A Short Hike's title does an awful lot of heavy lifting when it comes to describing this game. It truly conveys the core experience in a way many game titles don't. Playing as Claire, an anthropomorphised bird, you are tasked with, you guessed it, going on a short hike.
You can jump, fly, and climb, all of which you’ll need to reach the mountain peak. However, there are a lot of characters populating the area, with tasks to hand out should you be interested. Many of these reward you with feathers, collectibles that increase your climbing time, something you’ll need for the hike. They’re also very helpful for sussing out the densely packed secrets and hidden areas strewn about.
These smaller excursions borrow heavily from the formula Animal Crossing popularised. Patrons of the island abound, asking you to find items for them, or providing you with new tools to speed up your journey. You can take on all these tasks or turn them down as you see fit. There are enough feathers loose in the environment that you can beat the game without taking on a single extra quest, but that’d be awfully rude, wouldn’t it? Plus, that would mean you’d miss out on the great dialogue. These exchanges are all handled with a sly wit that makes working through the conversations a real treat. The writing deftly balances snark with whimsical innocence, making for many laugh-out-loud moments. This is in stark contrast to the conversation that happens when you reach the mountaintop. While it doesn’t impact the pacing of the title much, it does hurt the mood, as it’s so wildly different in tone from everything else you encounter.
Ultimately, the extra bits draped around the core experience are the real star, offering up a helping of charm and wit that help sell the title as a cosy little experience worth your time, even if you might not have much cause to return to it once you’re done.