After hearing that a free demo for the gorgeous indie game I’ve been keeping an eye on, Beacon Pines, was available right now on Steam I immediately pounced at the opportunity to check it out.

What I found not only surprised me, but also left me desperately wanting more after I’d completed the demo. If the entire game is as fun, charming, and compelling as its demo… we’re potentially looking at an indie GOTY for 2022 (at least from me). 

Beacon Pines Preview | Branching Paths Full of Charm 

The demo for Beacon Pines is available for free on Steam right now and offers a fantastic look into what you can expect from the game once it’s released. Currently, the release date is listed as Coming 2022. 

In the game, you play as Luka, a 12-year-old who lives with his grandmother as his father passed away when he was 6 and his mother is currently missing. It’s a sensitive topic for Luka, and adds to the mystery element of the game’s story.

Obviously, you don’t learn too much in the demo as it is just that, a demo, but you do get a sense of where things could possibly be going. Luka clearly wants to know what happened to his mother, and Beacon Pines itself seems to be stranger than it first appears.

As you explore the demo, you’re also introduced to the game’s core mechanics which center around how the story is told. You as the player are given the power to change certain words within the story and alter the outcome, thereby creating a number of branching paths you can take.

The way you do this is by discovering and using Charms which are essentially word cards like “Hide” with symbols on them (the symbols correspond to where they can go within the story). 

In the demo, some Charms you can only use with your grandmother, while others can be used with characters like Rolo’s sister. To obtain Charms, you want to take your time in each area and explore.

The game rewards you for doing this with Charms, and also insight into the characters and the town of Beacon Pines as a whole. Additionally, you often won’t obtain the Charms you really need until after you see one potential outcome play out.

Essentially, you get Charms in the demo from exploring and interacting with objects, and by using Charms in general. Note that Beacon Pines, despite its whimsical art, isn’t for young children given the prevalence of cursing from the characters.

I actually really like this inclusion as it makes it feel closer to a book from Stephen King that I really enjoy called The Body (later adapted into the film Stand By Me). I think it works well, and it adds some humor to the game that actually made me chuckle out loud, particularly after the first swear word is introduced into the game via a collectible Charm. 

The Charm I’m talking about is called “Shit” and the illustration is quite literally… shit. As hilarious as a Shit Charm is, you can actually use this Shit Charm to change the outcome of a previous conversation you had with Rolo’s sister. You can, quite literally, “be a little shit” and kick Rolo’s sister. 

You may not want to do this, but it actually extends and unlocks more of the demo so it’s worth doing and that’s all I’ll say (to try and avoid spoilers as much as possible). The demo can be short if you want it to be short, or it can be a little under an hour in length depending on how much backtracking you’re willing to do. 

That backtracking is genuinely worth it, especially if you want to end the demo in a positive way. By opening new paths, you also get to meet new characters and experience different interactions.

It’s almost like several stories combined into one, and you’re the director controlling how it all plays out. Obviously comparisons can be made between choosing words in Beacon Pines and Mad Libs, but to me it’s more of a “choose your own adventure” sort of game. 

One comparison that comes to mind are the old Goosebumps books (Give Yourself Goosebumps) where your decisions impact the outcome. You read up to a point, then choose what you want to do and turn to the corresponding page to see the outcome.

Mess up and you can go back and try again by making a different decision, and turning to a different page. It’s an effective way to bring the reader into the story and make them feel like their actions really do matter. 

My final feelings towards Beacon Pines after completing the demo are ones of anticipation, as I’m eager to check out the full game in 2022, and excitement.

I’m excited that a game like this exists. I’m thrilled at how beautiful it looks, how fun the characters feel (even with the little time you have with them in the demo), and how invested I already am in the story. 

I highly recommend giving the demo a try, and if you fall in love with the game as much as I did during my time with the demo, I also recommend wishlisting Beacon Pines on Steam and following the game’s Twitter page

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