“‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.” – Lewis Carroll
Beacon Pines is a cute and creepy adventure game with a twist. Players can sneak out, make new friends, organise heists and collect words that can be used to alter the course of fate!
Developer: Hiding Spot
Releases: 22nd September 2022
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Beacon Pines plasy like a cross between an adventure game and interactive fiction. There are a host of exciting quests to do, intriguing areas to traverse and eclectic characters to meet but exploration is pleasantly interrupted from time to time with little bits of narration from the book that is being written by the player as they make different choices and complete the game. Overall, the gameplay feels quite unique due to its combination of mechanics and genres.
Throughout the story, there are turning points, where the player must select a charm (word) from the arsenal they have collected thus far and fill in a blank in the book. Turning points can be revisited at any time. Exploring and unlocking different paths can reveal new charms that in turn unlock new options at existing turning points and new paths that were not previously available. The charm chosen will have a great impact on how events play out from that point and there are some devastating possibilities that will ensure the player sees multiple endings in one playthrough. The different paths are really varied and there are some really satisfying outcomes to be found.
Beacon Pine’s protagonist Luca is twelve years old. His father passed away six years ago and now his mother is missing. There is something strange going on in the town but nobody else seems to notice, leaving it up to him and his best friend Rolo to try to unravel the many mysterious goings on!
The narrative is engaging and immersive with emotional twists and turns and the ongoing contrast between cute and creepy! The different characters are not voice acted but the story is narrated in such a delightful and charming way, it is like being read a bedtime story. The soothing but expressive voice of the narrator is an absolute joy, breathing life and emotion into the words and adding interest to the already satisfying storyline.
Beacon Pines does a beautiful job of building an atmospheric and emotive game world with the perfect balance of cute and creepy. The music ranges from relaxing and gentle melodic guitar to energetic, almost frantic piano playing to mysterious low notes overshadowed by twinkling high notes playing an ominous tune. The overall effect is highly dynamic and really helps set the mood for different parts of the story. This is accentuated by the immersive ambient sound effects such as leaves rustling and floorboards creaking, they sound superb in their own right but also work well to ground the player within each scene.
The detailed, painterly cartoon style of the game’s hand-drawn artwork is utterly delightful and fits well with the themes and narrative. The clever use of both vibrant and moody colour palettes solidifies Beacon Pines as both cute and creepy, and the use of atmospheric lighting assists in bringing each scene to life in an emotive way. Adorable animations also help give life to the various characters and are a highlight of the game’s overall aesthetic.
Overall, Beacon Pines is a pleasure to play. It will take around 8-10 hours to play and never once feels like it is dragging thanks to the immersive narrative design and gameplay. The original combination of mechanics, engaging story with multiple paths and endings and the cute and creepy aesthetic that perfectly matches the game’s narrative all come together in harmony to create a comprehensive and satisfying experience that I wholeheartedly recommend.
For more narrative-focused adventure games why not take a look at:
Lost in Play – A Surprisingly Tricky Puzzle Adventure! – Pants Quest – Puzzles and Struggles in this Everyday Adventure – Growbot – A Puzzling New Biopunk Adventure!