Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
Developer: Sundae Month
Publisher: tinyBuild

Diary Entry No 1: I have been cursed! Just my luck, a Janitor and cursed? Apparently I need to find three pieces to an ancient stone tablet. I shall name my skull companion Mr. Skulley. He is kinda annoying but I think he is misunderstood.

Diary Entry No 16: Success! I have found all eight god fetishes and now all that is left is to find the final piece which I believe lies in the dark mysterious city dungeons.

Diary Entry No 18: So, as it turns out I made the tablet and now I need to buy an extremely rare item or find five extremely rare items. No big deal El Skeletor is good company and with some luck and trading I can get this done in no time.

Diary Entry No 33: WTF, I found an armor that is worth 3000MC and the vendor bought it from me for 50MC. This is getting silly. Oh yeah that item I need is a minimum 1000MC or more.

Diary Entry No 49: I give up.

Diary Entry No 55: wasdwdadsdasdwasdsd (Keeps jamming on enter button to get to the next day.)

The above more or less represents my journey through Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor although slightly exaggerated.

The world of Diaries is a spectacularly strange and never have I felt an alien city feel so alive and thriving. The games first five minutes are an assault on your eyeballs as you try to sort through all the colors, weirdness, and fantastical art style. I mean all of that in a good way, but it is very overwhelming at first. If I had to describe Diaries style, it reminds me of Adventure Time meets Chowder. It is unabashedly weird but makes sense once you get into the nitty gritty of the city.

So what is Diaries all about? Well, the game starts off by you telling one important thing, "There is no dying or losing, take your time and enjoy the game at your own pace." So as you can expect, the tone of the game is very relaxed. You're let loose upon this vibrant pixel city and while you have a main goal of removing the curse its not meant to be an immediate concern.
You can spend your first couple of days familiarizing yourself with the city layout and how the basic mechanics work.

To sum, you wake up, get money, eat, collect trash, trade, do quests, explore, gendershift(more on this later), and sleep. Rinse and repeat. There are nine days in a week and each one has a shifting theme on the city. The city itself, is mixture of 2d and 3d elements blended rather well. Camera placement becomes a bit wonky at times and leads to clipping through buildings, but that is rare. Music and sound does a good job of matching the tone and environment of Diaries. Aliens meow, squawk, bark and make all sorts of strange noises that never really got tiresome. The only thing that did grate on my nerves was our friendly, floating, skull constantly feeling the need roar at us non stop. I understand the character is cursed but by about four or five hours in I had turned down my speakers out of annoyance. There is also this random annoying whistling noise that plays during certain events, that happens often.

For the most part, the entire city is a trade port filled to the brim with gizmos, gadgets, junk and everything in between. The port itself is filled with all sorts of unique alien denizens moving about in what feels like an actual busy district.

The beautiful part of all these people moving about is that not just trash hits the floor, but sometimes very valuable or useful items. Mind you a good eighty percent of it is garbage but some of it can be useful. It all really depends on your luck. Luck is an actual mechanic in the game that is always shifting down due to your skeletal friends curse. You counter act this by praying to the eight gods or performing/collecting lucky items and events. This can range from putting a token down in a certain part of the city to bringing the correct offering to one of the gods worshiping sites.

Aside from luck there are other things that do require daily maintenance, your character will need to eat before she goes to bed. Food costs money and prices are always shifting depending on supply and demand.  Another strange requirement is to gendershift which if you were to ask me what the hell that means, I still don't know. What I do know is that when the game prompts you to gendershift the entire screen becomes pixelated and it becomes difficult to see where you are going. This happens OFTEN and I found it to be quite an annoyance. There is no benefit from gendershifting and it never really is clarified what it is or why its there. Just another thing to maintain which costs MC(Muncipal credits) the money of the game.

So you've familiarized yourself with the city, its people and now you want to free yourself of the curse. This is where things get a bit off the rails in my opinion. The first three tasks are delightful and fun. Collecting items and exploring is a treat in this game. The items you need can be found or purchased and it all is very random in a whimsical way. Where things hit a massive snag is near the end of the game. Unless you are fortunate enough, the final quest in the game requires collection of extremely expensive or rare items. I wasn't one of the lucky ones sadly. Which means that my fate was left to the games markets trading system.

This is where my major gripe with the game comes into play. The prices are completely unfair towards the player. You can only earn credits by burning trash and trading in junk which at max nets you 50MC on either task. Take out the fact you need to eat which can range anywhere from 20-30MC and constantly gendershift which is another 15MC.
Now I am being VERY generous to the idea of trading for 50MC as it it not common at all. Burning trash for 50MC is conceivable if that is your main focus for the day.  I will let you do the math but it isn't an easy system at all, matter of fact It's painstakingly slow. There are numerous times where I found extremely rare items and at most could get 50-80MC. So the only way to beat the game is rather by chance or slow trading and it becomes a grind.

Now I did have fun playing Diaries but I just wish that this bizarre fun world had more depth to it. Once the colors faded and the charm of cat traders meow wore off, I found it to be very repetitive.
Despite its issues, Diaries is a fascinating trip, it is well worth your time and you may have better luck then I did. Just understand that the message that is given to you at the beginning is not just a suggestion but more of a guideline, relax, and take your time.

From replay aspect Diaries is a one trip journey. Collect trash and explore. There are plenty of Steam achievements and cards for those of you who like to hundred percent a game. Game length can vary but I dropped about 8 hours into the game and still didn't beat it.

I will have fond memories of Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, it brought about a strange feeling of wonder that I found only in games like Abzu or Journey. The city reverberated with life and strange cultures. I loved that and for that only, I would play this game again. The overall message of Diaries is something that I still don't quite understand and I am not sure it is meant to be. All I do know is that being a Janitor in space isn't what I thought it would be. So sit back, relax, and enjoy burning trash folks.

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