Beholder, from a gameplay perspective, is difficult to categorize. At its core, it's mostly about prioritizing tasks efficiently, and managing your time. However, given that you are the new landlord of a shabby apartment building in a country being crushed under the thumb of an oppressive regime, it's clearly much more than that.
When the game begins, it is made clear to you that your predecessor was "removed" because he failed to ensure that his tenants were complying with the laws of the state. You must do better if you and your family are to survive. Unfortunately, your very survival hinges directly on your willingness to eavesdrop on your tenants, search their apartments and belongings, and accurately profile them. Lastly, and most importantly, you must be willing to report (or perhaps blackmail) them for any subversive observed subversive activities; even if these activities seem justified or understandable to you based on their circumstances. You see, in Beholder, you are always given choices. Will you observe, report, and thrive; or will you resist the yolk of your oppressors? Choosing the latter outright will cause you and your family to suffer so carefully weigh the consequences before each decision. You're no good to anybody if you're "disappeared."
The core gameplay revolves around tasks that are presented to you. You accomplish these tasks by moving about the apartment complex and interacting with various things. Tap to move, tap again to interact with objects and people. Objects that can be manipulated will present a simple radial menu with your choices. For example, during the tutorial, you are given the task of installing cameras in the smoke detectors of one of your apartments. Tap on the smoke detectors, tap again on the camera icon. See how easy it is to rob people of their privacy? Every task presented will have a time limit, and I strongly suggest prioritizing them by completion date rather than by perceived urgency. One thing that struck me while playing is how it reminded me of some less than scrupulous free-to-play game. However, instead of being given the chance succeed by spending money, all you need do in Beholder is be a terrible person (in-game, obviously).
In spite of the grim subject matter and desaturated color palette, Beholder is actually quite enjoyable, and it holds up very well in repeated playthroughs due to the randomly presented quests. This is helped in no small part by the graphics, which are surprisingly pleasing to look at thanks to their razor sharp details and smooth animation. Additionally, the sound effects are on par with games developed by Amanita Design (Machinarium, etc.). They are so good that I found myself staring blankly at the screen at one point, hypnotized by the sound of the miserable-looking fireplace crackling in the background.
If you enjoy games that force you to make moral choices, Beholder is your cup of tea. It's highly polished and chock full of gameplay. I can't help wondering, however, how Beholder and games like it are received in countries with oppressive regimes. Here in the states, however, it's not only great fun but also serves as a reminder of how nice it is not to have to check our smoke detectors for cameras.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Razor sharp 2D graphics drawn with depth. It's actually a surprisingly beautiful game Sound: - 5 - The sound effects are A++ Controls: - 5 - Tap to move/interact. This is NOT a game that will leave you scratching your head wondering what you're supposed to be doing. Gameplay: - 4 - It's all about making tough moral choices. If you're successful, you may hate yourself.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Prioritize your tasks by due date. Even if you want to resist the state, you must sometimes be its tool in order to survive.