Historically, video games that mock other games are only slightly younger than games themselves. Monkey Island comes to mind as one of the older examples, and more recent examples could include the Magicka series and Undertale. The tones can range from "Aren't these standard tropes ridiculous" to the slightly darker "If this world were slightly more realistic you would be a monster." Nothing is safe from a little old-fashioned satire.
Flying under the radar in this vein of games is a little gem Viscera Cleanup Detail, a 2015 game by Runestorm which will ruin action and horror games for you by making you think "Dammit, who's going to clean up this mess?" Though entertaining, it isn't perfect. There isn't really any story to drive the game, when you first start it does not give you much by way of direction, and there is the occasional bug or glitch. Despite this, Viscera Cleanup Detail's clever premise, surprisingly complex gameplay, and well-designed graphics and sound are great whether you want to test your speed or just relax after a stressful day.
Viscera Cleanup Detail can be found on Steam for $12.99, or you can buy a 4-pack for $34.99.
Starting off, you are given a huge variety of maps you can choose from of varying sizes, styles, and difficulties. The game then drops you off in your chosen map with a mop, and a tool called "the Sniffer," which you can use to find hidden messes to clean, and you have to clean everything as best you can before you clock out. Other tools you will find laying around each level are a broom, which is like the mop but worse, and a laser welder that you can use to fill bullet holes.
There are also a dispenser for water buckets, because your mop will start spreading blood if you don't rinse it periodically. There is another dispenser for waste bins where you can put trash like balls of paper, empty soda cans, and disembodied limbs so you don't need to carry each individual thing to the incinerator across the map one by one. Finally, you do get a scissor lift because FPS protagonists and horror game monsters have a tendency in putting blood and remains in the most inconvenient of places like in the rafters or on windowsills.
There are also stacking areas, which are outlined on the ground and labelled with what gets stacked there. This earns you bonus points when you clock out, and you will need those bonus points because this game is deceptively difficult. You would think a game about mopping up puddles of blood and various other biohazards would be easy, but you would be surprised where you could find a chunk of skull or some bullet shells. My personal favorite is when you have to bash the cover off of an air duct and body parts come spilling out. Be sure you look everywhere and use the sniffer often.
There are two game modes: Cleanup and Speedrun. Cleanup is more casual, you just have to clean up and then you decide when you're done. It's good to be as quick as possible but not necessary, its a great mode to relax a bit. In Speedrun, you are given a par time and a downward ticking score, and the only way you could be more stressed about cleaning is if you forgot your parents were visiting until five minutes before they arrived at your apartment. You have to move quickly and efficiently or else you will lose a lot of points, and the game has very high expectations of how fast you can move.
You also have both splitscreen local and online multiplayer options, but the online community is absolutely dead. That's not really a dealbreaker for me as I prefer to go at my games single player, but if you're looking for something you can play online, you're SOL on this unless you have a friend or friends who can play.
Though the multiplayer was dead, at least the times I tried it, there is somewhat active modding community. It isn't like Skyrim where the community almost daily comes up with a new skin, new tools, or new ways to play the game. However, there are some cool community-generated maps that have been created and that can be easily downloaded through the Steam workshop. Many have been created with multiplayer in mind, which as I've said I never had any luck with, but they are still more game on the off chance you get bored with the already large variety the game provides.
Bugs and Glitches
While more often than not everything worked perfectly fine, there were occasional glitches and bugs that did happen often enough to be worthy of note. There were two main ones. First was the occasional movement bug where I think I was somehow caught between an object and the wall and so as a result I came rocketing forward. That was more hilarious and occasionally annoying than anything. The bug that actually made me angry came when I was picking up a chunk of something and it would somehow get caught on the floor, then get sucked in like quicksand. I couldn't get them and they still counted against my final score, so that one irritated me without fail. I wouldn't call it "game breaking" necessarily, I could still complete the level after all, but it did rob me of the score I deserved.
Graphics and Audio
A game about cleaning up after another game should not be this immersive, but somehow it is. The developers did a great job with emulating the feeling of the aftermath of a horror game or shooter. The levels look and feel like stages in other games, and they don't just splatter some blood and entrails around, drop in a few bullet casings, and call it a day. They go all out adding strange footprints on the ceiling, warnings written on the wall in blood a la Stephen King's It, and the occasional monster corpse that was probably a horrifying enemy before its pincers were forcibly separated from its abdomen. Maybe they aren't the best graphics ever, but they certainly match the games they are satirizing.
The sound engineering for this is flawless. There is no automatic background music, just ambient sound. Even though you know nothing is going to attack you, if you're in a dark hallway with a single flickering light and you hear a noise, your hair stands on end. You can choose to use a boombox to play some music from the game, but those songs were underwhelming in my opinion, especially when I could just load up my own playlists. You have to carry the boombox with you if you want to go too far away, and your hands could be better used carrying a water bucket or disposal bin.
Despite the occasional bug and the lack of an overarching narrative, Viscera Cleanup Detail is a solid satire of a lot of the games we see today. The gameplay can be fast or slow at your preference, it is surprisingly hard to master, and the graphics and sound are just perfect for really making you feel like you've been sucked into the gruesome aftermath of a game with either a loose cannon gunning down hordes of alien opposition or a plucky survivor narrowly escaping a cosmic horror as it murders most of a research outpost. Even if you manage to memorize every map the game can provide, the user community has still further for you to try. No movie or game is safe from the subtle yet potent parody of Viscera Cleanup Detail. If you're in the market for a fun casual game and this pops up on a Steam sale, check it out. It has the Harvest Moon quality of making what should be nothing but boring tedium surprisingly riveting. Next time I'm about to splatter a virtual alien across the wall, I'll definitely try and keep my mess to a minimum to make it easier on the cleanup crew.
|+ Immersive graphics and audio||– Slightly buggy|
|+ Challenging gameplay||– Online servers are dead|
|+ Wide variety of maps||– No overarching story|
|+ Community generated maps|