A wonderfully charming experience, Beacon Pines is a really surprising game. It is a sweet, insightful, thought-provoking, meaningful and sinister experience that stays with you long after it ends. Even if it is mostly a ‘visual-novel’ with ‘choose your own adventure’ moments.
From indie developer Hiding Spot, Beacon Pines is a small and warm forest town populated by anthropomorphic animals. Players take on the role of Luka, a 12-year-old deer who lives with his grandmother. He’s lived with her ever since his father died and his mother disappeared shortly afterwards.
Luka’s best friend is Rolo and the pair spend most of their days finding fun and mischievous things to do. It’s the latter that leads them to the nearby abandoned factory where they witness what seems to be the disposal of a body. Determined to find out what is going on, the pair start to dig around and through that, begin to uncover a dark secret that consumes the town and everyone that lives in it.
The story is told through excellent narration. The author reading the story to the player but needing your help to find out how it ends. This is where the ‘choose your own adventure’ aspects come into things.
Every so often (turning points), you will be tasked with picking a single word in one of the narrator’s sentences.These are called ‘Charm’s and are found through game progression, interacting with the townspeople and objects. Each charm offers up the chance to change the narrative, fill in the ‘Chronicle’ and lead the player to one of the many different endings until you get the one true ending.
There are a lot of endings to Beacon Pines. Some startling, some emotional, some cute, some funny, and some dark. Unlike many games that go the multiple ending routes, Beacon Pines delivers a ton of variety and intrigue with each one. While there might be one true ending, you’ll want to experience all the endings as they complete the full picture of what is going on in this town.
The story is phenomenal and the characters are wonderfully memorable, but Beacon Pines does suffer from the same thing that most visual-novel style games do. Gameplay is limited and most of the time, you’ll just be listening to dialogue. Yet, it never gets boring. This is one of the most immersive story-telling games released in modern times. Given a boost by the lovely visuals and exceptional soundtrack.
It’s fair to say that it’s not a game for everyone. You have to have a patient temperament and a willingness to sit through a lot of dialogue without doing much. Yet, if story is what you like, then Beacon Pines delivers an unforgettable one.
Beacon Pines (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 7.5/10