So it’s your first day on the shift. It’s a new day and you have a new job: Space-Station Janitor. Surely it can’t be that hard, right? What’s the worst that could happen on a space station? Let’s face it – if there’s anywhere in the known universe that people have to keep clean and act professionally, then it’s probably a space station.
Unless of course you turn up on that first day to the scene of a massacre, then that probably wouldn’t be so great. In fact, that would be the exact scenario set out in Viscera Cleanup Detail.
You play as the only member of a one-man cleanup crew, sent to tidy up the bloody aftermath of a gruesome battle. It’s easy to forget when you’re playing Mass Effect or Dead Space that some poor guy has to come clean up after you. But I mean sure, go ahead, spray fifty bullets into the wall just so it crudely resembles your name. In VCD, however, you pay for all that death, destruction and havoc you’ve gamed your way through over the years, one mop and bucket at a time. To complete a level takes a while: you have to mop, tidy and fix up things that you wouldn’t even consider. Bullet casings, for example, scatter the floors. Automated minigun turrets need their barrels replacing, and don’t even get me started on the bloodstains.
The game is harsh, but strangely satisfying. Your mop will get dirty and at some point will cause more mess than it cleans. You can rinse it in the bucket, but after a few rinses the water will be dirty and needs replacing. Upon replacing the water, you might take a shortcut through a pool of alien blood. But then that leaves bloody footprints across the carpet and suddenly you realise why your mum always got you to take off your shoes at the door.
VCD pushes a systematic approach to cleaning: running in a random pattern across the room will only take more time. Trying to tidy and mop at the same time may seem like a good idea but will probably cause more areas to mop. It’s a game that doesn’t take its self too seriously, but that also has a level of thought behind it that creates an enjoyable experience. In a strangely therapeutic way, seeing that you’ve tidied an entire room or level (if you have the patience) is extremely rewarding: you get to see the hard work you’ve put in developing over time until finally you have an end product that looks… well, polished.
Don’t get me wrong, by no means is Viscera Cleanup Detail going to blow your mind: at best it’s slightly comedic way to kill a few hours on a Sunday between assignments. But so long as that’s how you understand the game before playing it, then it’s definitely not a title you’ll want to sweep under the rug!