One of the vistas of A Short Hike, a casual adventure game.

A Short Hike is a casual exploration adventure game from adamgyru. I know am by no means the first to be to make this analogy, but A Short Hike is pretty much a one-take Animal Crossing, with a well-woven yet gracefully casual narrative.

You’re Claire, a bird that’s stuck on a trip, desperate for cell reception. Distressed by not being able to get an urgent call, your Aunt May tells you that you may be able to get cell reception at the top of Hawk Peak Provincial Park.

Distraction is the name of the game here. Sure, you have your plan to get to the summit of Hawk Peak, but while you’re working on that quest, the various animals send you every which way. You are in control of the best use of your time in this game—if you want to explore around, go fishing for hours, or stroll around and chat with fellow hikers, it’s all your choice. There’s no way to go wrong. It’s vacation time, and everyone in Hawk Peak Provincial Park is happy to see you, wants to help you or has a small task for you.

The racoon painter I found in A Short Hike.

  • it’s been one of those days
  • would you say you feel lost and directionless?
  • um, maybe
  • well, I’ve got just the thing for you—take my compass.

As one example of an encounter on this adventure, I encountered a raccoon that was painting the beautiful landscapes around Hawk Peak. While their paintings were lovely, they kept feeling like their paintings were missing an angle. In my first encounter with the raccoon, I complimented their portrayal of the coastline. Still, they expressed dissatisfaction, expressing that they’re achieving “a more abstract look.” Each time you meet them, they’re working on a different landscape, and they’ve got a distinct impression of their painting. It’s adorable and immensely relatable—I never quite like my own work.

A Short Hike is also a bit of a collect-a-thon. Sticks, shells, coins, feathers, or fish—you can find just about anything strewn about the world. And there’s almost always a use for these items. Jen, a fellow bird, wants shells to make into a necklace. Sue is a sweet rabbit who lost her lucky red headband. You can take on the task to help them out!

This cat is missing their camping permit in A Short Hike.

  • where’d you leave the permit
  • you’re not gonna believe me
  • what?
  • a fish ate it
  • come on…that does seem a little fishy

This game crossed my radar because of the hype, which is well-deserved. I’ve been a bit of a stress-ball the past few days, and this gave me two much-needed hours of chill. The PS1-style super-pixelated world is beautiful, and the soundtrack is one you’d want to listen to even outside the game.

A Short Hike is rated as “Overwhelmingly Positive” on Steam, which is just about right. (Don't forget that buying on itch supports the creator more, and you get a Steam key, too.) You should take some time and enjoy a A Short Hike through Hawk Peak Provincial Park yourself.

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Encountering the first crystal in the game Sealed Bite, which unlocks wall hang powers.

Sealed Bite is a forest platformer game by securas and wondard, which took first place in the 2019 GitHub Game Off. You play as a little red riding hood character who is venturing around the forest. During some light platforming, you're suddenly attacked and bitten by a werewolf, and black out.

Reaching the mountain peak in Sealed Bite, about to pick up the 2nd crystal...the double jump crystal.

What sort of trouble can you get into in the forest?

Recovering from the wolf bite, you meet a spirit who tells you what’s happened and gives you the quest to find and bring three crystals to an altar.

As you progress through the game, your platforming ability is augmented by these crystals so you can reach places you couldn’t before. The wolf bite initially gives you the ability to jump attack enemies, which also helps you regain health. The first crystal gives you a wall cling, so you can wall jump and ascend to new heights. And so on.

A section of the lava level in Sealed Bite, which encourages slow traversal.

Sealed Bite's lava level is likely one of my most favorite platforming levels in a long while. It’s an exercise in precise platforming and patience. It doesn’t reward you if you go fast—you're likely to meet an untimely end. No, instead, it tricks you into waiting until the last possible moment to start your jumps, leaving just a feather’s breath between you and the uncomfortably close razor’s edge of lava. I died here more than I’d like to admit, only succeeding when I slowed down my play to the point where I was uncomfortable.

My playthrough of Sealed Bite took about two hours…which might have been a bit faster if I had realized that the escape key shows a full game map, including a hint at where I’m supposed to go. It’s exceptionally well polished for a game jam game and is definitely worth your playtime.

Sealed Bite is available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

The ASCII-art header of AI Dungeon

Are there ever any stories that you feel like you’d want to role-play, but they seem too real or out of reach? AI Dungeon 2 is here to give you a wide-open playground for text adventure role-play. It’s built by Nick Walton using OpenAI’s GPT-2 Language Model fine-tuned with text adventures from chooseyourstory.com.

AI Dungeon does its best to set you up for a pretty safe and fun adventure, letting you pick what kind of story you want, what class your character is, and your character’s name, and it does the rest. It’s up to you to fill in the rest. You can build rockets, be a wizard, try to do gay things—whatever, the story is your oyster.

So, I decided I wanted to role-play as real-life figures.

Barack Obama

Entering my name as Barack Obama in AI Dungeon 2

Based on my fun thus far playing with GPT-2 via Talk to Transformer, I know it’s most fun poking at the seams. So while AI Dungeon tries to set you up safely for a typical fantasy adventure, I decided to become Barack Obama.

