A Short Hike

A Short Hike

Mechanically, A Short Hike has almost no identity of its own. It’s the unique combination of other identities that makes it worthwhile. It draws on feelings and imagery from Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Night in the Woods, and Celeste, and pushes them all through an open-world filter. Specifically, it’s the Breath of the Wild school of open worlds, where the ostensible main goal is actually of secondary importance to exploration and discovery at the player’s pace. The narrative is about escaping from modern life and appreciating the little things, and this structure complements it beautifully. The main goal is acquiring cell phone reception – a literal connection to modern life – and while both player and protagonist are initially forced to take a roundabout route, both gradually discover that the activities they undertake along the way are worth doing for their own sake.

There’s an indistinct line between relaxation and boredom that similar titles have trouble staying on the right side of, but the freedom offered by A Short Hike generally makes it better at doing so. Only a handful of items are necessary to complete the game, but there are dozens of ways to acquire them, so players are free to devote as much energy to individual activities as they want. It’s not perfect, of course. The semi-fixed overhead camera was a particularly poor design choice, as it messes with the controls and isn’t conducive to navigation. Additionally, the low-resolution art style was presumably chosen to highlight the frivolity of fancy graphics, but since it’s achieved with a fancy graphical effect, it inadvertently epitomizes the cognitive dissonance of a video game telling you to take a break from technology. On the whole, though, that video game is uncommonly charming, funny, and heartfelt.

7.5/10
7.5/10

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