Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor: Someone has to Pick up the Trash Heroes Leave Behind
How often do you find yourself playing a game with a thirst for adventure, wanting to go travel into the untamed wastes to experience everything the world has to offer?
What if I told you there was a game where as soon as you begin your journey, you’re cursed and then thrown back into your humdrum life as a janitor?
This is Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, developed by Sundae Month and published by Tiny Build Games. The title is a self-proclaimed “non-adventure” game, which is an apt title considering what Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor actually is. Your quest is as follows: go about cleaning up after other people while looking for the means to gather pieces of a tablet in order to reverse the curse that’s been put on you. For reference, the curse is a skull that follows you around and goes “BWAH!” on occasion, and also prevents you from leaving the planet.
To do this, you need to gather certain items for the colorful denizens of the spaceport. It can be anything from gaining luck from the gods by worshiping them and gathering their fetishes, trading with merchants in order to gain more capital, or getting a porn magazine for a sentient pile of sludge.
No, that’s not a joke.
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a unique game to say the least, and it seems to go against everything one may expect from a video game. It focuses on the benign, mundane aspects of life and the seemingly eternal toil we may face while working at a dead end job. Throughout the Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, you’re constantly reminded that you’re destitute, as sometimes you can’t even function because you haven’t eaten that day. However, the only food available is usually street vendor food at best or food that’s been rotting away on the ground at worst. Every food item has a chance of making you sick. You’ll be vomiting everywhere, and this majorly cuts into the time you’re supposed to be spending cleaning up other people’s trash.
Every once in a while, you need to change your gender; as in, you buy a new gender from a vending machine, or you won’t be able to walk straight. The system itself can often come out of nowhere, and while it’s a burden to deal with from what can be gathered in game, you’re meant to view this as a kind of disability; if you don’t do this you can’t go about your life as normal, which adds another layer of difficulty to your already impoverished life. Not only are you living from meal to meal and paycheck to paycheck, but you’re unable to always afford medical care for yourself.
The denizens of the spaceport are all done in 2d pixel art style on the 3d low poly backgrounds, which gives Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor an interesting aesthetic. The problem, then, is when you find more than one of the same creature walking next to each other and you notice that there is little to no difference.
One may think it’s because they’re part of the same race, but no, they’re almost identical in every way. It doesn’t help matters that this problem transfers over to the merchants too. Not all of them suffer from this and the designs aren’t bad designs, but seeing too many of them in one place was a little disconcerting. This world is designed like a living, breathing place where every creature walks around and does things, yet small things like that can place several fine cracks in the setting you’re trying to build.
Each piece of trash has an intrinsic value to it, with some being worth more than others when you incinerate them. However, you may want to keep your trash for the traders, who often deal in trading certain items for treasure. For example, the scrap metal vendor will give you extra credits if you sell him large chunks of scrap metal. There are countless traders like this spread across the several districts of the spaceport, which gives you seemingly endless possibilities of trade options. This makes it important to note which day it is, because each trader shows up on different days, and you have to keep track of them in order to make the maximum amount of profit.
It doesn’t help matters when certain merchants look the same however, and it’s hard to figure out when the prices will go up. Your luck, which can be cultivated from being dutiful to the goddesses, can help with this... but it’s not always up to divine intervention, and sometimes up to the RNG. It’s no doubt meant to emulate the struggle of life itself, but there are times where it gets random enough that it’ll break the tight grip the game has on you.
Here’s how an average “day” in the Spaceport goes for you as the janitor: you wake up to your bland, low-poly room, feeling hungry, and you go over to your console and collect your earnings from the previous day. You pray to the goddess of your choosing, and then leave to grab some food before starting your day. There’s a lot of trash to be burned, and as you wander the district, you occasionally see things you want in order to further your quest and get off this rock, but you’re unable to get them because of how poor you are. At this point, you may think to yourself:
“Well life may be better tomorrow, I’ll earn more that way.”
Then after going home and writing in your diary, you go to sleep and your day starts anew; the same as yesterday but a little bit further along in your quest. It personifies the meaning of one step forward and two steps back by putting you in situations where you’ll be forced to spend your money in order to take care of yourself, rather than being able to save up to get out of your life.
This isn’t the sort of game that’s appealing to everyone, far from it. Its music is bizarre and alien, the environment isn’t always friendly, you’re always put upon by burden and it doesn’t go out of its way to make you feel like you’re accomplishing anything. To be honest though, that’s part of the appeal.
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor goes outside of what makes a game fun and decides to give greater meaning to the day to day struggle of living. While it does succeed at this, it does run into a few speed bumps along the way, making it a sometimes frustrating experience rather than one that resonates completely with all players. It is still worth looking into if you wish to play something that goes far enough outside of the norm that it just so happens to land among the stars.
Note: A copy of this was provided by for review.