A Short Hike (Comfy Games 2019)

A Short Hike (Comfy Games 2019)

(The original version was posted on 04/01/2020 in German.)

Happy New Year! It should have gone on here a little earlier, but I pretty much felt like a Christmas dumpling the last few days. I felt this special sluggishness that only exists at the end of a year. There’s probably even a game out there trying to reproduce that feeling. But today’s game is about different feelings in relation to time: never-ending sunny days during the holidays!

 

A Short Hike

(Adam Robinson-Yu, 2019, PC, single player, English)

The bored little bird Claire is on vacation at her aunt’s workplace, a national park. Claire is waiting for a call, but her phone has no reception. Aunt May advises her niece to take a “short hike” to the top of the mountain, and so she reluctantly sets off. In A Short Hike you wander, climb and fly through the most beautiful pixel landscapes and meet other animal visitors of the national park.

These are characterized quite well by their dialogues and some of course have small quests for you, a frog would like to exchange a spade for a scoop suitable for sand castle construction and so on. As a reward, you will receive items, such as a rod or a bucket, which let carry out further actions. Sometimes you get golden feathers, which you can also find during your explorations. Claire needs these feathers in order to climb long enough to finally be able to reach the mountain top.

If you want, you can probably get there within 60 minutes (and when you receive the call, you’ll find out that Robinson-Yu is not about to criticize modern technology in a crude way). The nice thing about A Short Hike is that it also puts the usual game mechanics in a vacation mode. Let’s take fishing as an example: From other titles you are probably familiar with frustrating mini games, that include frenetic clicking. Not so here, holding two buttons is enough.

The most fun thing is to climb to a high point and then glide down again in a slow descent. These trips often started unintentionally for me, the controls are sometimes a bit inaccurate and so Claire slides down a slope, which luckily, she doesn’t mind, being a bird and all. These involuntary departures also have something good, because there is something to discover in almost every corner of the world and sometimes you can find a previously unseen beach bay, niche or treasure chest while flying (or slipping).

The landscape varies, there are dense forests that already shining the first autumn yellow and red; Beaches and smaller islands to swim to; the snowy mountains with hot springs, as well as rivers and waterfalls, the current of which will sweep you away.

The national park is really brought to life by Mark Sparling’s soundtrack, which offers beautiful melodies for every landscape and is permeated with airy lightness. “Somewhere in The Woods” and “Snow, Lots of Snow” have stayed with me for a long time.

Like Eastshade, A Short Hike is very good at creating a relaxed game world that invites you to explore. My favorite in-game activities are flying (weeeeeeeeeeeee) and the volleyball mini game. Everything is very cute and wholesome and by not giving you any lists to complete the game very much recreates the holiday feeling of being able to pick up activities – but only if you really want to do so.

By the way, you don’t have to be afraid that you have to start all over again as soon as you get back into your hut and have finished the main part of the game: Aunt May always welcomes you back to extend your vacation for a bit.

Eastshade (Comfy Games 2019)

Eastshade (Comfy Games 2019)

(The original version was posted on 25/12/2019 in German.)

Since it’s the very first post on this blog: Hello! Nice to see you! I spent a long time thinking about how to start. I really wanted to write something about games and at the end of the year, all humanity lists their best-ofs. Nice idea, but it’s also a bit boring, isn’t it? Especially since I can’t play the „biggest“ and supposedly „best“ games for various reasons (money, technology), and probably everything has already been said about them anyway. In addition, evaluation is always a question of context: if I just don’t feel like the pace and theme of Game XY at all, it doesn’t really matter how great it might be. It probably won’t get to me.

Games allow us to satisfy different needs, especially power fantasies of all kinds. Be it by fighting nasty monsters, surviving harsh virtual elements (and economic systems), or by defeating other players. But sometimes I don’t want to fight, survive or defeat anything. Sometimes I just want a friendly world with lovely characters and beautiful stories. It may sound very “beige” and escapist, but it’s true. That is why I have accumulated a few titles over the years which I call my comfy games. I always go back to them when I feel the need. Maybe because I’m sick. Or just very frustrated or depressed. In the next few days I would like to introduce you to a few titles from 2019 that cheered me up. Or let me relax. Most of them are from small or very small studios and, as far as I know, have not received much attention. But maybe there is something that pique your interest. Without further ado we start with Eastshade.

 

East Shade

(Eastshade Studios 2019, PC / Playstation / Xbox, Singleplayer, English)

You play as a painter, who travels to the island of Eastshade to fulfill your mother’s last wish: to paint five very special places on the island! On the way there, however, your ferry shipwrecks and most of your possessions are lost. The residents greet you with a lot of warmth and warm tea, though. Your trip across the island is very wholesome, because you get to know many characters who tell you their story, need your help with minor problems, or want you to paint a picture depicting a specific motif.

„Painting“ is nothing more than taking a screenshot. But for that you need inspiration and canvases. You get inspiration by visiting new places, conversations and tea (Really, drinking tea is an important game mechanic and I think it’s absolutely appropriate). You can either make your own canvases or buy them. I found the crafting system enjoyable; you don’t have to spend several minutes grinding for resources. Those who prefer a minimalistic approach could argue that crafting isn’t really a necessary mechanic within the game at all. I don’t mind it, but it’s not what I play Eastshade for. However, crafting sometimes has the function of a key („Produce item A so that task B can be completed, which makes location C accessible“). Apart from sometimes having to find a way to get to places, you can move around the game world freely.

