A Short Hike review – dreamy brilliance


A Short Hike review – dreamy brilliance

There is a wonderful sadness that lurks at the centre of some games, not because they are sad, but because they are beautiful and compact and filled with a sense of mystery, and because all of this stuff can only be experienced for the first time once.

By this measure, A Short Hike is a very sad game indeed. Which is weird because it’s also a thing of compact cheer, an autumnal delight filled with leaves moving from green to gold as warm waters rush and retreat against sand and stone like a slow heartbeat. Up above the beach and forests the rocks turn to snow and ice. Out at the horizon the whole world gives way to a dozy sepia, the outlines of distant objects beckoning in the mist. Everything is waiting to be explored. Everything I have found on my explorations counts as a spoiler. If I could tell you one thing from all of this, I would tell you about the object I’ve just now been given, the campaign, such as it is, far behind me but the wonders of the place still bright and filled with promise. I won’t tell you about it, though, because I don’t want to ruin anything. You only have one opportunity to experience this stuff for the first time, remember?

A Short Hike gives you a glorious little island to knock around on and just one real objective: climb to the top of the local mountain because there’s mobile phone reception available at the very summit. You play as Claire, a young bird of some sort who’s bored and on vacation. The genius of this set-up, I’m tempted to say, is not so much the island but the boredom. Here is a game from the very off that is about getting somewhere by going nowhere. You have an incredible amount of freedom in A Short Hike, and it’s the freedom of a long late-summer day with nothing much to do and nowhere you need to be. This is where some of the best of childhood exploration takes place, I think. A Short Hike does real justice to those empty days in the middle of the calendar.

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