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Beacon Pines is a cozy horror game that hides an emotional mystery beneath cute characters

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Like a great mystery novel, my favorite moments in Beacon Pines are when I know what’s about to happen.

Early on, main character Luka VanHorn attempts to thwart his best friend’s older sister from dragging him home for chores instead of exploring a creepy warehouse together by being “a little chill.” That strategy fails spectacularly, but it was my only option at the time. In a later scene, I collect a new Mad-Libs-like word choice “shit” and I instantly realize that being “a little shit” to Roxy is going to work way better. And so it does.

This is the first major decision that splits the choose-your-own style adventure Beacon Pines down the center. It’s just a bit more interactive than a full-on visual novel—mostly walking, talking, and inspecting objects—but with a cozy horror level of intensity. The stakes of the plot perhaps wind up a bit over the cozy line by the time it’s said and done, but come on. Look at it.

(Image credit: Hiding Spot, Fellow Traveller)

Beacon Pines looks cute off the cuff, populated with animal characters and its paintbrush storybook aesthetic, but like the town itself has darker layers underneath. Not too dark and not too scary, but it’s definitely a story about swearing pre-teens, grief, bullying, and the sticky insecurities of friendship. Luka’s mom is missing, Rolo’s family farm is struggling, and their fresh third accomplice Beck resents always being the new kid because of her mom’s job.

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