It’s like a modern day Beatrix Potter made a video game
First his dad died half his life ago, and now his mother has gone missing. Everyone, including his best friend, Rolo, is acting like his mom is dead or something, but something inside Luka just KNOWS that his mom is out there, somewhere. One day, he’ll figure out what he can do to locate her; for now, he lives with his loving grandmother in a small town named Beacon Pines, where everyone knows everyone else, and nothing interesting ever, ever happens.
Okay, so ONE interesting thing exists — an abandoned warehouse. And, depending on how you dictate the story, you can get sucked into the place, or you can explore, escape, and live to tell the tale.
You see, Beacon Pines has been waiting for someone like you. Someone to tell the story of this sleepy village, where there’s much, much more than initially meets the eye (and we’re not talking about the adorably drawn anthropomorphic animals). Through Luka’s actions, you, the player, will gather key words, called Charms, that will allow you to go back to branches in the story and change the course of history — lives are at stake here.
As someone just coming down from the Zero Escape series (if you haven’t played yet, stop everything and play these masterpieces), Beacon Pines gave me the branching mechanic I had come to know and love with a charmingly dark and suspenseful storyline juxtaposed to some seriously stunning art. For the uninitiated, this means that you can make certain choices at specific turning points in the story that will have consequences later down the road. In some cases, there’s an illusion of choice: no matter what you choose, you’ll end up with the same outcome — like lying to Grandma to go hang out with a boisterous, talking cat.
In other situations, this can literally mean the difference between life or death. Ermm… implied death. Possible death? Like, this game is really too cute so I feel like no one’s actually going to die, but I started to suspect I might be wrong as I sat in a dumpster and a suspicious dude hoisted a body on top of me. So, you know. Never judge a book by its cover and all.
With that being said, Beacon Pines’ cover is what drew me to it in the first place, and by that I mean its art. While investigating, you’ll wander around tiny little environments that look right out of a storybook (which, they kinda are), brimming with quaint details that make the world feel like a classic children’s movie. They are seriously so utterly charming that I spent quite a bit of time just cheerfully investigating every single nook and cranny just to ensure I didn’t miss a single frame of unique animation. Running through dandelions causes the seeds to take flight, making Luka adorably sneeze. Sinking into a cozy chair — only to remember that you have places to go and things to do — will make Luka slooooooowly slink and slide off it before deftly landing on his feet. The personality that is exuded through simple animations like this is so delightful that I couldn’t help but waste time trying to find as many as I could.
Perhaps the art most clearly shines in the dialogue portions, where the characters can be seen waist up in the foreground speaking to each other. Luka, Rolo, and the rest have varied expressions, from crying, scared, or just regular speech, and each illustration is so incredibly beautiful that you’d be forgiven if you thought you were reading a children’s book. I lived for those moments where Luka’s facial expression would change slightly because it was not only super darling but just so detailed — like look at that shading! And the proportions! And the colors! Charming.
Be sure to check out Beacon Pines on Steam today!