Beacon Pines is an often creepy, largely heartfelt adventure about relationships and change. It’s framed as a storybook to which you and the narrator are trying to find the ending. It does branching storylines like I haven’t seen them done before where the many endings are integral to the pacing. In Beacon Pines, you won’t be playing the game again just to see other endings. The endings are progression.
While Beacon Pines is by Hiding Spot Games, it’s also the name of the small town in decline where the game takes place. The town was made successful on the back of Valentine’s Fertiliser Company, but it meant when the Foul Harvest occurred (and the company collapsed) everyone in town experienced the fallout.
Who are these entities, what was the Foul Harvest, and what caused it? These are the questions you explore and try to answer as you play. The structure of how this story is told compliments all other aspects of the experience. It’s built upon Charms, turning points, and the Chronicle. Charms are words you collect as you explore the town which can then be used at turning points in the story leading to different outcomes. They’re the single words you change in the book’s dialogue that alter the outcome of the story. The Chronicle, well, it’s the catalog of all the branches and the map you use to move between them.
The system is very intuitive and fun. You may reach a turning point and have few Charms but that’s not to worry. That storyline will get played to a conclusion, but now you have these new charms that can be used in other storylines that had previously ended. While the whole game is very linear, the experience of seeing what could have been is very interesting.
You won’t be alone either. While the characters speak in a pleasant simulation of language, the voice-acted narrator experiences the highs, lows, and all the endings right there with you. As you reach a turning point and pull out to the book on your desk, the narrator reads out the page leading up to the turning point. This becomes particularly useful when you’re coming back with new charms because it serves as a quick recap of where you just were. Very elegantly designed.
The in-game art and character portraits are all done in a beautiful picture-book aesthetic. It’s the childlike lens, the cute and colourful art, and the mundane moments that make the grotesque or scary that much more impactful.
Beacon Pines is a very polished and well-told experience and story. I grew familiar with the characters to the point I both chuckled out loud and teared up over the adventure. It’s a very well-done game where every aspect, from the structure, writing, art, and music, complements the others beautifully.
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