To simply say that Beholder is a simple adventure game would do it a great injustice. It’s ambiance, characters, and it’s reliance on the player’s own morality and ethics to make decisions allow the game to stand out. Not only were there multiple times that I found myself questioning whether or not I should turn in an individual to the government (or The Ministry), I felt a distinct uneasiness knowing that these sort of actions are, and could be one day, commonplace in our own society.
Beholder takes many an influence from George Orwell’s 1984, from it’s distinct “Big Brother” watching every movement of it’s citizen’s, to the many government announcements outlawing random facets of life. Early on in my playthrough, the government had sent out a notice that outlawed propaganda against the government. While certainly not the most outlandish notice, the subsequent notices were. Apples, owning a book by a specific author, and various other harmless items/acts were outlawed by the government, and required me to report the infringers to the Ministry promptly.
Which leads into the main gameplay of Beholder. Players are tasked to be the new landlords of an apartment building, of which you are required by the Ministry to report any and all wrong-doers that reside within the building. Immediately, players are tasked with planting a video recording device within the apartment of a tenant, so that they may constantly observe that tenants actions within. While the first tenant player’s observe, record and report a drug-user, the tenants observed further on in the game fall a bit more into the grey area. How are you to report a tenant and his wife for simply speaking out about an infraction the government has carried out against them? What happens if your own wife or children commit one of the crimes set out by the government? These were all moral and ethical questions that I asked myself through my playthrough. And while players are not required to report all of the infractions, sooner or later the Ministry will take notice to your lack of reporting and investigate themselves.
What stood out to me most about Beholder, however, was it’s distinct art style and music. None of the characters have faces or coloring whatsoever, but they have more character than many other games out there. You can really tell which tenant is which, even though they may all look the same at first glance. The black-and-white motif of the character design is fantastic sitting on top of the dystopian backdrop of the apartment complex. The entire look and feel of the game has that sort of grit-and-grime that really give players that feeling that they themselves are being watched by The Ministry. The music, also, is outstanding and gives the game a sort of gravitas that few other games have.