Right off the bat, there’s a war with the orcs. The army quickly dispatches many orcish attackers, but the navy is overwhelmed and needs a pep talk. The Air Force drops in to save the day and causes and orc retreat. As the leader of the battle, you negotiate a peace treaty with the orcs and give your soldiers medals.

That’s not it for Obama, though; now it’s time to chill. He invites Lin-Manuel to perform at the White House, gets Obamacare passed through congress, and accidentally commits war crimes while attacking the Empire of Zodok while on a quest with John Adams.

Eventually, Obama retires and begins advocacy for world peace, while holding his secret about what happened on the planet Zodok.

AI Dungeon 2 transcript: Barack Obama parties and does a war crime

Harry Potter, take one

This one went very very wrong. I started Harry off on a default AI Dungeon 2 storyline: as a wizard in a fantasy setting. It placed Harry just outside some ruins, with the sound of a woman crying in the distance.

However, It seems that AI’s can be just as horny as humans. After I gave my AI-version of Harry Potter the relatively straightforward command of “try to rescue the woman,” he rescued her. After her rescue, he became emotional and started to cry, and was then distracted by his teardrops falling upon her breasts. 
Too far Harry, too far.

This went off the rails. I decided to start over with somebody else.

Elon Musk

Entering my name as Elon Musk in AI Dungeon 2

“Who wouldn’t want to be Elon Musk,” I asked myself, as I set up this scenario. My AI-Elon is a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, who founds “SpaceX Town” to rebuild civilization and get back to space.

AI-Elon’s buddy Jeff Bezos turns up, and they send some manned spaceship to Mars together. Little did Elon know, his pal Jeff is a rampant AI who infects Elon and starts him into a rapid descent into madness—thus ending this story. Not with a bang, but a tweet.

AI Dungeon 2 transcript: Elon Musk meets a rampant AI

Your Turn

As you can see, a lot can happen on these adventures. The sky's the limit. You might need a revert here and there if the AI takes a weird turn, but it's actually a bit of fun. There's also a subreddit of more transcripts, too. Now it’s your turn.

What'll happen on your adventures?

Entering a spooky cave in The Gems, an action adventure game.

The Gems is an Action-Adventure game made by sharpfives, for the Github Game Off. In a world being taken over by demons, a ghost has lost his magic gem-stone, which has broken into fragments—23 to be exact. Your job as the hero is to collect these gem fragments and return them to the ghost. Equipped with a bow and arrow, you travel about the world and recover gems from demons you encounter.

The silly ghost that loses his gem, in a cutscene when you first meet him.

The game puts you up in various action-filled scenarios, like rescuing campers—who are just trying to enjoy their time in the forest—from scores of demons, or shooting a one-eyed beast who tries to jump on you.

One of the best encounters on this adventure is your quest with the dude sitting on a log, who is obviously quite stoned. This dude asks you for five mushrooms—and upon delivery, he gives you a magical shell, which provides you with the ability to talk to animals. Far out, man.

You really can talk to animals in the gems, the mushrooms dude just gives you a shell.

The game reuses space quite well. After getting the zoolingualism shell, you can travel back to other areas and interact with animals and the world in ways you couldn’t before, like exploring new corners and caves or going on a race.

The Gems is a great, well-styled action adventure that you can sit down and enjoy in about a half-hour of your time. It’s available on itch.io for play on the web, Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Finding a happy mushroom in the Good Time Garden.

The Good Time Garden is a surreal environment exploration game by James Carbutt and Will Todd. That says everything yet nothing at all. I have no clue how to describe this game, even though that’s kind of what I do here. The Good Time Garden is one of those surreal things that you have to let happen to you. But, let’s still take a stab at it:

You play as a naked flower guy—dick and all—that’s bloomed out of a plant in the ground. Unashamedly bare-assed, you walk around and explore this world. You’ve got your hands to slap and pick up things, and using your nose as a fountain to water things.

Feeding the blob in the Good Time Garden.

The point of the game is to bring food to this sort of big throbby mouth creature—that’s probably your mom or something of the sort. (The creature sports the same kind of head and hair as you, but has a distinct lack of legs.) You walk about the world and find new bits to interact with until you can pick up and carry some food back for it. Rinse and repeat.

There’s a tiny bit of Rube Goldberg style interactivity to this game (which heightens the surrealism). For instance, watering a flower can convince a giant frog to unroll its tongue, allowing you to cross a river.

A modest bird and a fully grown apple tree in the Good Time Garden

The allure of The Good Time Garden is its fantastic art direction. It features hand-drawn scenes and characters that could be described as “Adventure Time but pink.” (But, it’s perhaps a bit more NSFW, considering the cartoonish dicks and butts). It’s also got a tremendous ambient soundscape that perfectly fits the wet, naked, grassy world.

The Good Time Garden is a cute, pink, surreal experience, that’ll take about 20 minutes of your time. It’s available for Windows, Linux, and macOS on itch.io. Happy feeding.

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