Aren’t you tired of being a space marine? Aren’t you tired of splattering the walls with blood and guts and coming home at the end of the day with hard-won glory? I know I am. I’m tired of the world resting on my shoulders while a trail of the bits and pieces of the dead that I leave in my wake simply fall behind my step. It’s exhausting having everything depend on you for no discernible reason other than you happen to be a particularly important individual. Master whatnow? Uh, maybe later.
Viscera Cleanup Detail takes that sentiment, whether you actually feel it or not, and amplifies it to the degree at which you end up making a game about it. It is, for the most part, exactly what it sounds like. Here is how the developers at RuneStorm set up their game:
Disaster! An alien invasion and subsequent infestation have decimated this facility. Many lives were lost, the facility was ruined and the aliens were unstoppable. All hope was lost until one survivor found the courage to fight back and put the aliens in their place!
It was a long and horrific battle as the survivor dueled with all manner of horrific life-forms and alien mutations, but our hero won out in the end and destroyed the alien menace! Humanity was saved!
So what do you think happens after that? I mean, there’s still a mess of alien innards lying about all over the ship! Obviously, they clean it up. I’m assuming that far into the future where we could have massively inhabitable spacecraft and possess technology to potentially defeat alien invaders, inflation is a nightmare and payments on this ship are craaaaazy, so you best start swabbin’ the deck because no one else is going to do it.
The mechanics of the game are extremely simple. (At least they are in this alpha build. This Steam Greenlight project is the product of 10 intense days of work with the Unreal Development Kit.) You have a mop that you use to clean up blood on the floors and walls; you have a bucket of water you use to clean off that mop; and you can pick up various things and put them in other things.
To wit, you can pick up pieces of the alien gizzard smorgasbord and put them in a hazardous materials bin and then pick up that bin and put it in the incinerator. Or you can pick up said livers of unknown origin and throw them against the wall for hours on end. But then you have to clean up the blood those flung goodies leave behind. And be careful you don’t spill a dirty (read: bloody) bucket of mop water because then you’ll have to clean that up, too. And don’t forget to pick up all of those bullet casings.
Sweet Jesus there are so many bullet casings.
And that’s it. I entered it expecting some sort of ambient storytelling device unfolding as you walk around the cavernous halls of this spaceship, but nope! You just clean and clean and clean and clean and…oh god, what am I doing?! The entire experience is so incredibly mundane but doesn’t take any sort of learned skill like when you finally get good at driving in Euro Truck Simulator 2. You can only pick up things and push your mop at things. Seems accurate for a space janitor simulator, though.
It’s that simplicity, however, that really gets the point across. About three minutes in, I mishandled a bucket full of guts and spilled everything back onto the floor. It was just three minutes worth of work, but it was about 20 or so of the same repetitive but just different enough movements to get to that point. I wasn’t angry or depressed or anything. I realized my entire being was filled with absolutely nothing. It was so mind-numbingly boring that I forgot to even care that it was wholly pointless to begin with.
That may be the whole crux of the game. Cleaning up the mess left behind as a hero collects his innumerable tokens of adoration and misplaced worship is, of course, going to be a worthless endeavor. No one thanks you at the end. There is no finish line to cross. After you finish mopping up all of the blood and collecting all the giblets, you are still just a space janitor, not a hero. In the end, it may be just as necessary, but it is so much more thankless. Probably because everyone is too busy admiring the hero, showering him with money and fine wine and, I dunno, otters in tiny hats.
But not like anyone would thank you anyways.