 

Mechanically speaking, Eastshade is quite simple. For me this feels appropriate, because the focus here is clearly on the many small stories, which are sometimes touching, sometimes funny, but always very dear. And the game world itself, of course, which is colorful without being gaudy, and is always beautifully illuminated. The architecture of some buildings reminds me a bit of Myst, actually. The world is anchored in reality, but there is a fairytale touch, the inhabitants of this world are anthropomorphic animals. The graphics themselves are not up to date, but the game still looks good due to the stylization and lighting effects.

I haven’t gotten to the end of the game yet. Since I am using it as a kind of retreat, I only ever play a section here and there. It is very relaxing to sip a real cup of tea and help two bears organize their date, for example.
So I wander through the game world, enjoy the light effects and try to establish myself as an artist. Incidentally, the images or screenshots can be exported if you really like them. In the gallery (haha) you can see some of my masterpieces. Please place serious bids only (2000 € upwards).
Oh, the kettle is whistling!

Happy Holidays everyone!

A Short Hike (Comfy Games 2019)

A Short Hike: Wohlfühlspiele 2019 – Nummer 2

A Short Hike

Entwickler: Adam Robinson-Yu

Veröffentlicht: 30. Juli 2019

Plattform(en): PC (Steam, Itch.io, Humble Monthly, GOG), Linux, MAC

Preis: 6,59€

Genre: Entdeckung, Entspannung, Einzelspieler

UI & Untertitel: Englisch

Frohes neues Jahr! Eigentlich sollte es hier etwas eher weitergehen, aber dann wurde ich von der Knödeligkeit des Seins eingeknetet. Von dieser speziellen Trägheit, die es so wirklich nur am Ende eines Jahres gibt. Wahrscheinlich gibt es irgendwo da draußen sogar ein Spiel, das versucht, dieses Gefühl zu reproduzieren.

Hier geht’s aber um ganz andere Stimmungen in Verbindung mit Zeit: Die von nicht endenden Sonnentagen in den Ferien!

A Short Hike

Das ziemlich gelangweilte Vögelchen Claire macht Urlaub bei ihrer Tante, die arbeitet nämlich im Nationalpark. Claire wartet auf einen Anruf, hat jedoch keinen Empfang. Tante May rät ihrer Nichte deshalb zu einer „kurzen Wanderung“ auf den Gipfel des Berges, und so macht diese sich etwas widerwillig auf den Weg. Ihr wandert, klettert und fliegt in A Short Hike also durch schönste Pixellandschaften und trefft dabei auf andere tierische Besucher:innen des Nationalparks.

Diese werden durch ihre Dialoge ziemlich gut charakterisiert und haben natürlich den ein oder anderen Auftrag für euch, so würde ein Frosch gerne einen Spaten gegen ein für den Sandburgenbau geeignetes Schüppchen eintauschen. Als Belohnung bekommt ihr Gegenstände, mit denen ihr weitere Aktionen ausführen könnt, wie z.B. eine Angel oder einen Eimer. Manchmal bekommt ihr auch goldene Federn, die ihr auch bei euren Erkundungen finden könnt. Claire braucht diese Federn, um lange genug am Stück klettern und schließlich den Berggipfel erreichen zu können.

Wer möchte, schafft das vermutlich innerhalb von ca. 60 Minuten (und findet bei dem bedeutungsvollen Anruf heraus, dass es Robinson-Yu nicht um eine plumpe Kritik an moderner Technik geht). Das Schöne an A Short Hike ist aber, dass es auch den üblichen Spielmechaniken einen Urlaubsmodus spendiert. Nehmen wir mal Angeln als Beispiel: Aus anderen Titeln kennt bestimmt auch ihr frustrierende Minigames, bei denen ein Balken durch frenetisches Klicken hinter einem wild hin und her schwimmendem Fisch gehalten werden muss. Nicht so hier, das Halten zweier Tasten reicht aus.

Am meisten Spaß macht es, auf eine hohe Stelle zu klettern und dann im langsamen Sinkflug wieder herunter zu gleiten. Wobei diese Ausflüge für mich oft unabsichtlich begonnen haben, die Steuerung ist manchmal etwas ungenau und so rutscht Claire einen Abhang hinunter, was ihr als Vogel zum Glück nichts ausmacht. Diese unfreiwilligen Abwege haben auch etwas Gutes, denn es gibt so ziemlich in jeder Ecke der Spielwelt etwas zu entdecken und manchmal findet sich beim Fliegen (oder Abrutschen) eine vorher ungesehene Strandbucht, Nische oder Schatztruhe.

Die Landschaft variiert, es gibt dichte Wälder, denen schon das erste herbstliche Gelb und Rot anhaftet; Strände und kleinere Inseln, zu denen ihr schwimmen könnt; die verschneiten Berge mit heißen Quellen, sowie Flüsse und Wasserfälle, deren Strömung euch mitreißen wird.

Wirklich zum Leben erweckt wird der Nationalpark durch Mark Sparlings Soundtrack, der für jede Landschaft schöne Melodien bietet und von luftiger Leichtigkeit durchzogen ist. Besonders „Somewhere in The Woods“ und „Snow, Lots of Snow“ sind mir noch lange im Ohr geblieben.

Ähnlich wie Eastshade ist also auch A Short Hike sehr gut darin, einen entspannte Spielwelt zu schaffen, die zur Erkundung einlädt. Meine Spiel-internen Lieblingsbeschäftigungen sind Fliegen (huuuuiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii) und Stöckchen-Volleyball. Und ja, ich bin mir bewusst, dass es mindestens drei -chens in diesem Text gibt, aber in diesem speziellen Fall ist das genau richtig.

Ihr müsst übrigens keine Angst haben, dass ihr von vorne beginnen müsst, sobald ihr euch wieder in eure Hütte gelegt und das Spiel beendet habt: Bei Tante May seid ihr immer willkommen, euren Urlaub noch etwas zu verlängern.