Amidst the hype of large shooters and daunting open worlds this October, it’s sometimes important to look at the games that keep it simple and a bit mindless.
“Viscera Cleanup Detail” takes a job that many consider boring — janitorial work — and somehow makes it magical. It’s mop work without the disgusting smells of reality. There’s something engaging about methodically cleaning a small area, and I’m not quite sure I can put my finger on why.
The plot, if it can be called that, is bare-bones. You are the janitor on a spaceship assigned to clean up different extremely violent scenarios, from science experiments gone wrong to attacks from disgusting aliens right out of H.R. Giger’s portfolio.
The player doesn’t see any of this action. They only clean up the mess. Many of the environments have their own small stories to tell from the messes left behind. They’re not all very dramatic or deep stories, but they still lend “Viscera” a darkly humorous style.
Cleaning itself doesn’t seem that fun at first. It’s about as fun as cleaning up pools of blood in real life is. Your mop gets filthy very quickly, and cleaning your mop dirties up one of your buckets of water. You can have as many water buckets as you want, but each bucket can only clean your mop so many times before the water becomes a reddish brown muck.
Speaking of which, the physics engine is a joke, seemingly coming right out of “Goat Simulator.” It takes great care not to accidentally knock over one of the many dirty buckets you’ll inevitably accumulate.
This doesn’t sound like much fun, so how is it so enjoyable? To be honest, it’s actually pretty funny to learn the game for the first time. The first time I learned I left bloody footprints everywhere that made me laugh more than curse the game. Learning the game takes trial and error, but it’s such hilarious trial and error that it’s hard to care.
Once the player actually learns the game, it’s a very meditative experience. Progress is always clear and steady. Seeing every room of the map go from a bloody mess to spick-and-span is immensely satisfying.
There’s also multiplayer, if you want help cleaning the various levels. If cleaning a room alone is satisfying, you can bet that doing it with a friend is even more so. The experience gets a little chaotic when more than two people enter the mix, but for a fun and goofy time, “Viscera” multiplayer works.
What you get out of “Viscera Cleanup Detail” really depends on what you put in. If you’re willing to put in the effort to clean a massive virtual space, it’s very satisfying. If you’re just looking for a silly physics nightmare, it also works as that. If you have a few buddies who want to play something eccentric, it’ll do the trick. Of all things, it’s astounding that it’s the janitorial simulator that manages to offer that much versatility.