Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor - HighrezGaming

Go to content

Main menu:

Reviews > Cross-Platform

Diaries of a Space Port Janitor / 15th of October 2016

The greatest heroes are usually the ones you don’t expect. Also along these lines, the strangest and most far-fetched of games are usually some of the most fascinating and incredible. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a game about you being a low-life drone who picks up trash for a living. The concept sounds like a slightly fancier version of Viscera Cleanup Duty, however, after finding myself being encapsulated in this game’s story, world and characters I’ve found myself utterly amazed at this unassuming little indie game.

The first thing to note is that the story isn’t exactly a grand adventure. As mentioned you are just a trash collector on the streets of a huge alien planet filled with all kinds of creatures and robots. In the skies above you giant floating ships and creatures pass on by, possibly on some big journey. Around you are hundreds, maybe even thousands of organisms just wandering about on their daily business not paying you any mind. Scale is perhaps the word that comes to mind. When you usually play these types of games where you encounter a wide variety of species and explore alien planets it usually entails in you getting loot, obtaining quests and defeating monsters. That is all present in this game, however it’s all rooted in reality that sometimes hits a bit too close to home. You are just a small spec on the galaxy, almost non-existent to many people who pass you by. One day you may find yourself deciding to jump into a dungeon and try going on an adventure but as a janitor you’re not meant for dungeon diving, you’re meant to clean trash and that’s exactly what you will do. Maybe, however, just maybe, you will find your way out of this poverty stricken life and take to the stars, making your own adventure. As depressing as this description may sound, the story actually makes you feel quite compelled to do better in this world. Your character is simply an extension of yourself, as bolstered by the fact that at the end of each working day you can write in your diary using the keyboard about what you did that day. It gives you a way to focus, a way to keep you on point and keep you hopeful. That’s endearing and hopeful to me as any other space opera.
The presentation of this game is perhaps one of the most stylised and yet most beautiful I have seen in a game. While it uses retro style pixel graphics the entire world is actually 3D and has these 2D sprites superimposed on the terrain and objects. You would think this would make the world look a bit uglier and just be used to nostalgia-bate people who loved the original DOOM, however, the graphic style works so well and plays into the work so seamlessly that you start accepting the world for being fully realised even though it hasn’t got any realistic looking visuals. The streets are active, full of characters and things happening all around it truly makes the world feel alive and like a proper spaceport rather than just another generic alien environment. You start getting used to the different districts, the alien merchants become familiar faces to you and this whole little city starts to feel a lot more like home to you as you explore and remember more and more of it. The music too is absolutely fantastic with upbeat and cheery music playing for most of the time to keep you going despite the monotony of the situation. If on a certain day a festival is going on when you pass by the market street you may hear and even see a band playing some music in celebration of their goddesses. It helps as a form of world-building and effectively works to set the mood of the area, even when the music becomes a lot more sombre and dark when entering dungeons.

The gameplay is a bit of a hit or miss I believe for some people. As you would expect your job as a janitor is to go around the streets and pick up objects you find. You can incinerate them which at the end of each day will give you some credits that you can use to buy food and medicine. You can find rare items that you can trade with the merchants to get even more money or even special items. You can even try to use the items you find to complete quests in order to advance in the dystopian society you find yourself in and maybe make a better life for yourself. For actual gameplay purposes this just ends up with you looking around and picking up stuff which isn’t exactly exhilarating gameplay. If I have to fault this game for anything it’s that it is terrible at telling you exactly what you need to do. While the joy of discovery is a good feeling and definitely helps create the tone for some games, like Minecraft, this game drops you onto an alien marketplace with no rhyme or reason. When you start questioning what on earth a genderswap is in relation to this world you find yourself in or how you find a fetish of a goddess you start to become frustrated as the game doesn’t tell you what you need to do, or in other cases simply gives you quest objectives concerning things that you don’t understand or haven’t encountered yet. A tutorial wouldn’t go amiss, or even just a way to explain the backstory of the world and the objects you find, something like a digital codex or a similar gameplay element would help players to at least progress in this story.
Perhaps, however, that is the ultimate point of this game. To show you that the monotony of existence is not something you can just get a magic way out of. That you have to work incredibly hard and keep trying different things until you find out what exactly works in this world and how you can truly be happy. It’s bleak, it’s dystopian, it’s a reminder of your own nine to five reality, and yet somehow it helps to give you hope. No matter what Space Marine or Commander Shepard is out there in the cosmos beating up the bad guys and saving all the planets, somebody has got to clean up the trash. In many ways, that makes you one of the most important people in this world, because those heroes sure as hell aren’t gonna do it. Play this game just to experience its world and the message it tries to get across, it certainly is unlike anything else you will ever play.
Jack McKay
Back to content | Back to main menu