Available on PC
Spying on people seems to be the new gameplay du jour. I’ve noticed a number of games with this premise popping up lately. Fortunately all of them seem to be sufficiently different from each other, which has made playing these games a lot of fun. One of these games is Beholder. It’s spying gameplay is layered over a substantial amount of RPG choice-making that makes the game way more interesting than it might seem at first glance.
In Beholder you play as a man who is tasked with running an apartment complex and also making sure none of the residents are up to no good. The world is a totalitarian state, which won’t abide by crimes or even ideological differences. One of the ways this plays out is regular announcements that will ban random items like apples or green ties. At the beginning of the game you realize your predecessor has failed at his job and is being taken away with rather violent means while you and your family are introduced to your new home. Yes, you have a family. A wife, a teenage son and a young daughter. You live in the basement of the apartment complex. From there you watch what happens on the street and the four floors of the complex above it. The art style has a unique aesthetic wit crisp black and white characters on a colorful, but gloomy background. This fits the story perfectly.
Beholder plays much like a point-and-click adventure game. You move around the environment by clicking in different place and interact with objects by doing the same thing. You’re given missions by the state that involve you needing to spy on the residents by noticing their comings and goings and entering their apartments when they’re not home in order to install security cameras. Without the cameras, the apartments are dark and you can’t see anything. Once a camera is installed, you’ll be able to see a section of the apartment. That section can be larger or smaller based on the type of camera you use. Once you see someone doing something they shouldn’t you file a report and the perpetrator is promptly removed from the premise.
All of this seems pretty straight forward, but the game has another layer of play that gives you choices on how to proceed. You can be a good little servant of the state reporting anyone and everyone, or you can choose to withhold information and help some tenants escape before the government knows what happened. This can get increasingly complex as your family members get caught up in the process.
Beholder hasn’t been rated by the ESRB. Based on the content of the game, I would imagine it would probably garner a T rating. The art is a stylized black and white, but the messaging and choices you need to make as a player can have dire consequences, making it a bit more mature on a thematic level.
I really liked this game. I came into it expecting fairly straightforward gameplay of doing X, Y, and Z in a certain order. It was only after I played for an hour or so, that I began to see the depth of the choices I was making and how they were affecting me and everyone else in the building. After two attempts, I met an unfortunate end. But I want to go back and try again because the game is just so intriguing.