Beacon is a minimal yet alluring platformer with a surprising amount of emotional depth. Players assume the role of a dazed astronaut who has crash-landed on a strange planet. Bewildered and confused, the player sets out to piece together the mystery of where he is and how he got there. At first glance, Beaconseems like a generic and dismissible platformer: Jump, dodge, jump some more. However, the game's charm grabs you after only a few minutes.
The 8-bit art style is likeable, but the level design seemed a bit arbitrary and whimsical in the beginning. However, this is a minor gripe because the level design quickly tunes itself with the gameplay. For example, mastering the jet pack is vital for navigating across certain areas. In terms of controls, they are simple and intuitive: C/UP is used for jumping and jet pack, LEFT and RIGHT arrows move the character horizontally and X examines clues. Movement, jumping, and using the jet pack all feel solid and are easy to learn. I must say the jet pack is particularly enjoyable to use, but then again, it's a jet pack so what's not to love?
The gameplay is pretty standard for a 2D platform game. You spend your time hurdling over obstacles and dodging projectiles. The projectiles are refreshingly challenging as they are shot to where the player will be instead of where they are at the moment fire occurs. I would have liked to see more of these sections, especially since the respawn points are handled very well. When you die, you spawn right where you would want to be; very nice.
The audio is delightfully retro, reflecting the game’s old-school art style. The music is somber and well crafted to fit the game's theme of loneliness and mystery, while the contextual soundscape is populated with pleasant bleeps and bloops. However, the lasting impact of Beacon lies in its story. Scripted pop-ups and examined clues reveal a unique and interesting plot. I won't spoil anything for you, but the sense of loss and emptiness is palpable by the end.
Overall, Beacon takes a mere 15 minutes to play. Like a sort of interactive vignette, it is really remarkable that a game so short could evoke such emotion. Or maybe I'm just a sap. You be the judge.