A Short Hike review | Short walk, grand ambition

A gorgeous adventure for the price of a Wetherspoon’s curry? Be sure not to miss A Short Hike…


You’re Claire, a teenager, and you’re stuck on a remote island. You’re desperate to contact a loved one, but your phone has no signal. So, you hike up a mountain, praying to find a few precious bars at the top. That’s not the opening of a survival horror, but the premise of A Short Hike, a game about going on a short hike. And it’s rather lovely.

Claire is a bird, one of the several dozen bobble-headed anthropomorphs that populate an idyllic nature reserve off the coast of what one imagines is some New England-ish state. So far, so Animal Crossing.

Indeed, rip out Animal Crossing’s farming economy, asinine consumerism, and crippling mortgage repayments, replace them with the traversal mechanics and questing from Breath of the Wild, chop the run time down to a manageable two to three hours, and you’re pretty much there. A Short Hike looks and feels so Nintendo that if it appeared on the 3DS, you might assume that Miyamoto himself had a hand in its development.

It’s not just A Short Hike’s 3DS looks that make it evocative of Nintendo. Its ideas are also executed with such perfect simplicity, and it has a knack for making its trifles and mundanities feel epic, with clever rationing of camera angles and a steady, highly curated trickle of milestones to reach and abilities to unlock.

Claire will start her adventure by learning how to talk to NPCs, how to run, and how to carry stuff. From there, she gradually learns to fish and dig, race, play volleyball – all momentary distractions from the end goal of ascending the mountain.

Her key skills are climbing and gliding – which she gets better at by collecting golden feathers, with each new one extending a stamina bar, allowing her to assail greater heights and glide for greater distances, a trope lifted squarely from Breath of the Wild and deployed gorgeously here.

Collecting the golden feathers becomes a thrill in itself. They’re hidden all around the island, sometimes in treasure chests on rocky outcrops, sometimes behind certain key social interactions, but they act as your level; a tangible, physical limit to how high you can go. With every inch added to Claire’s range, that fated phone call draws ever closer.

Through our own efforts as player, we feel Claire’s hope and trepidation as the story builds to its crescendo – and the payoff is sweet. Just schmaltzy enough to put a lump in the throat, but not enough to feel like you’ve accidentally sat on the remote and switched over to a Hallmark special.

When you first loaded them up, all the best games used to feel like the start of the school holidays. Classic Zelda titles and The Elder Scrolls of old held this magic – the thrill of running off into the fields, with nothing to worry about for weeks except tripping over twigs.

In that tradition, albeit on a compact scale, A Short Hike is a tremendous summer holiday simulator, which comes dripping with poignance and gleaming with Nintendo polish – the sort of team-of-one indie game that comes along every so often and makes everyone think, “Wow, this dev is going places.”

A Short Hike barely asks the price of a Wetherspoon’s curry, and takes half the time to digest. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s a no-brainer.


Gliding is the game’s standout method of traversal, and it’s beautifully executed. The controls are dead simple – it’s all done with the left stick and a single button – but with a little practice you’ll be swooping and diving through the air, landing on tiny outcrops, and crumbling towers to get those last few tricky collectables.

Verdict: 80%

A pint-sized adventure with grand ambition, delivered in pixel-perfect Nintendo quality.

Genre: Adventure
Format: PC (tested) / Mac
Developer: adamgryu
Publisher: adamgryu
Price: £5.79
Release:__ Out now

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