BEHOLDER (on Steam/PC)
This is a well weird game. It is played in the deepest darkest colours with you as the protagonist, Carl Stein, shown only in shadow with only a variety of white highlights to form your shape. It is Lovecraft mixed with Orwell, it is Huxley and Bradbury, it is Dickens meets the CIA, it is every dark and gloomy horror film you have ever watched, it is Anthony Hopkins playing Peter Rachman, it is incredibly unusual.
BEHOLDER is available on Steam; Windows, Mac, and Linux for £5.59/7,99€/$7.99, which is 20% off its RRP to commemorate the launch. It was developed by Warm Lamp Games and published by Alawar Entertainment
The word "dystopian" is thrown around too often when games of this genre are being reviewed but for once here is a game where it really is the best word to describe the world in which you find yourself.
You are the newly appointed Landlord of a Class D Block of Apartments on Krushvice 6. The first thing you have to do is understand that you are not there simply to collect rent, take messages and unblock toilets, you are an agent of the totalitarian State and as such you are supposed to spy on and report on your tenants; every choice you make has a consequence but the choices you make are yours (mostly) you are not led by the nose.
Will you be a good citizen and do as you are told or will you use "commonsense" and (occasionally) turn your back on the Law ?
Your tenants, at the beginning of the game are:
Apt 1. Klaus and Maria Schimmer
Apt 2. Jacob Manishek
Apt 3. Mark and Rosa Ranek
Apartments 4, 5 & 6 are available at $500 each
Basement: Anna, Martha, Patrick and Carl (you) Stein
As the game progresses you will spy (or not) on the people in the building and sneak around your tenant's apartments (remember as Landlord you have the keys to every room), you will also be able to lease out the empty apartments to people you meet and deem worthy.
Throughout play you have the choice of siding with the subversive Government and keeping the people oppressed or joining the revolution, either way your decisions will alter the course of the story and lead you to one of the endings; different choices mean different endings, and they aren't all nice!
To be honest (which I am) being nice (which I am) isn't as much fun as being evil (which I can be in this game). It's an edge-of-seat gripping adventure with a cleverly written script mixing dire despair and desperation with dark humour and even darker oppression.
You soon get used to, and then learn to love (okay maybe not love exactly but accept and enjoy) the unusual graphics with the starkness of the black & white characters drawn into (occasional) places of vivid but earthly colours (browns and shades of brown mainly).
The fact that it's mainly black gives me the chance to use an old adept to describe BEHOLDER; it's Marmite!