08/06/2021

๐Ÿฆ A Short Hike (& Vinyl soundtrack) | Review | Nintendo Switch | 9.5/10 | "An Awesome Slice of Whimsical Freedom" ๐Ÿฆ @adamgryu #IndieGames #GameDev

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A Short Hike was a game that passed me by upon release. During my recent run of various articles and interviews with those involved in VGM, I struck up a conversation with Stumpy Frog Records (awesome guy) when purchasing The Cat Lady (awesome record, awesome game) and ended up receiving the soundtrack for A Short Hike*.

During the brief period that the record was in transit, I took the opportunity to play A Short Hike so that I had context for the accompanying vinyl soundtrack and the stars really aligned here, as I ended up having a memorable couple of hours with a real gem of a game that I heartily recommend.

Playing a bird called Claire, you arrive at Hawk Peak Provincial Park, a mountainous region where your Aunt May (not that one) works as a ranger. The game takes the form of Claire’s mission to reach the highest peak in a bid to get a signal on her mobile phone and make a call to an unknown party.

Presented from an isometric Touryst-esque viewpoint with a dynamic camera, A Short Hike is an incredibly charming little game filled with colourful characters to meet and mini-quests to complete as Claire works her way to the peak of the mountain whilst collecting golden feathers – an item that allows her to fly higher and glide further – on her travels.

The vibrant colours, smooth animation – you have the options to change the chunkiness of the pixels to suit your tastes - and sense of discovery as you make your way around is an absolute winner. I also can’t express how oddly satisfying the glide mechanic is. There are so many little secrets and areas to come across that reveal themselves as you swoop and drift in different directions, becoming more and more reachable with those oh-so shiny golden feathers. I’ve noticed that some people weren’t sold on the main narrative but to me, the joy came from the relaxing gameplay and characters met along the way with the main story acting as a distant purpose for Claire to keep climbing. 

The gentleness and accessibility of the game, as well as the brevity of it, means that it is an awesome little game to kick back and get lost in. Even after completion of the main questline, I can imagine there are those that will dip back in to see what else they can discover and get lost in a zen-like way.

I’ve covered a few games that have been marketed as relaxation experiences and A Short Hike is a great example of showing how much a simple narrative focus can elevate a game beyond possibly feeling like a tech demo to a fully rounded and rich experience.

The soundtrack for A Short Hike by Mark Sparling (via the ever-awesome Stumpy Frog Records) is quite different to other OST records in my collection as it is tied so intrinsically to the game.

Featuring beautiful artwork that absolutely captures the imagery and mood of A Short Hike and presented on ‘Meteor Lake Blue’ vinyl, it really does feel like a companion piece. What makes this a little different though, is how several of the ten tracks are variations on a musical theme (tracklisting below):

  1. Beach Buds
  2. 2. Somewhere in The Woods
  3. See You at The Top
  4. Snow, Lots of Snow
  5. Hello
  6. A Short Flight
  7. Somewhere in the Woods (Long Hike)
  8. Race Me
  9. Nap Time
  10. Boat Buds

Several of these are based around the same tune and Somewhere in the Woods is featured twice in different lengths.

It’s something that I’ve not come across on other records and definitely puts this in the camp of an album that is designed to roll in the background, recapturing the magical mood of the game as opposed to a standalone musical album to really dive into and focus on.

The pressing is perfect, and the music sounds great as well as looking fantastic on the calm, blue vinyl.

Again, one that my son will be listening to a lot over the coming years!

*I Have to mention the swiftness of delivery here, I was sent the tracking details when the record was initially posted and didn’t even really have time to check them as the record arrived a few days later. Especially impressive as it ships from Europe and I’m in Wales. 

Developer: Adam Robinson-Yu

Label: Stumpy Frog records

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