War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Beholder is a management-sim in which you take control of a landlord named Carl who is working for the government to spy on the citizens living on his property. The latest release, called the “Complete Edition” as it includes downloadable content, adapts this mobile and PC title to consoles for the first time.
In this world, the government controls everything, from the jobs people have to the foods they eat. You have to watch out though: the state doesn’t mess around. If you don’t complete your set objectives in time, you—and your family—are done. You spy on your residents by collecting information about them though methods like installing surveillance devices, peeping in their doors, and listening in on them walking around town. Then, you’re supposed to give this information to the authorities, but it’s your choice whether to actually report the information. There are a few different ways to play: playing by your bosses’ rules or hiding everything.
The visual style displayed here is beautifully dark, showcased through a brilliant cinematic intro sequence. The gameplay looks just as good as that initial cutscene—three-dimensional silhouette characters roam around a gloomy environment with no shortage of texture. Everything on screen depicts the depressing, hopeless theme of the story. You won’t find one shred of happiness in this world.
The most interesting aspect is that you can see many different endings to the story depending on how you play. If you play through more than once, you can see how your actions play a role in what happens to yourself, your family, and the other tenants. Unfortunately, I found the gameplay itself too repetitive for my tastes as it consisted mostly of installing spy devices, talking to neighbors, and submitting reports. I enjoyed seeing the relationships between Carl, his family, and his residents unfold, but I do wish there was ultimately more to manage in the apartment. Having more varied things to do could make this a more intriguing package overall.
The controls aren’t ideal for a Switch release. Zooming in and out with the ZL button and right joystick makes seeing finer details a hassle. Also, certain tasks clearly designed around pointing and clicking on objects are quite difficult to do in this port as there are no pointer controls. Instead, objects are automatically selected based on where you move around in rooms, and it takes a bit of annoyingly-precise joystick movement in order to select the item you’re trying to look at or add to your inventory. Because this game originated on mobile, it’s frustrating that there aren’t at least touch controls in handheld mode.
All in all, Beholder will certainly capture your attention for quite a while with its dark premise and complex relationships. Keep in mind, though, some of the controls don’t work as intuitively as you’d expect, and some of the actions you have to do can be a bore. If you can see past that, this is a fantastically-designed management-sim with layers of art and complexity.