Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a weird and wonderful game. In it you live the life of a lowly janitor working her arse off to scrape a few Municipal Credits together for a journey off the vibrant, but insane spaceport she currently calls home. Her life is one of toil, hardship, loneliness and the daily grind. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but somehow through all the tedium of her daily life, the game manages to be endearing.
This is a game that you play at your own pace, despite the demonic floating skull that’s always behind you (more on that later). It’s up to you how you spend each day: you can either go around, picking up and incinerating rubbish that’s lying on the ground for a few bob, or you can relax and take in the colourful surroundings, learning about the spaceport. You don’t have to incinerate rubbish, either, you can keep it, drop it or sometimes even eat it – the game handily reminding you when you’re hungry as you can’t sleep whilst craving food. To spell your hunger you can purchase dodgy street food too (requiring you can afford it), with the sound of frying delicacies getting louder as you approach the vendors.
The hunger mechanic serves only to slow your money down, but this spurs you on to incinerate even more rubbish the next day, as money is important for your quest. At the game’s opening you are given an eye to eat (yuck), which, you are informed, is the only way to enter the dungeon. Once an eye is eaten you are sent into a trippy, first-person view-point with drowned out colours and a lack of overall focus. You enter the dungeon, and leave, seemingly unharmed. Except for the demonic floating skull curse, naturally. This lovingly leaves you with a skull floating behind you at all times, occasionally screaming to remind you of its existence. It’s your quest to get rid of this skull and get off the spaceport.
While walking around, picking up and incinerating rubbish, the screen can go all wobbly, fuzzy and text becomes almost impossible to read. You need to gendershift. Your body will get tired of its assigned gender every now and then, making you feel out of sorts and unable to focus on your life properly. The solution to this problem is rather simple, however, as you need to find a gender booth, put in some Municipal credits and eat your choice of gender. This essentially correlates to costing you money and only serves to slow your progress down. There’s an underlying agenda with it too, but the names of the genders you’re assigned can be pretty funny, so you can’t be annoyed for too long. If you really want to, you can ignore the gender mechanic. It will leave your screen in that horrible state, so the getting rid of it does help out a lot. No matter what gender you’re given, you will feel amazing, which is nice.
You’re always given an idea of how you feel. Eat something dodgy? You’ll probably start feeling uneasy, which will likely develop into you vomiting all over the place. Nice. You also need to build up your luck, which seems to affect all manner of things, including what rubbish you find lying on the floor. You build up your luck by praying to Goddess statues, offering them items such as candles and by finding the right items to either eat or drop in certain areas. Indeed, you need to pay attention to the rubbish you pick up. Sure, incinerating everything is a steady way to earn some credits, but there is a quicker way if you know what you’re doing. Selling items.
There are hundreds of street vendors scattered across the spaceport, each offering something different to buy or sell. I don’t understand why you’d buy anything but the Goddess fetishes (which are important for your quest), however. You think a really expensive gun will serve you well? Think again. Seeing all the weird and wonderful items in the game is as much about discovery and worldbuilding as it is serving any particular purpose. A look at the desks of the market stalls will show you the items they sell and buy. See one that you’ve got in your backpack? Sell it! That’s your key to making as much money as possible.
The trouble is, remembering what stall sells what item is impossible. There is no map in the game. Traversing the lively spaceport is overwhelming. The map is split into different coloured sections, with handy arrows on the floor to help you find your way (particularly useful for heading home), but really, you’re left on your own. I told you this game is about discovery. Well, you have to discover how to traverse your environment. Take note of the landmarks! Landmarks are your friend in Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor.
There’s a lot to take in, but you don’t get much time to take it all in. You have to go home every night to sleep and the day cycle is rather short. The battery of your personal incinerator will run out, and before long you’ll get hungry again. Going to bed in this game is therapeutic, too. Just before you start counting sheep, you can write into your diary. It’s a great way to collect your thoughts after yet another hectic day and helps you to set out your plan of action for the next day. It’s another feature that gives the game a level of charm that isn’t seen in a lot of triple-A titles. Maybe the life of a spaceport janitor isn’t that bad, after all?
What’s that? I can’t progress? What do you mean my save file has been erased? No achievements? I have to start the game from the beginning in order to finish it? Well then. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is fun and oddly relaxing, despite its hectic, overwhelming city, but it is also currently plagued with a terrible number of bugs and glitches. I simply cannot recommend a game that is as horribly broken as this is. It’s clear that the game wasn’t ready to be released. It’s a real shame, as I enjoyed what I played of Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, but it just isn’t worth your money or time at the moment. If you’re really interested, the developers are rather vocal, so pay attention to Steam discussions and Twitter feeds of the game. I’d like to spend more time as the plucky janitor, but for now, at least, my time as a spaceport janitor is over.