This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android and iOS.
Back in 2016, Warm Lamp Games released a little title called Beholder on Steam, an interesting game set in a totalitarian state inspired by the works of George Orwell and the like. Finally, Beholder has made its way to the Switch in the form of Beholder Complete Edition, and it seemed like a good time to check the game out. How does Beyonder fair? Let’s have a spy.
Visually, Beholder nails the oppressed, totalitarian state look. Everything looks rundown, bleak and dreary, and there’s definitely a foreboding atmosphere here. Character designs perfectly fit into this too, with characters being pitch black silhouettes with their features being a bright white, giving them a distinct style. However, texture work leaves a lot to be desired, with it looking quite low resolution, although that might just be the Switch version.
The base game’s story has you play as Carl, who is appointed by the State to be a landlord of an apartment block. In reality, Carl is appointed as a Beholder, as the state forces Carl to spy on his tenants and report any illegal activities. The story opens up quite a lot from here, as Carl can either blindly follow the government, or relent and side with the oppressed people. It’s quite interesting in that respect, if a little generic, and this is highlighted in the gameplay too.
As Carl, you’re given tasks to do, either by the state, your family, or otherwise, which you must do. Some tasks are simple, like getting candy for your daughter, while others are really taxing, especially mentally. The game’s spark comes from its ability to mess with your moral compass, as some decisions you have to make and tasks you have to do have massive consequences. Do you snitch on your tenants for the simplest things in order to get money to fund your daughter’s treatment? Or do you leave your citizens be, and suffer from fines and other punishments from the government as a result?
How do you snitch on your tenants though? Well, you have to spy on them. To do this, you can place security cameras in their rooms, ask them questions or ask other tenants to snitch on them for you. You can also search their rooms when they’re not home. Once you find evidence or information, you can go down to your office and write a report on either the person itself for a little bit of cash, or of the crime they’ve committed to get them arrested and get a large sum of money and respect. When a tenant is arrested, you have to repair their room and lease it to someone else unless that person had a spouse, who might stay in the apartment or leave out of anger for your actions, giving a sort of apartment sim aspect to the game as well.
With it being the Complete Edition too, you also get the Blissful Sleep DLC. In it, you play as the previous Beholder of the apartment block as he tries to save his own life. The backstory is that the state has a forced euthanasia stance on anyone over 75. Your character is a few years off it yet, but a paperwork error means that the government think you’re far closer to 75. Now, your character must work to fix things. The story is way more interesting than that of the base game, but the gameplay doesn’t live up to it. The gameplay is pretty much unchanged, and the game reuses the same apartment block and even some of the same tenants as the base game, which kind of sucks, but if you enjoyed the base game you can’t go wrong with a little extra can you?
Beholder’s music matches the visuals in that it does a damn good job of nailing the totalitarian atmosphere of the story, and it’s overall enjoyable to listen to. The sound effects on the other hand are quite mixed. Some of the basic ones are enjoyable, but the sounds of characters speaking are very annoying, and the audio mixing is all over the place. I’ve had it where I’ve turned up the game to listen to the music, only to bump into a character speaking and get deafened. It’s a very odd issue.
Beholder is an interesting game to say the least. In terms of creating a totalitarian atmosphere, it absolutely nails it in terms its visuals and music, although the low-res textures on the Switch do hamper it somewhat. The game also does a good job of messing with your moral compass due to the decisions you’re forced to make, although the story itself is a bit generic when it comes to this kind of genre. The Blissful Sleep DLC has a much better story, although adds nothing new gameplay wise. The game’s sound effects are also problematic, being annoying and having terrible audio mixing throughout.