Why I’m Still So Into Viscera Cleanup Detail

I don’t know if this is a news or a feature or what, but I wanted to talk about first-person space janitor clean-em-up Viscera Cleanup Detail [official site] again because I’m still playing it.

Alice and I wrote about it back in January 2015 after playing a bunch of the levels co-operatively. You and any fellow players are tasked with cleaning up in the aftermath of some terrible atrocity – mutant plant attacks, perhaps, or killer robot rampages. You’re armed with a mop, buckets of water, waste disposal bins and other cleaning paraphernalia and must eliminate all traces of the incident. That means scrubbing away at bloody footprints, incinerating body parts and replenishing vanished supplies.

It was still a bit rough around the edges when we had our chat and bits of people’s guts were prone to glitching out on the floor, wiggling wildly until the host player came over and dealt with the object. Nowadays it’s a lot less prone to freaking out (although sometimes a leg will start twitching all on its own and upend one of the waste disposal bins, spilling bullet casings EVERYWHERE.

I still periodically boot it up and don my trusty space marigolds. I’ve never played a game like it. It ties the process of trying to 100% something in the game sense to the pleasing sensation I get from tidying and sorting. It’s a game where I actually love completing a level rather than just finishing it. You get to transform a space and there’s so much pleasure in that. I keep it as an occasional treat though, so I’ve still got a lot of maps I’ve never even touched. Last night I played the botanical level for the first time and it was wonderful.

My favourite moment is probably doing a final lap of the room holding your gore sensor out and dealing with the final smears of blood or closing all the restocked first aid kits. You’re almost finished and the place looks amazing, you’re just putting the finishing touches on the room before clocking out.

I never play it solo, though. Part of the love of Viscera Cleanup Detail is in working with other people. Using the tasks as a backdrop for conversation, or experiencing other people’s personalities through how they approach the cleaning. One friend is super-methodical, scrubbing footprints away and gradually working from room to room. Another sets fire to whole rooms while using the plasma welder to fill in bullet holes and we then need to cart hundreds of buckets over to the area to clear up all the soot.

In that way I think it’s actually a really good game for keeping in touch with friends or loved ones who are far away, letting conversations play out as you work together (sometimes comically clumsily) towards a goal.


  1. RogueJello says:

    Are you taking a piss on this one? I understand tongue in cheek is pretty firm on most posts on the site, but I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I would assume not. I quite enjoy the game myself, especially while listening to a podcast.

      I haven’t played it in a couple months. I remember disliking some of the newer levels with lower viscera-density (somehow it doesn’t feel right if the place isn’t a total trash-hole to start). I might have to check again, though.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      Nope, it’s actually a pretty enjoyable game.

      It’s really no more a janitor sim than the average FPS would be a soldier sim.
      Viscera Cleanup Detail’s version of “janitor duty” is not supposed to be like real life, it’s intentionally built to encourage chaos and has a more interesting and humorous context which makes for a surprisingly fun game.

    • timzania says:

      Gosh, I think most everything on this site is pretty straight and serious, and now I’m worried that I’m misinterpreting a LOT of things.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I’m honestly not sure why you would think that.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I often wonder the same about the comments.

    • Lord Zeon says:

      Nope, Pip legit loves this game. It was either talking about her No Man’s Sky preview or Viscera Cleanup Detail on last week’s Daft Souls, and unsurprisingly NMS won.

      • Cimeries says:

        Oh my god I didn’t realise there was a podcast with RPS people on it oh my god thank you so much. I love VG podcasts but don’t have any british ones. This will be perfect – I love Quinns whenever he turns up on Terminal 7, I’m sure I’ll love this.

        • Lord Zeon says:

          Daft Souls is the best thing since sliced bread! Check out all Matt and Quinns’ work on CoolGhosts.net!

  2. Hideous says:

    Oh man. Can I join you in this some time? I’ve been wanting to play, but it’s hard to convince my friends to virtually clean things.

    • subactuality says:

      Fellow Viscera buddy seeker here. We should start a support group.

  3. The Algerian says:

    This one’s been in my wishlist since early access release, but I never could bring myself to actually make the purchase.

    It does look like a game right up the alley of a guy like me who feels a bit uneasy and thinks about “who’s going to clean up that mess” when something somewhat messy happens in a game or a movie.

    • Jalan says:

      Having bought this myself before it ever hit Steam because I was intrigued by the concept, I want to say that if you intend on doing nothing but playing it by yourself then the fun will be burned through fairly quick.

      Getting a game going with multiple people is where the game excels, but only if at least one of said people has it in them to not do exactly what they should be doing – maybe they’ll tip over cruddy buckets instead of patiently carrying them to an incinerator or just whip body parts all over the place instead of carting them to a bin like a sane person on clean-up duty would do – otherwise it’s just accomplishing the same thing in (potentially) a different map.

      • The Algerian says:

        Yeah, that’s mostly why I couldn’t bring myself to buy it yet.

  4. MiniMatt says:

    Didn’t put it in the Christmas advent calendar though did you? Lost me a point in the forum guessing game that did. I’m not bitter after three months though :)

  5. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    It really is a lovely game (though in the early versions I did struggle to find that ONE MISSING THING to finish the level and it drove me mad).

  6. Bostec says:

    I shall play this tonight. I shall play this alone. A man, his mop and his music.

  7. dsch says:

    Enjoyed your turn on Daft Souls, where you mentioned this article. And now delivered!

  8. Neurotic says:

    I think this is actually the post that his tipped me over into ‘Buy’ mode. The way you describe the experience of playing it really hits a nerve (or rather, gently tickles it). To the Steamobile!

  9. MadJax says:

    I don’t get some of the hate I see directed towards this game, personally I think it’s an excellent game to just chill out and listen/watch a movie too while clearing up after a “hurrhurr spass muhreeeneee!” rampage.

  10. rymm says:

    i dusted this off and booted it up last night for my first janitorial jaunt in ages. we must be on the same wavelength here.
    i too dont have friends to play with, but still find the single player soothing. the big tasks, while fun, are just too daunting for a man alone though.

  11. Butts says:

    Considering I can’t be bothered to clean up the viscera, guts, bloody footprints and other evidence of horrible atrocities in my own home, I can’t see myself getting to it in game form.

    Interesting idea, though. Nice to see things that don’t fit neatly into typical games categories.

  12. Unsheep says:

    Good on you. Its definitely a quirky game.
    Playing the game with some podcasts running or with friends seems like a good way to enjoy it. Being somewhat pedantic or eccentric with cleaning probably helps as well.