I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!. What is this game?
No really. What is it? Because it seems to me that it’s an attempt by the creators, Sundae Month, to know exactly what it’s like to be on drugs. At least I assume it is since I’ve never done any. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor bills itself as an anti-adventure game, which I feel is a lie. It’s an adventure game pure and simple. You go around picking up trash, you can trade in that trash to NPC’s for money or other items, you eat food, you wander into a subterranean maze which sends a screaming skull that follows you around for eternity. You know, adventure game stuff.
You wanna know more about the screaming skull? So do I. After 8 hours of playing Diaries, all that happened was that I lost the skull and…. I was back to being the person I was before. There was no reason why you had it or explanation for it in the slightest. Even when I gathered and read the tablets I was just as confused as before. Basically what you do is grind, and grind, and grind until you get enough money to buy things, or you somehow happen to wander across an important NPC that gives you a quest.
I think that’s the kindest thing I can say about this game is that it’s a very shallow adventure game pretending to be something more. It’s like Harvest Moon in space but without any of the depth. For instance, there’s a food mechanic too but it really doesn’t add much. You play, you get hungry, you eat something, then you’re ok until the next day.If you don’t eat you can’t fall asleep and advance the days. Pretty much the same thing with the other mechanic, Gender Dysphoria.
This one does have some in-game effects. You’ll be wandering around, minding your own business and picking up trash when lines start going across your screen and you have trouble seeing. That’s the sign that you need to get a gender swap. So you take a little stroll to your handy dandy gender swap machine and pick a new one, but these aren’t genders like male or female, oh no. The game decides to bypass that issue altogether by giving you such hilarious genders as “Dirt”, “Susan Sarandon” and much more.
It seemed like the game wanted to bring up some really important social issues but failed to give it any meaning. Your character model doesn’t change, other people don’t view you any differently, and other than needing to do it every once in awhile to make your screen go back to normal, it has no effects. It’s just more grinding you have to do.
As to the titular “Diary” I really had some fun with it. When you go to bed each night you may write in it and then you can return and read your previous pages. You can write down what you did, what your goals are, or do like I did and make it an existential look at the bleakness of life and the screaming skull that follows you wherever you go.
The spaceport is huge but to add to my frustration there is no map. More often than not you’ll just wander around, pick up trash, sell it to people, or incinerating it for days (in-game). Just trudging along bored and unable to fail. You can’t die or starve and nothing bad happens to you. There’s no urgency in this game and no consequence for failing. The worst thing that can happen to your janitor is losing your money and starting again. Which I guess is the point?
I’m not entirely sure who this game is aimed at with so many frustrating mechanics but the art and music are fantastic. Everything is a new adventure and I never felt like I was just going in circles. The environment is huge and well designed, the characters are all unique and well done. All of the interactive items have well written and often humorous descriptions. Despite all of it, I just couldn’t bring myself to keep playing the grind and trudging around. When I get home from work I want to send myself somewhere new to another world and Diaries didn’t do that. It kept me in my current world, and it was just day in and day out of the same things over and over with just enough variety to keep me mildly interested.
Maybe I’ve been going about this game all wrong. Maybe it’s not a game.
Maybe Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a metaphor for life? Maybe it’s a metaphor for being a poor person in a system that routinely oppresses you. Maybe, just maybe, it’s meant to be a shining ray of light in an otherwise dull life, filling you with a hope that one day you’ll be able to escape the monotony of your life and explore the vastness of space. Maybe it’s meant to teach you that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you want.
Either that or the dev’s really wanted to make you see what it was like to be on acid. If you think you’re the kind of person who would enjoy this game, go ahead and pick it up. It’s not that expensive. You can pick it up for $11 CAD on Steam.
Yves Hacault is a content writer and not a fan of spaceport janitoring. His views are his own.