Every once in a while, there is a game, a small game, made by an indie developer that is just the right thing at the right time. A Short Hike is one of those games. It’s small, simple, can be completed in a single sitting, and has enough depth to allow for a slight bit of exploration.
You play as Claire, a young Penguin who has been taken by her Aunt May to a vacation weekend on a small island. The island's main tourist spot is at the very top called “Hawk Peak”. Since there is no cell phone service on the island except for the top of the mountain, May suggests that Claire takes a short hike to the top and should be able to use her cell phone.
The entire game consists of trying to get to the peak, but along the way, you encounter many villagers who are doing various activities. Some are looking for something specific, some are just hanging out. This is where you start picking up side quests as you go along the trail to Hawk Peak.As you complete the side quests, you gather up a large swath of items in your inventory, shovels, pickaxes, buckets, money, and feathers. The feathers are key as they allow you to flap and gain altitude, climb and sprint.
Accumulating enough feathers will allow you to travel quickly up the mountain to its peak and also let you find lots of hidden things around the island. Anything that sparkles is something worth investigating. You can find treasure chests, or even more gold feathers. Once you get enough feathers, you are able to get up near the top of the peak, where it is snow covered and cold. Normally the feathers regenerate, but once you get near the top, the feathers freeze and don’t regenerate at all, until you get to a hot spring. In the hot spring, they will thaw and you can resume your journey.
The game itself has a very very large Animal Crossing look and feel to it, right down to the art direction of the animals and even the holes in the ground where you can dig and find money. The game also sports a very hard pixelated aliasing edge to it. Every vertice swims around like a original Playstation game, and every edge has hard pixel edges to it as well that remind me of a 3DS game also. It was immediately harsh on the eyes, but over time, I got used to it.
A Short Hike is the perfect Palette Cleanser game. Something you can pick up and play with no understanding of what it is, and master it within a single play session. It’s lighthearted enough with no heavy or stressful message. It can get a tad emotional at the end, but still keeping the light and breezy feeling, that most indie games have lost lately.