Beacon Pines Review

Beacon Pines, developed by Hiding Spot Games, is another Kickstarter success that shows how public crowdfunding can lead to some unique and artistic indie games. In less than a week, the project hit its funding goal, with hundreds of backers showing their support for the cute and slightly creepy narrative game, which launches on multiple platforms on September 22.

Beacon Pines tells the story of a fawn and the adventures he and his friends find themselves in by accident. The anthropomorphic residents of the titular village each have unique and generally likable personalities, which help bring the story to life, especially as they’re protagonist Luca. Mourning the death of his father and the recent disappearance of his mother, Luca acts first out of love and later out of a greater sense of duty to his hometown.

As a narrative-driven game that feels more like a visual novel than an actual video game, Beacon Pines certainly won’t appeal to some players. There’s very little gameplay, and most of the time is spent tapping the same button over and over, which can quickly become repetitive in order to advance the story. In fact, the start of the game will take some time to show its cards and may lose some players before they get the good stuff.

beacon  pines  rolo  luka  missing  mom Those who persevere, however, will find themselves immersed in an engrossing mystery, which may succeed in eradicating the slight sense of boredom stemming from the lack of gameplay. As it turns out, the story is one of the aspects that can keep players going until the end. The game’s cute picture-book graphics hide a slightly creepy story that includes murder and conspiracy, hidden identities, and sci-fi elements. As the story unfolds, there are even some unexpected twists that may surprise some players.

Unfortunately, even the enigmatic Beacon Pine isn’t enough to interest everyone. There’s a lot of reading and a lot of opportunity for thought wandering. As fun as the game is, it’s hard to call it fun, and it doesn’t help that Beacon Pines’ slightly overrated popularity doesn’t help. When the player is ready to end the game, it continues for hours, even using speed-reading and button combos to read text faster. It is likely that some will move on and not stick to it.

Another standout element of Beacon Pines is the most touted element in the marketing materials–the mechanics that make the game feel like a hybrid of Mad Libs and a “choose your own adventure” experience. As you play, words are found in random locations and added to a type of dictionary called The Chronicle. At key moments in the story, players will be able to influence what happens next by choosing an available word. For example, at one point, the sky was cloudy, and the player could choose between “rumbling” or “rest,” in order to decide whether the weather would clear up or start raining.

beacon  pines  chronicle  rumble  break These options appear regularly, but not very often. This means that entire chapters, or even several chapters, may unfold as a result of a single word choice, with the player having no influence over what happens in those chapters. In other words, choosing a particular word is more like riding along a given track, choosing the next fork in the road, and then sitting back and watching the new scenery. That means less interaction than with visual novels like Doki Doki Literature Club or Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures Anthology, which, as mentioned, may not be enough to keep some players interested.

Since each word the player chooses leads to a new branch in the storyline that can last a chapter or more, it can become a little difficult to keep everything flowing. Regardless of the path, however, the story unfolds are crafted enough by Hiding Spot that everything fits together nicely. The different story branches don’t feel entirely different, and the information revealed at one fork fills in the gaps left by other roads. In the end, it all fits together seamlessly to a satisfying conclusion.

One of the only real negatives about Beacon Pines’ branching narrative design is that eventually all branches lead to the same resolution, and the story doesn’t have multiple endings. In fact, while players have three words to choose from in the final chapter, only one word will lead to the game’s true ending and ending. In a way, this makes Chronicle and player decisions throughout the game seem almost meaningless.

beacon  pines  rolo  luka  mission  control  treehouse However, by the end of Beacon Pines, every possible option will be viewed by the player. It makes it clear that the various choices in an indie game don’t really matter. Instead, seeing all the possible scenarios and enjoying watching them play out is perhaps the real point of the game. This is what allows players to uncover the full story of what’s going on in the town and reveal the various interesting characters that inhabit it.

The different characters are another strength of Beacon Pines. For the most part, their characters are shallow and slightly stereotyped, but the main cast — Luca, Rollo, Baker, and a few others — are developed enough that some players will care what happens to them at the end of the game. The bad guy’s retribution will be satisfying, the decisions that lead to the character’s death will be difficult to make, and it will become important for players immersed in the story that Luca find out where his mother is and end it.

Aside from the cheery narration by voice actor Kirsten Mize, the Beacon Pines development team consisted of just three other people – Matt Meyer, Ilse Harting, and Brent Calhoun – who wore multiple hats including creative director, writer, artist, audio editor, music and sound effects. It’s an impressive feat that makes the game all the more appreciated. Unfortunately, despite the positives, Beacon Pines isn’t going to be a hit with everyone. While its story and game mechanics are interesting, they aren’t necessarily memorable. It’s a game that’s sure to appeal to a select few, but smaller groups will add to their list of favorites.

Beacon Pines launches September 22 on PC, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant obtained the PC code for this review.

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