Beacon Pines Review (Switch)
Don’t worry dear Reader, you’re in for one fantastic mystery.
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
I can’t believe it’s already been over a year since I first played the demo for this game. It’s always great when a game brings you in with it’s art style and it turns out to be interesting. Especially if you have a habit of just picking up a game by how cute it is and not doing research past that (I try to be better in this aspect). Now with Beacon Pines now fully out, did the full game live up to the first couple chapters featured in the demo?
Beacon Pines not only has an interesting story, but an interesting framing. Instead of being in the shoes of the main character, you are instead a reader who has come across a book. However, this particular book has no conclusion yet and the writer, or the narrator, is trying to find that ending. An ending that feels complete…right…one that fully wraps everything up in a nice bow. The narrator and the book appear numerous times, but you will be controlling Luka as he’s experiencing the story.
Within the book, you’ll find yourself playing as a young orphan named Luka who lives in a small town named Beacon Pines. Luka’s dad died early in his life, but his mother mysteriously disappeared one day and while he still believes she’s out there, everyone else thinks she’s dead. Nonetheless, his grandmother has been taking care of him and Luka has not lost hope. After visiting his dad’s grave, his best friend Rolo comes along with the perfect idea of how to start off their summer vacation. His idea is to check out the abandoned Valentine fertilizer warehouse as Rolo believes it isn’t abandoned anymore due to some strange glow that came from it.
You see, while Beacon Pines is a small town, it was famous for the miracle fertilizer the founder, Sharper Valentine, made. The town prospered due to this fertilizer, until it all changed six years ago during what is now dubbed as the Foul Harvest. This was a turning point for Beacon Pines as it was when Sharper died, all the crops died, Valentine’s Fertilizer went out of business, and any crops planted from then on is a gamble on whether or not it’ll grow (and even then, it’s up to luck for the batch to be good). Recently though, a company called Perennial Harvest has come in to try and help Beacon Pines’ situation (though there does seem to be more to it with how creepy they are) while the Valentine family tries to rebuild from Sharper’s mistake.
Anyway, checking out the old warehouse was only the beginning of the mystery. Luka finds out that Rolo’s theory on the “abandoned” warehouse being not so abandoned anymore was true. What’s happening within the warehouse? Is Perennial Harvest a part of it or are they just creepy? Are any of the Beacon Pines residents in on it as well and why?
Along the way, Luka also befriends the new kid in town named Beck. I was actually quite surprised I liked her, as she starts off with an impression of being the unfun cynical of the group, but she does grow on you. She has a charm to her that makes her a great addition to Luka and Rolo’s friend group.
As you’re playing through the story, you’ll come across various points that you need to make a choice, or Turning Points as they’re called here. You won’t be able to choose which path from a Turning Point you’ll take, which is where Charms comes in. Charms contain single words which can be gained by just playing through the game, talking to certain characters, or examining things in the environment. Turning Points will have up to three charms you can use to input into an unfinished sentence to change what happens in the story. For example, two of the main branching paths is Luka going to the “abandoned” warehouse by himself or with Rolo. There are multiple Turning Points in Beacon Pines’ story, with some charms leading to unfortunate endings.
I don’t want to spoil the mystery, as it really is that good, but I think I can safely talk about the structure. The narrator is looking for the ending, the true ending that feels right, but there are numerous other endings you’ll run across before then. Some endings even revealing something concerning the very mystery that you and the characters are trying to solve. While usually this means it spoils the story, what I really like is that in Beacon Pines it’s really just a piece of the puzzle. First revealing something that gets you wondering, even suspicious of whatever other characters were there, but then the truth slowly unveils as you’re on the path to the truth. Or even a significant event that happens in other endings, making you wonder what caused it, which you will actually find out how it happened in the other endings. Basically, it does a good job in revealing just enough to get you to speculate on what’s happening, but not enough for it to spoil the truth.
And on a last note, I absolutely love the artwork and voice acting here. The locations are beautiful, really looking like something you would see in a picture book, and the characters are so cute. Or well, creepy, cold, and/or menacing depending on the character, but the majority of them are cute. There were some characters that only got an overworld sprite which I really wished we were able to get a full illustration of them, like the kid obsessed with bugs or the crocodile maning the ice cream station. My favorite has to be the cute bat girl reporter. I also love the voice acting for the narrator. While the characters don’t have voices themselves, only noises to simulate talking, the narrator does and she’ll pop up whenever something needs explaining or when the book itself is going into more detail (like saying the force of a character’s actions or the introduction to the chapter you’re now on). It was really delightful and the emotion on her voice really highlighted many of the moments Beacon Pines had.
The only complaint I had was that the text, specifically the text on the book when the game goes to the perspective of a reader and Beck’s text, was weird and nearly unreadable when I was on TV Mode. Though, this could have just been my TV.
I knew Beacon Pines was going to be a good game when I played the demo and it still turned out to be a better game than I thought. The story hooks you with its beginning, and continues to hook you as you uncover more of the story, the writing is great as it manages to convey more in less words, the narrator’s voice acting is superb and really enhances the experience, and the artwork is so cute. If you love mysteries, the artwork of Beacon Pines, and a story with a hint of creepiness, Beacon Pines will not disappoint.