Beholder | Nintendo Switch Review

Behold!(er), a new review of an old game on the Nintendo eShop named Beholder. As some time has passed since the original version, the Switch release is all bells and whistles. The full title is Beholder: Complete Edition as it has a few extras included, but I’ll just refer to it as Beholder as it’s easier. You can read more on the official website.

I’ve had this game for some time now and on my first time playing, quite liked the concept. You play a chap named Carl Stein who will work as the landlord of an apartment building. His wife Anna, son Patrick and daughter Martha also join him. Carl’s role is more than managing the tenants and carrying out simple repairs, for he is a spy for the government. Dun dun daaaah! It is his duty to report any wrongdoings and catch enemies of the state in the act. This means installing surveillance cameras in the tenants’ rooms and going through their belongings when they are out.

The apartment building Carl will work, in a very grey palette

State maintained

Beholder is set entirely in the apartment building. There are a total of six apartments plus Carl’s room in the basement, the communal kitchen and utility room. You can view the building as a whole or zoom in to where the action is. I didn’t pay attention to the zoom for some time as I like being up close and personal. Beholder uses a cutaway effect like Fallout Shelter where you can see inside a room from the outside. Bear in mind you can’t completely see the rooms and you have to mix surveillance cams and peeping through the keyhole to check if the tenants are home or not. Yeah, peeping.

The state will regularly contact you with new orders and notifications when something, or an act, is banned either by calling you with your mission or a notification in the form of a government directive. For example, anyone caught reading, have apples in their possession or even play music in front of a government official will be sentenced. The sentence is not defined, but you never see them again, so you have an inkling. Catch someone in the act and as long as you have suitable evidence, you can make a report and then the authorities turn up, beat the suspect and throw them in the back of their van. Carl repairs their room and puts it back on the market for another unsuspecting tenant.

Carl peeping through a tenants keyhole

Profiling and the moral ground

You are awarded money for profiling tenants and making successful reports. If you are able to uncover any suitable evidence, you will achieve reputation points. Initially, these are used to purchase new cameras or repair equipment to fix electrical components and furnishings. These items are available through the shop at any time in the game. Later in the story, some tenants can offer you more information in exchange for reputation points or will accept them as a bribe (things can get hairy and some tenants will murder you in cold blood) so it is worth accumulating if you can.

Same goes for money in Beholder – there are a lot of requests from your family to pay for expensive medicine, school books, fees and tickets. You can steal from the tenant’s rooms and sell to a fence or catch them up to no good then blackmail them as a way to make money. It is risky as if caught, Carl will be removed from his position and… executed.

In Beholder you are able to make your own decisions. Do you take the moral ground or do as you are told by your employers? What is the greater good? There isn’t a single game that is the same as you can find different ways to proceed. That said, there isn’t an abundance of options as the whole game revolves around your apartment building and time is always ticking (you can even speed it up if you are waiting for a tenant to leave or simply waiting for a new action).

The shop screen where Carl can purchase cameras

Beholder likes to keep you waiting

Speaking of time, my biggest criticism of this is a petty one: the loading times are pretty long. There aren’t any loading screens when playing the game but I found that I often died from stealing too much or not having enough money for my bills or being stabbed by crazed tenants. Loading the game up again every 10 minutes or so was irritating, but it’s only minor.

There are resemblances to 1984 and you can see for yourself these comparisons. This is a very bleak game with a very minimal palette. In some respects, the storyline can be quite depressing and a big of a juggle to try and appease everyone while still carry out your duties. A bit like in real life. Spoiler: you can’t appease everyone.

Whenever I’m presented with the option to be the good guy or the bad guy, I opt for the former. I know with a game you can be someone you wouldn’t normally be – we’ve all run people over in Grand Theft Auto or killed random animals in Minecraft – but you get the better endings and NPCs respond better if you’re good. Well, in Beholder, it’s a little trickier. Your wife for example. She’s constantly asking for money – and a lot of it. Thing is, they are for important things that affect your family but you need that money to complete the tasks set by the government. Ignore their commands and you’ve all had it.

Disaster strikers in the building and Carl needs to do some repairs

Not the cheeriest, but worth a peek

I played this for longer than I expect most people will. I was eager to save Carl’s family while still fulfilling my duties. Dare I say, I haven’t finished this yet either but I know I’m close. I hope that the ending will be worth it. I’ve had my fair share of cutscenes on being executed or murdered by a tenant. Beholder: Complete Edition has a bonus set of missions with a new character. I started playing it but exited out so that I could finish Carl’s story first. Beholder is certainly not a jolly game.

Overall, Beholder a good game but not something to lift your mood. The options laid out in front of you are pretty decent considering the size of the game and the location. In terms of value, the price was right and with the added bonus missions, it’s worth it. It isn’t for everyone, but certainly worth a look. It plays better than watching someone else play it. Now, I think it’s time to play something a little more uplifting!