Beholder, developed by Warm Lamp Games, puts the player in the shoes of a dark rental house’s new landlord. The Complete Edition also contains the Blissful Sleep DLC, a new scenario based on an ex-landlord, with all new tenants and stories to discover. As a worker for the State, you must investigate, profile and otherwise deal with several tenants – all of whom have schedules, penchants and relationships with one another. The game’s design is well within a reasonable scope. Its art style is all at once dark and lush, realistic and stylized. Its 2D-3D world feels rugged and real. So why isn’t it much fun?
There are several elements of Beholder‘s gameplay that have a “cool” factor: peering into tenant’s keyholes, seeing their actions through planted security cameras, looting through their things and talking with others to learn about them. When I caught my first resident violating a State directive, I was elated. I wasted no time in running downstairs, filling out some paperwork and losing the game. Yes, that’s right – even providing accidental misinformation on a form can help you lose your job, and perhaps even your life, in this dreary imagination of a future government. These parts of the game – its core, really – make it feel like it’s taking place in a genuinely sad and droll dystopia. Unfortunately for the player, though, it might capture that feeling too well.
After the player has spent some time talking to tenants and spying on them, they’ll begin to find patterns in their behavior. An over-arching goal in the game is to find discrepancies between their actions and State directives, so they can be put to justice. To this end, the game succeeds overwhelmingly. Beautiful hand-drawn menus and UI elements with stark, painterly iconography allow for an intuitive understanding of what people are doing and thinking about, in a way that’s more representative than realistic.
The 2D-3D environment is candied with drab pieces of furniture and apartments that are falling apart. While it’s nice to look at the events unfolding in Beholder, though, the game’s interactions are in themselves interesting. You’ll spend most of your time clicking through dialogue (or running around looking for people you haven’t yet talked to about something in particular) and waiting for interactions to be completed with objects. You might wonder why tenants aren’t suspicious of you running from their apartment after looting and planting cameras – as long as you’re out before they actually step in. Most notably, though, you might get bored being a State-installed Landlord.
It’s worth mentioning that Beholder boasts a non-linear story that should be different each time you play it. Interactions like the ones show above provide the player with options in the face of conversations gone wrong or touchy situations that arise, and I can certainly appreciate the appearance of choices – even if they appear like a few fish in a sea of compulsory quests. While I didn’t reach the absolution of Beholder‘s story line, I was interested in a few of its plot points, though not enough to feel guilty for playing a State worker or compassionate enough for my tenants to lend them a helping hand (unless it meant progressing, of course).
At best, Beholder‘s theme and story categorize it in my eyes as “Noir Lite,” a sort of polished but awkward meeting of depressing events taking place in a dingy context, drawn with the family-friendly whimsy of a cartoonist’s pen. It’s absolutely worth a look for the $9.99 it’s listed for, and could easily make for an entertaining few hours if you’re a captive audience, but overall Beholder doesn’t take itself seriously enough to feel very meaningful.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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