When it comes to story in video games, I''m a fan of innovation, and Beacon Pines drew me in with a choice-driven adventure. Each charm is a word which can be deployed at certain points to branch the story in new, severe ways. More importantly, you may deploy new words in previous chapters to see what happens.
The Beacon Pines film is far less choice-driven than I expected. Instead, it''s something far rarer and more ambitious in video games: it''s a clever story, well written, and with powerful characters you grow to care for.
Luka, a twelve-year-old man who has encountered many of his main character issues, died six years ago, his mum has recently disappeared, and now lives with his inattentive Gran. This is why you''ll advance the story by guiding Luka around the city and talking to other residents of Beacon Pines, most of which have not been much better in recent years, because an event called the "Foul Harvest" forced the local fertilizer company to bankrupt. Now, a new company called Peren
It should sound like a familiar bundle of tropes, and sure enough Beacon Pines beats you''re expecting. There''s a new boy in town called Beck who joins your gang and jealousy ensues, there are town bullies to be tussled with, and sure enough, not everything is what it appears within the bucolic farming community. Spielberg, ET, and The Goonies are some of the best things to think about.
Beacon Pines delivers in two key ways: first of all, it might sound like faint praise, but its character writing has integrity. Even when the game lets you twist the narrative in new directions, character characters remain believable, with Luka, Rolo, and the cast''s emotions and conflicts based on what you''ve created. It ultimately made it simple to invest in them.
The second is that, if Beacon Pines is surprised, it''s with the extremes to which it takes the narrative. To be clear, this is a game that looks like a Disney XD show with anthropomorphic animal children. While an early scene will draw you in, I''d describe it as cosy horror. It''s in many ways a great Steam Deck game. On the other hand, it''s also available via Game Pass.
Those branches, without spoiling anything, are permitted to go to far more literal places than I expected; while the semi-autobiography that''s narrating the story ends up with tragedy, resulting in nothing being real lost, but makes your choices juicier to see why their effects are so wide.
Regardless of what you learned from another, it is you, the player, who is shifting between these timelines and not Luka. This means you know things your protagonist does not. I''d have loved to see this seen seen in a wrung for more tension, requiring you to steer Luka toward hazards in one timeline, despite what you''ve learned from another, but there''s little space for that kind of interplay. This means you''re always on a wild ride, and always discovering new, interesting aspects
I''m using "choose" because in these pivotal moments, you select the word to drop into the narrative next, but it''s debatable how deep you really have. There aren''t that many charms to find, but each can only be used in one instance, for starters. In another, you choose whether Beck should tickle your bullies or simply act "strange." These are fundamental steps that lead to a total unknowable impact.
Although you may re-do every decision and will play every branch until its conclusion by necessity in the five or so hours Beacon Pines takes to complete. It''s difficult to determine which of the several timelines you experience is Luka, but as a player, your canonical story involves trying every available choice and ultimately ending up at the same conclusion no matter what.
I''m not mad. A lot of time I spent this review investigating Beacon Pines'' structure and how it influenced me, but I said it up top. Beacon Pines might well be a trope-filled pick-your-own thriller that keeps its fingers stuck between the pages for you, but it is a testament to its quality of narration, art, and music, which I''ve missed most of the day.