As the stresses of life continue to pile up, I’ve been finding myself more and more drawn to relaxing games that are more about a casual experience than strenuous gameplay. One such game that I recently got on sale was A Short Hike, where you play as a bird named Claire who’s vacationing on Hawk Peak Island. While her goal is to reach the summit of Hawk Peak, the only place on the island with cell phone reception, the game is much more about the journey than the actual destination.
If the only thing you care about is completing the game’s main objective, then you’ll need to collect golden feathers, which give you more stamina to fly and climb and eventually reach Hawk Peak. But then you’d be missing out on the bulk of what this game has to offer. I’ve heard people compare this game to Breath of the Wild, and in a way, I found that assessment to be surprisingly accurate. Add in a touch of Animal Crossing, and you’re starting to get an idea of what this game is like.
The best part of this game is exploring everywhere but Hawk Peak, and explore I did. Very quickly, I started to get distracted by little side quests. First, I found a smaller shovel for the frog building sand castles on the beach. Then I found my first golden feather and learned how to climb up walls (like Breath of the Wild, you can climb up pretty much any surface). Then I found the artist raccoon, who told me he was heading next to the lighthouse to see if that view would better inspire his work. Next thing I know, I’m completely veering off my set path, running through thick woods before following the rainy coastline to a graveyard. And before long, I’m playing beachstick ball, a little game where you hit a ball back and forth over the net with a stick.
Although A Short Hike is indeed a rather short and easy game, the experience was more than worthwhile and the message more than clear. In this modern age, so many of us are glued to our screens, whether it be a phone, computer, tablet, or TV. And so it’s easy to assume that many of us, like Claire, upon finding ourselves in the great outdoors, would look at our devices in alarm at the discovery that we are without our precious cell phone service! But if we just give it a chance, we’ll learn that the best life has to offer doesn’t require a reliable internet connection at all.
Although I was initially quite aware of my goal, it wasn’t long before I became lost in my own little adventure. Speaking to animals and helping them find lost items, participating in several races across the island, uncovering buried treasure, or just plain, old exploring was more than enough to keep me occupied. (Plus, being a bird, Claire can eventually fly around the island with ease. Once you collect enough golden feathers, that is.) By the time I decided to head for Hawk Peak, I had nearly forgotten our reasoning for even climbing up there. If we could ask Claire herself, I’d imagine that she, too, would have believed that we were climbing to the summit just for the fun of it, the promise of cell phone reception now far from her mind.
Before I end this review, I do want to point out just a few flaws, although there aren’t many of them. For one thing, I do wish the graphics were just a bit less pixelated. I don’t mind pixel art, quite the contrary, really, but the jaggedy edges so prevalent in this game gave me a bit of a headache. This game looks like it would be at home on a Nintendo DS, a graphical style that I’m not sure deserves to be replicated. I also wish I had more control over the camera. Most of the time, it’s not an issue, but there were occasions where the camera just didn’t want to show me where I was going. Lastly, I wish there was a way to swap between your most frequently used items easier. It’s not like pausing the game and equipping an item was that time consuming, but the whole process could have been streamlined a bit.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. I apparently made the heinous error of putting the PS4 to the sleep while the game was suspended. (I do this all the time on the Switch.) When I returned, my save file had been deleted, and the game could no longer save without an error message popping up. After restarting the PS4 and waiting through a short “Rebuilding database” screen, the issue was resolved, and I made short work of catching up from where I had left off. So if you happen to experience any similar issues, try a quick restart and see if that helps.
A Short Hike was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone who’s looking for a short, but sweet, casual game that will make you miss the great outdoors. I felt like a kid again as I got lost in the wilderness and simply relished in the joy of existence. The game took me roughly 5 hours to complete 100%, including the hour of lost progress, so you’ll probably want to get it on sale. Although A Short Hike is already rather cheap at $7.99, I got it on sale for $4.79 for an even better deal! The game’s available on all modern platforms, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to experience this wonderfully relaxing game yourself!
All images from official website.