Review: Beacon Pines - a delightful, captivating, exploratory adventure

Review: Beacon Pines – a delightful, captivating, exploratory adventure

Recorded on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Playing Beacon Pines feels a bit like early winter nights, where you’re surprised by how quickly darkness creeps in – yet cozy and warm under a blanket.

The setting comes from indie developer Hiding Spot and may look like your average cute forest town populated by anthropomorphic animals, but there’s a dark horror lurking beneath. Just like its colorful history, Beacon Pines doesn’t belong to just one genre. The game is visual-novel-meets-exploration, with sparks of choose-your-own-adventure.

It fits in well with the Switch’s other cozy offerings. There are cute characters that speak in similar songs to your Animal Crossing neighbors, and even a mini-game that reminded us of Spiritfarer’s fishing feature. We say the game is like a novel because the story is literally in a big book. Sprinkle in some spookiness and you’ll keep turning the pages…ahempress the buttons.

You play as Luka, a 12-year-old deer who has been through a lot for his age: the death of his father, the disappearance of his mother, and a new guardian in the form of the unfamiliar yet kind grandmother. Not to mention a takeover of the town by a conglomerate called Perennial Harvest Co. with an anxiously happy CEO at the helm. It’s no wonder Luka just wants to enjoy the spoils of being a kid: hanging out in his best friend Rolo’s treehouse and getting into mischief. The problem is that mischief turns from hijackings to horror quickly. It might have something to do with the strange junk leaking from the abandoned factory, or the upcoming festival, but it doesn’t quite add up in Beacon Pines.

Beacon Pines Review - Screenshot 2 of 3
Recorded on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The format is an ongoing story told through excellent voice-over, by a self-referential author, who is himself a character. She needs your help to figure out how it ends. You do this by choosing words to put in her sentences. The game calls these “Charms” – cutely illustrated trinkets with a single word on each. You find them when you interact with items and villagers. The Charms tutorial is unimportant (‘We’d just go HIDE / CHILL / PONDER’ for the day’), but you’ll soon discover that choosing certain Charms over others will lead to chilling and exciting ‘The End’s. This is Beacon Pines’ version of dying: dead ends. When you reach one, the author will provide some colorful comments and encourage you to try again.

Make no mistake though: this game is not repetitive. You will play through these many different endings, from exciting to humorous to heartwarming, until you are done, because despite the many “The End’s”, there is a real ending and you will want to see it.

Uncovering charms is the main form of exploration and it’s exciting to have a pop-up on your screen as a reward for your curiosity. Also at your disposal is a literal fairy tree, whose branches grow as you progress. It’s called The Chronicle, and it helps you check off the Charms you’ve used.

New Charms will make you scroll back to the Chronicle to reactivate a previous turning point. Try these, and the game will give you secrets you might not have uncovered otherwise. You’ll find little gems that pay off if you’re the observant type, further expanding a deceptively small world. All of this is accompanied by a soundtrack that is wonderfully sweet and soothing, until it crescendos with dramatic flair. The music drives the feeling here, from warming your heart to giving it a workout.

Beacon Pines Review - Screenshot 3 of 3
Recorded on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Beacon Pine’s flaws are few, and mostly things that are a matter of taste. We felt the Chronicle needed more detail about our election results. At a glance, we could only see which charms had been used, not which ones had led to our immediate demise. We also found that there was a lack of player interaction, with long presses on “A” to advance the story. There’s also little involved in solving the puzzles – often the characters will reveal the answers before you find out. The long paragraphs can also be a little draining when reading small script in handheld mode.

Overall, the hands-off gameplay and long texts may deter action fans, but casual gamers will be swept up in the cliffhanger story to notice. This is a strong arrival from the small yet talented team at Hiding Spot. The storybook visuals, layered characters and gripping action will have gamers cozying up on the edge of the couch – but wrapped in a blanket.


Beacon Pines presents a rich world filled with deeply considered, not to mention adorable, characters. The beautifully crafted art, along with a soundtrack that both captures and sets the mood, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It may not be for those who prefer action, but it’s a delightful and engrossing story that sees Luka, Rolo and Beck immerse themselves in a variety of unique situations. You might finish it in less than a business day, but it will stay with you for much longer.

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