I spent the last week immersing myself into the world of Beacon Pines and I had a wonderful time with this spooky but cute adventure game. How the story is told is interesting and kept me hooked as I tried to navigate our hero through his challenges.
The story is set in a small town called Beacon Pines. The town initially was built up around a family called the Valentines that had started a fertilizer company. All was going relatively well, but one day the head of the Valentines died, and with it came rocky times for the town. Until a new company called Perennial Harvest came in and promised to help build the town back up!
Luka is the main character in our story, and his father passed away a few years back. His mom recently disappeared. His grandmother moved in to take care of him, and Luka continues to hold out hope that his mom will return one day. With his best friend Rolo, they go around town doing what young boys do: causing mischief. However, one of their adventures finds them discovering secrets in the old abandoned factory that was owned by the Valentines. And through that, you as the reader have to make the best decisions possible to help Luka navigate the strange and challenging times ahead. The story gets dark quickly as you realize many outcomes lead to the demise of Luka and those he loves.
How you make your decisions on how the story progresses uses a very literal branching system. As you play the game, you’ll find different special words that can be used to fill in the blanks for pivotal moments in Luka’s story. Depending on which word you used, you might wind up on a very different path from another word.
The characters, the town, and the story itself is charming. Each character has some distinct qualities and quirks that really help to flesh them out as individuals. During my play-through, I kept making Luka go on this sofa in the cottage he lived in since I find the animation of him sliding off it very cute! It provides so much character and underlines his innocence and youth. Rolo on the other hand is a proud and energetic little fellow. Luka and Rolo’s friendship might not be perfect, but you can’t help but feel for them when their relationship gets tested. Because the game lets you live out different branches of outcomes, you feel like you know the characters extra well as you see how they behave in all the various scenarios. The different branches also continue to provide different “AHA!” moments as you discover the truth behind what’s going on. That made each trial rewarding in its own way.
Despite having branching paths, the story does still feel a little linear. You have to live through various fail states to get the words you might need to succeed in other ones. I guess that’s a good way to make sure your audience gets the most comprehensive experience but made me feel like I had less autonomy than I was initially led to believe.
As an indie game, I think they made some pretty smart decisions. Their scenes are pretty self-contained, so they don’t need to draw an expansive background when they’re just letting us navigate a floor in Luka’s house for example. I was surprised they hired a voice actor to narrate the book parts of the story for us (which was lovely)! But for regular dialogue, we get little musical instrument notes that convey different “voices”. It made the experience feel pretty premium.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my play-through of Beacon Pines. I highly recommend it for story-driven game lovers out there!