportunity to hike through a fictional national park, and it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite short, with the credits able to be reached within an hour or two. Luckily, A Short Hike has depth beyond its rather literal name. It is, in fact, an incredibly charming adventure that offers up a relaxing but engaging journey through a low definition wilderness.


Um… yes?

The first thing that will strike you about A Short Hike is its unique visual style. The low poly look, as visually pleasing as it can be, has become just a tad overdone in recent years, but A Short Hike pairs that with big pixelated edges to create something that captures the look of playing an old Nintendo DS game. Now, blown up onto a big screen, it can be a little jarring, but the developer knows this, and allows you to adjust the pixel size in the settings, from the default “big and crunchy” that you’re first met with, down to “minimum”, which offers up a crisp, more classic low-poly look, but with less of the personality.

Playing as an anthropomorphic bird named Claire, who is visiting her park ranger Aunt and expecting an important call, you start the game by setting out on a short hike (of course) to Hawk Peak, in order to find phone reception. This low-stakes narrative sets the tone for the adventure, where there’s no fear of death, no enemies to fight, and no barriers to overcome beyond the steep hiking path itself. Reading this, you might find yourself picturing a walking simulator-style game, but A Short Hike is far more videogamey than that, with a progression system that’s simple but addictive.

Head off the well-beaten path of the hiking trail at certain points, and you might come across secret Golden Feathers. These collectibles increase Claire’s stamina, which can either be used to climb up steep walls, or to increase the number of times your character can jump in mid-air. Claire isn’t a bird for no reason, you see - with more Golden Feathers, Claire can flap more often, flying slightly higher, and once you’ve ascended to an elevated point, you can then glide down, either slowly or in a steep dive.


This pairs nicely with the valleys and peaks of A Short Hike’s setting of Hawk Peak Provincial Park, and the more Golden Feathers you collect, the easier it is to find more. Spotted a feather at the top of a lighthouse that’s too tall to climb up? Follow the hiking path, climb a nearby rockface, and glide down to it instead. There’s normally at least a couple of ways to approach each collectible, and it results in a really nice loop where you’re always on the hunt for the next feather, and sometimes upon finding enough, you can even return to ones you’ve previously missed.

If A Short Hike was simply about wandering about, climbing, and gliding, it would still be a fairly relaxing and enjoyable experience, but much of the game’s charm comes from the characters you meet along the way. You are at a popular hiking location, after all, and on your journey you’ll meet all sorts out and about. One character nervously admits that they’ve forgotten their camping permit, and tries to bribe you, while another teaches you how to fish, and gives you your own fishing rod. There are plenty of quests to complete, as well, which rarely take up much time and normally reward you with a Golden Feather, or another useful item.


Thanks for the advice!

The main game can be completed simply by reaching the top of Hawk Peak, and returning to the bottom again, but A Short Hike offers so much more to do besides that. There are new people to meet, a whole fishing index to fill out, items to collect, and you could just as easily spend your time chilling out without making much progress. The audio design is minimal, sometimes simply offering up the serene sounds of nature, before ramping up slightly to some really nice, relaxing tracks. Combined with the lack of peril, it results in a game that’s very easy-going, without giving up its engaging game mechanics.

A Short Hike

A Short Hike is a wonderfully chill little game that can easily be finished in the space of an afternoon, combining clever traversal mechanics with a lo-fi visual style and a very relatable protagonist. If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill over a weekend, or after a stressful day of work, A Short Hike is an easy recommendation.

Form widget
80%
Audio
80%

Whether you’re listening to the soothing sounds of nature or the game’s excellent original music, A Short Hike is great to listen to.

Visuals
80%

The unique pixelated style might be slightly divisive, but it gives the game its own unique personality, and it can be heavily altered in the settings for those who don’t like it.

Playability
85%

A Short Hike offers up a small world that is a joy to explore, with plenty of secrets to discover, and a smartly-designed traversal system that’ll have you hunting down every last collectible.

Delivery
75%

A Short Hike is, true to its name, a little on the short side if you only aim to reach the credits, but there’s plenty of extra content to keep you going well beyond the first couple of hours.

Trophies
75%

A short list that’s mostly nice and easy to complete, although the lack of an in-game map might make it frustrating to find those last collectibles.

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