I used to adore choose-your-own-adventure books growing up. I don’t even think those books are made nowadays. Those stories made you feel like you were setting your own path, but more often than not, most choices always led to bad endings. Also, these stories were often in the mystery and/or horror genre; you never really saw choose-your-own adventures in the romance or comedy genres.
So when I was given a chance to play Beacon Pines and saw the trailer and gameplay, I was hooked. We have now modernized the choose-your-own-adventure book to a videogame. While it’s not really a novel idea (since there are a lot interactive-film videogames that kind of have the same feel), the interesting thing about the game is that it actually simulates a book being read with pages being flipped back and forth when making those critical choices.
In Beacon Pines, you aren’t the narrator, but rather you take control of Luka VanHorn, a young fawn who is a resident of the titular town. Luka is faced with so much turmoil: not only is he still reeling from the loss of his father, but his mother has suddenly turned up missing. Facing the threat of being an orphan, his grandmother, who has been absent most of his life, abruptly comes to stay with him. However, Luka is bent on finding out what happened to his mother, and with the help of his best friend, a feline named Rolo, they set off on sneaking out to an old warehouse—a place that holds some strange secret.
As you progress through the story of Beacon Pines, Luka will obtain certain charms from dialogues and actions. For example, letting Luka run through a field full of fuzzy plants tickles him and gets him the Tickle charm. The charms are what constitute the choices in certain pivotal points of the story; the more charms you obtain, the more choices you are able to choose from. Thus, it is critical that you explore every single nook and cranny as well as talk to everyone you see in Beacon Pines. You may miss an important dialogue that gives you a charm, and that may be what softlocks you from progressing.
There is only one true ending in Beacon Pines. Almost all the choices you pick (except for the one leading to the real ending) lead to bad endings, and sometimes these endings are a bit farfetched. (Yes, I am looking at one about unexpected confetti.) The positive thing about the wrong choices is that it at least expands your understanding of the town’s secrets and the story as a whole. If you’re like me and ride through a choice until its completion, by the time you are on the true ending’s path, you will understand what Beacon Pines is about. I cannot say the same if you’re the type who jumps through a different path after collecting a new charm. However, the way that the game is developed, you really cannot progress if you don’t have a certain charm at certain points in the story. These charms are usually obtained at the end of a certain path.
So at the end of the day, what might seem like Beacon Pines is a game that might offer a lot of different experiences for everyone is not really the case. There’s really no replayability to it since once you complete the true ending, you’ve probably seen it all. Even if there are some charms you may miss along the way, they aren’t really necessary as they only lead to a bad ending.
So what about the story of Beacon Pines? Well, it’s an okay mystery. There are a few shockers here and there, but they aren’t what you would think they are. Also, if you’re a natural Sherlock Holmes, you may have figured out a couple of the secrets an hour or two into the story. Does it have a good ending? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Follow Luka to Investigate the Town's Secrets
+ A choose-your-own-adventure videogame
+ Collect charms by actions and dialogue
– Only one true ending, thus no replayability