I of the Beholder

I guess one thing the Steam sales are good for is getting some games on your Wishlist. Even though I spend a majority of my time playing Dota 2 and Town of Salem, I still have a single player niche that needs filling, for when I don’t have anyone to play with. I noticed this game during the Christmas Steam sale, but it didn’t pique my interest enough to be worth buying at the time.

It was on sale again recently, and now that I’ve finished Beautiful Japanese Scenery – Animated Jigsaws, I thought I’d give it a shot.

You play Carl, an apartment manager in a totalitarian city (I can’t remember if it has a name). You and your family move into the basement of the apartment that you manage, and must make ends meet while also following directives from the ministry. There will be minor spoilers in this review, but I’ll try to keep it to the first 15 minutes of the game, as the game is still fairly new.

As the apartment manager, you aren’t expected to do typical things like repair pipes (though on occasion, there will be broken furniture that you need to fix). Instead, you are expected to spy on your neighbours, via installing hidden cameras in their apartments, searching their rooms when they aren’t at home, and peeping through their keyholes. Of course, you don’t need to do any of these things, however, your family has needs, your wife wants to buy groceries, your son has university expenses, and one of the few ways to make money in this game is to turn in reports on your neighbours, or blackmail them.

Periodically, the ministry will issue directives banning certain things. If you catch your tenants doing any of these things, a red icon will appear, and you can record it in your journal. After that, you will get an option to turn your tenant in to the ministry.

(Ignore the incorrect date in the screenshot, I fixed it later.)

The ministry will review your report, and then send police to verify. What the police do after they arrive is… pretty disheartening.

I had to get a new tenant for apartment 1.

The game forces you to make some tough decisions. Your son requires books to study at university, which cost $2000 (you make about $300 for a quest). I managed to borrow the books from one of the tenants, which made my son happy (and saved me $2k). Then I get a phone call from the ministry telling me to spy on that tenant (who I’ll call Boris). I felt pretty terrible, but I did it anyway, because you can see the fate of the last apartment manager in the opening scene of the game, and it’s not pretty.

So when I got the order to “make Boris disappear”, I felt obligated to try and make it up to Boris in some way, so I warned him that he was in danger, which I thought was the right thing to do. Boris thanked me, but then revealed that unless he was able to falsify a passport, he wouldn’t be able to escape, and they’d kill him. At that point, I figured what’s a little fraud compared to wrongful murder, so I helped him get his papers in order, which involved bribing someone else, and soon I started down the rabbit hole.

I ended up losing the game in my first playthrough and being fired, and it was fascinating to think about all the decisions I made along the way, and how I got there. I started the game telling myself that I’d have an iron-heart and do what needed to be done (after all, I’m supposedly lawful good). That crumbled pretty quickly –  I mean, why would you ban wearing jeans?!

So despite Pharmacist calling me a fascist, I couldn’t do it. I ended up getting fined for breaking the law, didn’t have enough money to pay the fine, and got fired from my job. Game over.

Next time, I will have an iron heart!

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