“Luka VanHorn, you are going to save the world.”
Set in a charming little town and built around a storybook motif, Beacon Pines manages to combine creepy and cute perfectly. You play as Luka – young, excitable, and ready to get into trouble with your best friend Rolo. Beacon Pines seems like an ideal place to grow up at first – a small town nestled in the woods, complete with libraries, candy stores, and anything else a kid could need.
Unfortunately it’s not all idyllic. Luka’s father passed away when he was younger, and now his mom is missing too. His gran has come to take care of him, but things only get worse when the kids start discovering some creepy happenings about town… Years ago the “Foul Harvest” destroyed the livelihood of this farming community and it’s been working hard to rebuild… but what’s really going on out in the woods? Why is the old factory sealed off and surrounded by mysterious glowing puddles? Can you really trust everyone you meet?
Beacon Pines plays like a lot of adventure games – wander around the town, explore everything you can, and chat with everyone possible. I do want to point out that along with the classic keyboard controls, it has some fantastically smooth controller support as well.
Where Beacon Pines really shines is its storybook concept. It might be a shock when you get your first bad end, the narrator showing a little surprise and insisting that that can’t be what really happens. You, my friend, have just found your first turning point. Life, you see, is a series of choices. Some might seem big and others might seem small, but they all add up to create a bigger picture.
This is especially true in Beacon Pines.
As you explore the town and talk to its inhabitants, you’ll pick up word charms. Some of them happen naturally throughout the story, while others are a little more hidden. Every time you reach a turning point, you can choose one of the applicable word charms to finish off the turning point’s sentence. Amazingly, one word can make all the difference – it might even be what turns a horrifying finale into safely seeing the next chapter.
This particular mechanic made Beacon Pines a lot of fun to play through. Each time I picked up a word charm, I excitedly wondered if it might lead further down one of the branches I already found, or when it might be useful. Seeing all the different endings as possibilities within the same tale is also a fascinating way to uncover more and more of the secrets Beacon Pines (and possibly its residents?) is hiding. Each of Luka’s endings may be a redo for him, but for the reader it’s another clue into the real history of this lonely little town.
Beacon Pines is a fantastic narrative gaming experience, and I love how focused it is on telling its story and letting you make friends with its characters. If you enjoy adventure games with light gameplay and lots of story to uncover, this one has my recommendation for sure! I very rarely give 10s in my ratings, but I genuinely have nothing bad to say when it comes to this adventure. It was a story I loved writing (and rewriting).