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Beacon Pines has a demo for its Mad Libs-like mystery adventure

Small towns always have big secrets

Don't let the very pretty face of Beacon Pines fool you. Underneath its storybook aesthetic is an adventure game with a decent dose of scares and swears from its small town twelve-year-old protagonists. In the short demo for Beacon Pines, you can try out the ways that it mixes book-based adventure games with classic computer adventure games in its Mad Lib-like story puzzles. It's definitely been good for a chuckle or two just in the 30 minutes I've spent with it. You can try it yourself through Tuesday.

Small town kids Luka and Rolo are about to get in well over their heads when they decide to investigate an abandoned old factory outside town that may be less empty than everyone thinks. The story is bound to go terribly wrong before it goes right though, because you're in charge of picking how things play out at pivotal moments and you might not always have the right words at your disposal.

Instead of collecting items in traditional adventure game fashion, you'll collect words by exploring town and having conversations—things like "chill" or "hide" or "ponder". At key moments, the game pulls back to its storybook view, allowing you to slot in one of the words you've found to decide how things play out. Early on, you might tell your grandmother that you and your friend Rolo are going out to just "chill" for the day or, perhaps less effectively, that you plan to go and do a bit of "pondering". Odd thing for a kid to say, which she'll tease you for a bit.

Like you would with a choice-based adventure book, you're free to go back at any point to earlier decision points and try a new route through the story. As you do in digital adventure games, collecting more words opens up new branches to the story until you're deep into the local mystery of the abandoned fertilizer plant that's leaking green goop everywhere.

I definitely had a good laugh over discovering the word "shit" as a new possibility and realizing immediately where I should go back to try using it. The demo for Beacon Pines cuts off just about where things start to get tense and spooky, but it's a nice half hour intro to what feels like a neat adventure.

The Beacon Pines demo is currently on as part of the Indie Houses event hosted by several indie game publishers through tomorrow, September 7th. Bit of late notice on that one, apologies. But hey, if you're looking a 30 minute diversion this evening, I recommend it. You can find Beacon Pines over on Steam and Itch.

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Lauren Morton