Teen Volunteer Review: A Short Hike

This summer, Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Boston Latin School senior Arthur Koehrsen is our resident gamer. This week he reviewed the adamgryu game A Short Hike, which was recently the game of the day on our teen Twitch stream! If you're interested in checking out our Twitch streams, visit twitch.tv/bplts on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. 

A Short Hike is Adam Robinson-yu’s explorational platformer about climbing a mountain and collecting things. Follow Claire’s quest for cell reception and collect a bunch of things along the way.

Navigation and exploration are the center of A Short Hike’s gameplay. The protagonist Claire can jump, swim, and glide across the park. But, by obtaining various tools she can navigate the island more easily. The bucket, for example, can allow Claire to interact with flowers that launch players into the air when watered. "Golden Feathers" are the game’s primary collectible - they allow players to climb walls and jump in midair. The feathers create an interesting dynamic because as the player explores and collects more feathers, other secrets become easier to reach. 

The game has items to find besides feathers, and the park is littered with characters with different side-quests. Side-quests are where the most variety in gameplay comes from. This includes mini-games, races against other mountain climbers, and hunts for hidden treasure. A Short Hike makes use of a sizable open world to accommodate its exploration-based gameplay, but it’s not one that players can get lost in. The world is loaded with landmarks and features many visually distinct regions. There are also a lot of trails regularly marked by signs pointing to nearby landmarks.

A Short Hike is less focused on direct storytelling and more based on providing a cozy atmosphere. The game’s main premise is simple. Claire is visiting Hawk Peak Provincial Park, and is stressed because of a phone call she’s waiting for. Upon learning reception is only available at the mountain’s peak, she sets off on the titular “Short Hike”. The main narrative is mostly limited to the game’s beginning and end, and the rest of the game’s dialogue centers around world building. A Short Hike’s mood is almost nostalgic, and reminiscent of a family camping trip. The kids playing at the beach have minor quarrels and make up games like “Beachstickball” and various characters along the main path will talk about where they’re headed. It’s a very believable environment.

Presentation in A Short Hike is gorgeous. Everything in Hawk Peak is lively, using vibrant colors and bright lighting, from the water to the trees. The game’s cast of cute talking animals adds to the game’s friendly mood. The game uses a pixelization effect that might make it less readable, but the user can toggle it to a higher resolution. Mark Sparling’s soundtrack for the game is also good, featuring memorable songs that appear in each area. There’s even a different arrangement for each area that comes in while gliding around.

A Short Hike is an overall very enjoyable game that offers a large world to explore and a pleasing atmosphere. It is among the most fun and unique experiences in platformer games.