An interesting title from Warm Lamp Games, Beholder has a similar feel to Papers, Please. However, whereas the set events in Papers, Please have a more random feel to them, Beholder feels much more scripted due to the writing being more rigid. Each playthrough essentially features the same events, with some subtle differences in how you can potentially go about things, but those choices don’t really start to make a difference until later in the game when your moral decisions either begin to cause you problems in-game or start to make you feel like a terrible human being. You play the new landlord of a block of flats in a country under a dictatorship. You are under orders to watch everyone in your building and report anyone breaking government sanctions, even if the people you need to report seem good or the reasons for reporting them seem trivial. A nasty end awaits anyone you choose to report, but if you are unsuccessful in carrying out your orders you find yourself short on the money required to do your job.
The point-and-click gameplay is most easily comparable to This War of Mine. The character is controlled by clicking to indicate where you want him to go and interacting with objects via the interaction options available when you hover the mouse over them. You discover information about the tenants you’re spying on through talking to other residents, searching their flats when they’re out and installing cameras in their homes if they are suspected of violating government directives. Situations gradually present moral choices to you and as the game progresses these choices start to more actively alter how the game plays out, impacting your relationships with your family members and your tenants and affecting your standing with the organization you work for.
The gameplay is very smooth and things do need doing at certain times if you want to have enough money to actually continue. There are a few occasions where elements of the UI are not incredibly clear and vital things may well be missed but generally the game is simple to pick up and is available in two difficulties for once you’ve grasped the feel of the game via the trainee difficulty.
Graphically, Beholder has a hand drawn feel to it. The animations are cute and endearing, in a wonderful juxtaposition with the bleak and hopeless setting of the game. The muted color palette reinforces the overall feel of the game while still giving the characters themselves a naive appearance, like puppets, which fits in very nicely with the totalitarian setting of the game.
In-game, the music and sounds are quite subtle with the UI noises being well crafted and sufficiently immersive, as many of the UI sounds are attached to interactions with objects. Any music is subtle and works well with the subdued environment and muted colors while still maintaining the slightly lighthearted edge Beholder possesses via it’s hand drawn art style and cute character animations, enhancing the contrast between the darker and lighter elements of the game.
Overall, Beholder is a interesting experience. It does feel a little frustrating as you are relatively powerless in some senses and even if you decide to go against the organization it can become a little stressful due to the other things that could go wrong for your character. It’s not an especially relaxing game and in some ways it feels a little flat, but this is an odd sub genre to try and tackle and Warm Lamp Games have certainly presented an admirable effort.