It's not often you play a game that you can't understand. Abstraction is usually found in the theater, working best on the surreal indefinable machinations of a visionary. Naturally, games can't really follow suit, but Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor gives it a bloody good go .
When bound by the framework of an engine or a coding language, it can be tricky to make something weird. You learn to code a shoot em up, or a platformer, and you're inevitably bound by the hallmarks of the type of project you've decided to undertake. I wouldn't even know where to begin if you were to ask me to pin down DOASJ's genre because it's in its own strange league.
The game is, to put it bluntly, overwhelming. In both a positive and negative manner, you're subject to a five-course meal for your senses. A snare on the brain that is both enticing and nauseating. At its worst, it gave me a pernicious headache, but it's a testament to the game that I came right back.
Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor puts you in the shoes of a Sanidrone, a low-paid Alaensee Girlbeast whose sole purpose is to pick crap up off the floor and eat it, keep it or burn it. You're told at the start that you want to leave the planet, but that's all the exposition you're ever going to get.
The world you're dropped into is gorgeous. It's a lo-fi delight, unlike anything I've seen. The camera spins around your character as they wander in a 3D plane, with every 2D alien popping into view and spouting garbled nonsense. It often feels like you've walked onto the set of a scrapped Rick and Morty episode. Street bands play charming tunes and unidentifiable ships career above you, reminding you of the hopeless situation you've found yourself in.
The game works in a vicious cycle mirroring the monotony of modern day blue-collar work. You pick trash all day, eat your daily nutrients, then hit the sack and recharge your incinerator. You wake up the next morning, maybe store that cool bird candle you found behind the smut shop, pray to your god, receive your municipally-subsidised credit chips and get back to cleaning up the place.
"Do not deviate from your routine, Embrace it" reads the Steam store page. The game wants you to gorge on its reverse psychology and find structure in its absurdity, but take one step out of line and you're in crazy town. There's a lottery machine which means you could be a millionaire every day. A gender-changing station that lets you identify as 'Chryogene' or 'Susan-Sarandon'
There's also a sewer-dungeon in the middle of town with which you can only enter if you eat the eye of one of the gods you choose from at the game's start. Once in, you're trapped in a first person viewpoint and become subject to a deafening version of the THX sound, as a cryptic door reveals a room filled with deity statues.
A cute skull dude is sitting on a pedestal in the back, but if you touch him he shouts 'WEH' at you and you wake up the next morning. You're now cursed, and this neat looking skull is now following you everywhere, shouting at you for reasons unknown. The sewer labyrinth has a certain allure, and a mystery I may never understand. I keep returning only to wander too far into the viscous goo (an area only open on Havalana, one of the game's days of the week) where fractals intercept my path and the agoraphobia starts to set in. The card in the top left of my screen reads "you are being hunted", but I seldom notice it until a terror resembling the Starbucks logo engulfs my screen, forcing me back outside.
The diary part of the games title became a strong means to push me forward, as every night before sleep I'd catalog my macabre findings, hoping to remember each detail of the puzzle so I could one day have my Eureka moment.
'One man's trash is another man's treasure' is another key message this game wants to push. Yes, you could incinerate that pile of dirt, but you could also take it to the sentient pile of dirt in the green quarter who buys it off you for double the price. Merchant's are everywhere, and they want your stuff, and they'll pay out the nose if you find the right garbage.
These range from businesses to charity cases. There's a small bug man who likes to collect containers, promising a reward after I hit a milestone. It's been 10 days but I'm so intrigued by his vice that I keep plugging away, hoping my venture isn't hollow. Some days I eat rotten food only to puke it back up so I can get a quick buck. If I create my own trash that's more money in my pocket right?
Reading this might already make you feel a bit nauseous, but I do believe there's something brewing inside this mess that is quite wholesome. It certainly kept my attention, and although for the most part, it feels like an out-of-body experience, Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor is like nothing I've ever played before, and I'd ask you to give it a go, mainly because a couple more beady eyes on this Picasso may help us all comprehend it better.
Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor was reviewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on itch.io .
An interesting exploration of blue-collar monotony with a macabre twist, Diaries Of A Spaceport Janitor begs to be explored and understood(Review Policy)