Ah the sense of power, what a wonderful thing. All that hard work is finally paying off with this new promotion. You are being relocated to a new facility, your family gets to come with you, and most importantly you get to make your own decisions. You are finally where you want to be! However, are you actually in charge of your own destiny? You would like to think so, but things are not what they seem. Maybe you aren’t as powerful as you thought you would be. I would watch my back if I were you!
Beholder: Complete Edition is a side-scrolling management title developed by Alawar Games and published by Curve Digital. It tells the story of Carl Stein, a government-installed landlord in a totalitarian state that is appointed after the previous landlord is ousted for poor performance. Carl is tasked to spy on his tenants to ensure that they aren’t conspiring against the government. You must profile and report any of the tenants that break the laws, including your own family. The decisions you make are your own, and you must decipher between the right and wrong to complete your assignment. However, be warned, as everything has consequences. Bark up the wrong tree and you could be in a world of hurt that is impossible to get out of. Will you rise Carl to greatness or let him rot in the gutter as a failure?
The gameplay mechanics presented in Beholder: Complete Edition are easy to understand but can be quite difficult to master. The main goal of the game is to protect your family and complete set tasks provided to you by the government before your second evaluation. However, this is where your decisions can mold Carl’s life. Choosing to side with the government or going against their wishes could be the difference between life and death for Carl and the other tenants living under his roof. Besides decision making, the meat of the game comes from sneaking into your tenants’ rooms to collect information on them. The laws change every day and new items become illegal at a rapid pace. However, you must be careful to follow their schedules because if they catch you, you are kicked out and further consequences might follow. While I really liked the decision-making portion, I felt that the profiling and reporting had a cookie-cutter approach. You enter the apartment, check every object, find something illegal, then you report them or blackmail them for money. Rinse and repeat until you receive your second evaluation or lose all your tenants.
This title has various endings and how you handle yourself throughout the playthrough will determine the type of outcome that you are presented with. Following the administration’s orders will make you a model citizen in their eyes, but at what cost. On the other hand, betraying them could make you another scab that they want to be removed, similar to all the previous landlords. These decisions are crucial to mold Carl into your perfect image. Just try not to make many mistakes, as they might be your last.
The visuals and soundtrack were hit or miss, in my opinion. While I enjoyed the visuals and setting, I felt that the sounds were lackluster. The dark aesthetic dominated the game as everyone had something to hide. The silhouette blobs that formed the characters gave off the vibe that not everyone is what they seem. Having the characters seem so lifeless, but still having bold personalities provided a stellar experience that I haven’t seen elsewhere. The sounds, on the other hand, seemed very dull. I was not put off by the random mumblings for the dialogue, but the ambient noise didn’t provide the same feelings that the visuals did. In addition, there was a moment in the game where a set of dialogue overpowers all the other sounds. I found this distracting and quite annoying to hear while I performed other tasks.
I am usually not intrigued by games that the entire premise is managing something. However, I was provided with Beholder: Complete Edition and I felt that it was better late than never to familiarize myself with this genre. At first, I couldn’t get into it, I just felt that I was doing the same task day-in and day-out, but about halfway throughout my playthrough, everything changed. I really enjoyed the story that followed Carl and I wanted to do everything I could to make him the best. I would follow the rules until I couldn’t agree with them on a moral level. The branching paths were my favorite part as I finally felt that a decision I made had weight to it. I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I hadn’t felt since my time with the walking dead titles developed by TellTale. I put myself in Carl’s shoes and made the decisions that I would want to make if I was in his scenario. I found myself hooked on this game and would play for hours at a time to complete the story. I really loved playing this game and the only downside I could find was the length. While there are multiple endings, the game can easily be beaten in two to three hours. I was left with wanting more of Carl’s story when the credits rolled, and I found myself wishing it wasn’t over. This is a game that I plan to play through at least a second time and maybe even a third.
Beholder: Complete Edition includes a DLC called the Blissful Sleep. It tells a story of Henry, a landlord before Carl came into the picture. I didn’t play much of this DLC, but it seems promising like the main game and I hope to get back into it very soon. It provided the new experiences and story that I was looking for after concluding Carl’s. I only hope that it is as enthralling as the main game.
In the end, Beholder: Complete Edition is a hidden gem that was completely off my radar. I am thankful that I was provided with a copy of this stellar title and would have been quite upset in missing a title of this caliber. The game is priced at $15 USD, which is a no-brainer the enjoyment that this game provides. I understand that this game is in a pretty niche market, but I would recommend everyone to pick this game at some point and just try it. You will not be disappointed by this one.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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