Game Pass Review: Beacon Pines
Posted on February 16, 2023 by Aywren
I’m happy to say that I’ve finished up Beacon Pines as of last night, and I wanted to write a little about what I thought.
The past few weeks, I’ve dedicated at least one night a week to trying out or focusing on a Game Pass game – simply because I want to get my money’s worth out of the service. The only way I’m doing that is if I actually play games from my library, but with Steam and Switch games in competition, it’s not always the first place I go to pick up a game.
Anyhow, that’s been working because I’ve just finished up Beacon Pines. I’m not sure how long it took – sadly Game Pass doesn’t provide a time played stat that I can see – but it’s a fairly short and story-oriented jaunt.
It’s so story-oriented that I can’t say much without spoiling it. My overall take-away is pretty positive, however.
I loved the characters. I loved the art style and the overall feel. It was cleverly designed and well-written. The voice acting was also pretty good.
Sometimes the game’s story did ask you to really suspend disbelief as it unraveled – especially towards the beginning when you were just getting hints of what was going down. And towards the end, if you chose some failure branches.
That’s because Beacon Pines starts you on a path that feels like a slice-of-life coming-of-age story, but quickly turns into something with a blend of sci-fi and with slight hints of horror. If you read that and wondered how a game can mix these genres successfully, yeah… me too.
Basically, you eventually have to accept that the game is just going to do what it wants and you’re along for the ride. A ride that starts and ends and starts and ends and starts and ends.
Let me explain.
The game is basically a choose your own adventure story with many branching possibilities. As you progress, you receive action cards called “charms” that you can play at important moments, changing the outcome of the story drastically.
This is the hook of the game, and what the game uses to funnel you down specific story beats – usually to a fail-state. But even the fail-states have something to teach you about the characters and the world. As you fail and fail again, you start to chip away at the normal to the abnormal that lies underneath, until you get a full picture of what is really happening in Beacon Pines.
As you gather new cards from paths you haven’t explored before, you can return to those pivotal moments to try different choices to see where they take you. Essentially, you can’t get the good ending until you’ve uncovered most of the failed states of the game. You need the exactly right card for the exactly right moment.
Usually, even in failure, the game lets you down softly as the narrator (who is also apparently the one struggling to write the story) breaks the fourth wall and expresses the same dismay or frustration as the player might be feeling at the situation. So it never gets overly frustrating, and continues to encourage you down the right path.
Maybe it was just me, but by the time I was getting into the thick of it and I understood I was being routed down one specific path, I was just a little bit ready to see the end. I’m not sure why – I enjoyed the game and all of its quirks – and it wasn’t really that long.
I guess there were just some paths where you think – this is it! I’ve finished it this time! Only to find out no… all I did was uncover a small bit of information about what could happen if things go wrong.
Anyhow, I stuck it out and am glad that I saw the story through. The ending was satisfying, and I’m glad I had the experience.
If you like story-oriented visual novel adventures, give this one a go.