Beacon Pines is an adventure horror game that also functions as a visual novel, and it captivated me from the moment I saw it. The adorable, cartoony-look entices you to play, while the dark-yet-interesting plot keeps you engaged.
So, is Beacon Pines a worthy title to play this Halloween? Or should it be left in the dark? Let’s find out!
Told through the narrative of a magical storybook, Beacon Pines follows the life of Luka, a young deer, on his shenanigans with his closest friend, Rolo, and how a brief trip to the woods may rapidly turn into a nightmare.
The game begins with Luka laying flowers at his father’s grave and then having a run-in with Rolo. From there, the story steadily draws you in and introduces you to various intriguing characters you will eventually become connected with.
As well as being introduced to the story’s characters, you will also become acquainted with the various places within Beacon Pines that you will be visiting. The first thing you will notice about these areas is just how extraordinary they look. These hand-drawn images are practically out of a storybook, rich with detail, and honestly left me in amazement — an unexpected but delightful surprise.
Soon after the game begins, Luka and Rolo discover a mystery warehouse concealed in the forest, and they quickly realise something is off about it. It’s at this point players will be introduced to an exciting game mechanic that makes Beacon Pines incredibly unique – The Chronicle.
The Chronicle is a branching, evolving story tree with which you can interact with. Players will insert specific “action” words into a sentence in the book, changing the course of events in the process. You will initially only be able to access a small number of words, but the more you explore the environment (words can be located there in various places), the more words you will unlock.
The most exciting aspect of this is the ability to change decisions that you have previously made on a whim. If you didn’t like the outcome or are just curious about what could have been, you can switch out your chosen word within the book without repercussions. Sometimes, depending on your circumstance, the game will require you to select a new word to continue, which I found very early on in the game as I led Luka to have an awful outcome…
Where Beacon Pines truly flourishes is through its narrative and the way that narrative is told. What starts out as a fairly straightforward tale soon spirals into a deep and dark story that branches out in many different directions. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to mistake this cute-looking adventure as a children’s game, and I wish I could’ve captured my face when I first saw a not-so-child-friendly word come from the mouth of a young character.
Not only does it offer a brilliant story, but Beacon Pines has a wonderfully voiced narrator to accompany it. A very calming female voice narrates every section of the storybook, and it’s incredible how much this voice brings the story to life. Each sentence is uniquely spoken to the next, containing so much emotion that you just can’t help but be enthralled by it.
The game itself has only one true ending, and I was a little disappointed by this as, throughout the entirety of its story, the game has many different branching paths. As the player, you’re encouraged to explore all those available branches. In that aspect, it would have been nice to have a few different ways the story could have concluded, making replayability a little more likely.
It would be fair to describe Beacon Pines as more of a Visual Novel than anything else purely because there is very little gameplay to experience. Nothing more than walking around exploring an area to speak to people or to get to another section of the book itself. You will experience a ton of dialogue, but I didn’t once find myself getting bored or frustrated with it.
The game may be a little on the shorter side for some people, with an estimated completion time of around 6 hours, maybe more depending on how many times you rewind and replace a word to explore the various branches it offers. That being said, I didn’t feel it overstayed its welcome.
Overall, Beacon Pines is an absolute must-play this Halloween. If you want to experience something a little different with an eerie storyline, a unique gameplay style, and a fantastic narrative, this cute-but-not-cute indie is for you. If you’re not a fan of the visual novel genre, I would still urge you to play this one because it is so darn special and offers so much charm it’s hard to say no.
Perfect for Halloween!
Unique gameplay features
Stunning hand-drawn art style
Engaging and spooky story
Branching storyline choices don’t affect ending
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A massive lover of all things nerdy, Chelly has been games writing for over 3 years now and hopes to gain more experience and knowledge doing so. Her favourite games are Monster Hunter, Borderlands and Pokemon.