Occasionally, games come along and bowl you over. It can be their wonderful plot, charismatic protagonists, or intriguing gameplay that knocks you for six. Fortunately for me, Beacon Pines has all these things and more. I was touched by its excellent story, laughed at its humorous script, and enjoyed its whimsical blend of characters. Furthermore, it’s coming to Xbox Game Pass, so that’s a bonus as well.
Developed by Hiding Spot and published by Fellow Traveller, this is a story-rich adventure title. What’s more, it has a visual novel edge and you control the flow of the gameplay. With a shifting story and many subplots to follow, it could be confusing. However, instead, it flows beautifully from one moment to the next as you unfold a deep-seated and sinister plot.
Beacon Pines is a story within a story.
You play the role of both reader and protagonist. The action revolves around a mysterious book that comprises an ever-changing story. Consequently, the plot ebbs and flows depending on the choices you make and the relationships that form. You control Luka, an anthropomorphic deer who is sadly orphaned. However, he doesn’t let this bring him down, as he always sees the best in his surroundings. He has a close-knit friendship circle and when the group notice things going wrong; they decide to investigate. Accordingly, they make some life-changing discoveries that impact their existence. Will they make the right choices, or will you return to alter each scene?
Beacon Pines is more than this basic concept, however. The action is gripping and dramatic because of the innocence of the heroes and the amazing narrative. At every key point, a soft but interesting narrator jumps in to explain the scene. The wonderful timing sucks you into the moment and enhances the immersive nature of the story. Moreover, the varied delivery of each line helps to build empathy. Alternatively, you’ll despise the pantomime villain and their followers as the story unfolds, and the deception becomes clearer.
This was delivered perfectly while removing the repetitive elements of the gameplay. With multiple visits to the same scene, it could become tiresome. Yet, it never did as the story changes depending on the “charm” you select. This intriguing mechanic is central to Beacon Pines‘ plot while expanding the minor exploration elements.
Charms and being nosy.
As you explore the stunning and quaint hamlet of Beacon Pines, you’ll discover secret charms. These magical collectables embody a moment-altering word. Whether it was anger, fight, sly, chill, or more, they have a vast impact on specific scenes. For example, Luka and a new friend are cornered by the local bullies. With two choices available, you can fight or tickle your way out of it. Yet, whichever you choose impacts their relationships and the life of each child. Therefore, you must select wisely if you wish to find the perfect ending.
So, where are all these charms? Now, this is part of Beacon Pines’ brilliance. By exploring your surroundings and interacting with the locals, you experience a rich sense of belonging while happily seeing every hidden location. On top of this, you’ll uncover snippets of information that lead to eureka moments. It was incredible how wonderfully intricate each minor element was.
Beacon Pines is awash with charismatic colours.
The world of Beacon Pines is a lush blend of rich colours and wintry tundra. The small hamlet is easy to explore and comprises many intricate buildings and some lovely environments. Alongside this, there are some fantastic character models and some brilliant still imagery. However, the pièce de résistance is the 3D book. The animation of the pages and the watercolour pictures add magic and mystery to this touching game. I loved the fantasy and scientific edge that added a shroud of mystery throughout.
The visuals are matched by the excellent audio. With touching and emotive music, you’ll be absorbed by the slow pace and the many twists and turns. However, not everything is rosy as each of the character’s dialogue is mimicked by irritating sound effects. This was absolutely unnecessary and soon become tiresome. Consequently, it undermines the finish and is somewhat grating. Had the developers chosen a different approach, the audio would have been much better.
Occasionally cumbersome controls.
With some tight spaces to explore, the controls are occasionally cumbersome. Accordingly, you’ll collide with furniture and will be halted in your tracks. Now, this wasn’t game-breaking, but it was annoying nonetheless. Other than this issue, the controls are well laid out, easy to follow, and simple to master. Flitting between story branches was simple, and selecting each charm was straightforward. Furthermore, finding any interactive object was easy thanks to handy labels. Thankfully, though, the charms weren’t so obvious and this added a layer of difficulty to proceedings.
With many subplots to explore and plenty of charms to find, this has longevity and replay value. However, once you’ve seen every possibility, there is no reason to return. Yet, the developers have set it up nicely for a sequel, so I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Beacon Pines is fantastic.
I loved Beacon Pines from beginning to end. The wonderful characters, excellent narration, and fun and twisted story were captivating. If you then add that it’s available on Game Pass, then you have nothing to lose. I adored it and I recommend you buy it here! Can you uncover the truth, or will the correct words elude you?