There's nothing like worrying about what the hell your neighbors think of you. If you're one of the millions who currently dwell inside an apartment building as you read this, chances are you've got a twinge of paranoia about what your fellow tenants see and hear. Your loud parties, your intimate conversations, your even more intimate moments—possibly being shared through paper-thin walls. If that freaks you out even just a little, then Beholder from Alawar Entertainment
will make you aware as hell.
Set in what we can only assume is an old-school Soviet Bloc country during the mid-'80s, Beholder
puts you in the position of a newly appointed landlord who reports directly to "the state." Along with your family, you live in the basement apartment of a giant apartment complex where you must repair the building and install cameras to watch over your tenants. Why? Because the state doesn't allow a lot of things, like illegal writings, foreign currency and drugs to name a few. It's up to you as the landlord to watch your neighbors, collect information and evidence, and report ne'er-do-wells to the state for arrest.
Now let's just address the elephant in the room that I'm sure you've already started writing a response to in the comments: Yes, you are a narc 10x, who is essentially looking at everything these people are doing and giving up their freedom to what is plainly an over-watching government that jails dissidents. To that, I say this: Welcome to video gaming in the 21st century, get over it. Games such as Prison Architect
and Papers Please
also take very real situations and put them into a gaming context that make you think about what you're doing while learning from it. And much like those two games, you are given a choice in your reactions. In fact, you could just dick around and not report anyone—but eventually, the state would catch on, beat you to a pulp like the last landlord and replace you with the "Game Over" screen.
The reason I'm bringing this up now in the review is that, much like in real life, sometimes you're put in situations you don't like, and you can choose to follow through with what needs to be done or face the consequences for rebelling against the system and end it right there. But if you like this kind of game, chances are you've already come to terms with that moral dilemma and are interested in playing. If you don't, then you won't buy it, and the rest of this review means nothing to you—now leave your comment below.
is a bit of a mashup between simulator and RPG. You'll need to tidy up your building and work on a schedule to get all the information you need, which includes filling out reports and submitting evidence. Sometimes things don't go as planned, and you'll be fined for not doing your civic duty. For everyone you turn in, you'll earn gold from the state to pay for new items like surveillance cameras and other equipment from the flea market. There's also a chance for you to earn Reputation Points, which you can use to get other items of need like food and books for the family, which can be earned simply by talking to people. When you have enough evidence to turn someone in, file a report on them and call the Ministry on your private phone to have them picked up so you can receive your reward. You'll learn quickly that the state loves to reward loyalty and punish people who can't do their job.
Now despite what I said above, you do in fact have a choice in some matters. There are people who are considered a danger to society, but there are others who you could easily let slip by and just take a fine for not finding anything. This is where the game truly gets interesting, because now you're put in a moral dilemma where you need to choose which is more important. And yes, those decisions get hard as hell, as you'll find yourself with one sick kid who needs medicine and someone who was just subscribing to a newsletter that isn't approved reading material. The game starts off as mildly harmless with commentary on social injustices, and quickly turns into some heavy-handed contemplation. This is a game that will make you think about who you are as a person if you're doing things for something else other than just having fun.
Overall, after you get past the initial uneasiness of what you're doing, Beholder
is a lot of fun. The "Big Brother" aspect to everything draws tension in, and will actually make you hate it so much, you'll want to rebel in real life. But not so much that you'll hate the game; you'll actually be tempted to come back to it and try different things on different scenarios. There are so many weird achievements in the game—ranging from getting killed by a tenant to influencing the way the state treats people—that the replay value will have you diving back in for more just to figure out how to get them. This is one of the few games where the real challenge is in your own mind. I hated myself and loved every minute of it—that's an accomplishment very few games can pull on me, so I have to applaud them for the effort.