Beholder: Complete Edition (PlayStation 4) Review

By Sam Turner 24.01.2018

Review for Beholder: Complete Edition on PlayStation 4

Spying, deception, blackmail, and total subservience; a laundry list of meddling mechanics awaits in Beholder: Complete Edition - a title that is a totalitarian simulator and landlord management game all rolled into one. It's not a totally unique set of mechanics or indeed a completely exclusive setting. Beholder does not occupy a world of its own but it does manage to say something about living under a watchful eye. After tackling the PC original back in 2016, Cubed3 now looks at Curve Digital's repackaged version on PS4.

Amongst the black and white animations and under the constant grey rain and clouds, Beholder leads the player on an odd power fantasy, asking them to take up the uncomfortable position of landlord and snitch, husband and informant, friend and Big Brother.

Set in an undisclosed location at an undisclosed time, Beholder is a game enclosed by continual pressure to do a job and do it well. The apartment block in which all the action takes place dominates the screen and is home to family, tenants, and a mini reign of terror. As the landlord, Carl Stein, the first day begins in auspicious circumstances. When the Stein family enters the hallway of its new home, it is met with the deposition of the former incumbent who leaves the evil dolls house with battered lip and bruised eye, having not fully complied with the demands of the strict regime.

Screenshot for Beholder: Complete Edition on PlayStation 4

It's a simple opening but efficiently lays out both the narrative and gameplay elements to follow. As your family settles into the basement, an auspicious array of monitors, and an even more perilous telephone, takes centre stage, a dark conduit between Carl and the government, which is really calling the shots in this game of control and conditioning. Report rebels to the government and there are handsome rewards; however, miss the insurgent sleeping under your roof and there will be trouble just on the horizon.

Beholder is a blend of Papers, Please and The Sexy Brutale as the player strikes a delicate balance of making sure their family are surviving whilst simultaneously keeping a beady eye on the comings and goings in the rooms above. Spying through keyholes to see their deeds, or waiting till they leave to work to install cameras or take a look around their personal belongings, are just some of the activities to undertake.

Screenshot for Beholder: Complete Edition on PlayStation 4

It feels morally wrong but there is a thrill in the tension of waving the tenants off to work only to immediately rifle through their beds and wardrobes before they come home and catch you in the act.

Government edicts and a stream of phone calls from the horrid handset in the basement keep a track of what the team in charge deems 'illegal,' so there's always a constant flow of new legislation to enforce amongst those in the flats. Certain tasks are time dependant also, which adds risk to your movements around the house. At times this makes decisions crucial and means that letting some missions go beyond the clock can have grave consequences, literally.

It's immediately rewarding to bend to the will of the all-powerful but it's also as tempting to take your all seeing knowledge of the inhabitants above to bribe them for money or aid them in their cause, playing both sides against each other. Beholder is a game of temptation and plays with those whose natural proclivities will be not to push the agenda of the state.

As the landlord, the player is given an obscene about of licence to infiltrate the lives of others, but unfortunately what should be a delicate escalation of power and corruption feels dramatically heavy handed. There is no subtlety to Beholder. There is none of the delicacy seen in Papers, Please, which is by far the superior member of this particular fascist family. Beholder is a brutish cousin that tries to flesh out the hidden elements in Papers, Please. However, instead of adding any emotional heft or higher stakes, Beholder just feels sterile and without love.

Screenshot for Beholder: Complete Edition on PlayStation 4

The game tries to make you care but ultimately the glut of tasks heaped on the player, the lack of cohesive narrative or direction, and the lack of mechanical integrity means that after several hours you could be left without a family and not be able to recall any of their names or miss them once they are gone.

Beholder does suffer being on PlayStation 4, also; it looks attractive and plays smoothly but it suits the swift and effective attention that a keyboard and mouse offers. Similar management games such as Darkest Dungeon suffered the same fate that floaty controls do not mesh well when what you need is tight and organised design to effectively manage all the moving parts.

Generously, this Complete Edition also comes with the Blissful Sleep DLC bundled in, which is a narrative prequel to the events of Beholder. There's not much mechanically different to differentiate the DLC from the main game, but if the story is a compelling attraction, then it could be well worth seeing what happened to the apartment block before the Stein family moved in.

Screenshot for Beholder: Complete Edition on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

It's clear that Beholder: Complete Edition is trying to tell a story about oppression, coercion, and state observation, but its heavy handedness and console controls dilutes the message it's trying to produce. Other games have achieved much more with so much less, yet that shouldn't distract from what is a management game with a delightful twist. It's fun to be the bad guy and hauling out a tenant because you spied them eating fish can be strangely compelling. Sometimes admin can be fun and Beholder exploits the subservient and rebel in us all.

Developer

Warm Lamp Games

Publisher

Curve Digital

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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