You know what it’s like. You wake up the day after a long days work and you remember that you became cursed by an floating skull that likes to periodically scream in your face as you go about your daily duties. The day had started like any other day, but you found a random note on the floor that hinted at treasure in the old sewer system and you also happened to meet an oddly large street vendor who just so happened to have some eyes for sale.
Obviously you couldn’t actually go looking for treasure without a nice lucky eye first. How were you to know they we’re also a hallucinogen that would leave you in a surreal dream like state for the rest of the day? And now here you are, stuck with your new companion and with little to no idea what to do. So you get dressed, collect your pay and pay to the goddesses before heading back out onto the streets to tackle the Spaceport’s litter woes and attempt to find a solution to your own.
There’s a sense of melancholy hanging over all proceedings, this feeling of dull and repetitive procedural day to day. Your life could be full of potential buy you are instead tied to the recurring movements of this Spaceport, your hopefully temporary home. Even before playing you are given a sense of disappointment with graphic settings ranging from bad to worse. The whole game has an interesting visual style, a quasi-rpg with 2d sprite based characters in a polygon world, a retro-mid 90’s ascetic that feels like early playstation graphics (a visual style that we are going to see more of I can assure you).
Every day is much the same, explore the station while picking up rubbish and incinerating it tp earn a wage. As you do, you’re also looking for a solution to your skull problem, and for a way off the planet. You never quite earn enough to do anything substantial though, ending up perpetually hungry and tired, spending what little you earn on food so you can keep working on getting out of the place you find yourself in.
It’s a brilliant metaphor for every day working life for much of the population of the real world. A reflection of mediocrity, not being in terrible suffering or great wealth, just muddling through feeling quietly oppressed as you scrape by with what little you can get. Your problems being tied to you, constantly nagging away at you, not affecting the world as a whole or being the end of it, but still ever present and draining. Like I said before, there’s a deep undercurrent of melancholy to everything.
Ironically for a game that is partially about disappointment the overall state of Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is in line with this theme. During playthrough we saw numerous issues with the games overall frame-rate with slowdown taking place seemingly in random spots. There’s also an overly loose camera at work here. The camera feeling very floaty and difficult to keep under control, small movements are slow and large ones erratic and overly herd to work with. In some sections this feels deliberate, after eating an eyeball and its subsequent hallucinogenic fps effects for example.
This camera is an issue both with mouse and controller, and while its not game breaking it is something that definitely detracts from the overall experience. This is all the more disappointing as the game is such a unique experience.
It’s rare that a game is such an interesting prospect, bringing the mundane to the fantastical. Creating empathy in a place of impossibility. It’s charming and one of a kind, it will be interesting to see if more game go for the retro-3d style visuals that Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor embraces.