(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.