JANITOR BLEEDS Review: Frightening Arcade Pursuit (PC)

JANITOR BLEEDS has good horror gameplay backed by a creepy atmosphere and a mysterious entity that hunts you down with precision and speed. Unfortunately, some graphical issues and a weak story weigh the game down heavily, and introduce more instances of frustration than fear.

Janitor Bleeds Review: Frightening Arcade Pursuit (PC)

JANITOR BLEEDS is a retro first person survival horror game where you are trying to escape from an arcade while pursued by an entity. Korpus creates a dark, spooky atmosphere and pairs it well with a relentless enemy that will stop at nothing to hunt you down.

Diving deeper into the secrets of the arcade while hiding from the entity spikes the adrenaline and challenges players to balance problem-solving with staying alive. Unfortunately, gameplay is the only strength, with the story and a variety of graphical issues preventing this game from being a horror classic.

Janitor Bleeds is currently available on PC for $9.09 USD.

JANITOR BLEEDS Official Release Trailer 2022

 

Story – Running Into An Abandoned Arcade For Help?

You begin JANITOR BLEEDS as a nameless individual recovering from a car crash who is looking for help. While searching for assistance, you stumble upon an abandoned arcade and go inside. You will encounter the only working cabinet game called “Janitor”, which influences the environment around you.

As you play the game, a mysterious entity starts appearing and begins to hunt you down around the arcade. Your fate will quickly become intertwined with “Janitor” as playing it becomes your only way to not only progress and solve the mysteries behind the arcade, but also avoid the entity.

The story of JANITOR BLEEDS is also told through notes that are scattered throughout the arcade. The notes give a look into the past about the arcade, dropping bits of information about the “Janitor” game, the entity and the world you have found yourself in.

It is simple storytelling, but it doesn’t do a good job at explaining the situation or any character actions. Unlike other horror games such as Amnesia: Rebirth where the characters have a good reason to find themselves in a bad situation or why they have to continue exploring dangerous locations, Janitor Bleeds lacks that set-up.

For example, you begin the game recovering from a car crash and looking for help. You are forced to go down a certain forest path and see a bright light, which then opens a path that takes you through more forest, a sewer and then part of another road to reach the arcade.

Why am I traveling into a sewer to get help to fix my car?

Why am I traveling into a sewer to get help to fix my car?

There isn’t any effort spent describing why calling for help wasn’t an option, why you wouldn’t stay on the road, why you would take such an obtuse path to an arcade, or why you would enter an abandoned location when it clearly can’t provide any assistance (as your main objective is to get help).

Even playing the “Janitor” game has no real impetus other than being the only available action, despite it contradicting your main goal. It isn’t explained why you have to do any of these actions, what the entity is or why it is pursuing you (other than a brief mention of the light tempting you). There isn’t a strong reason to do anything other than an action being the only option available.

While there is nothing wrong with a linear story, the fact that there isn’t any justification for doing most actions other than “progressing the game” raises more questions about the story than it answers. The notes that you encounter don’t provide a lot of information either, just talking about supernatural presence that seemingly exists in the “Janitor” game cabinet.

Going through a bloody grate: the best idea or only option?

Going through a bloody grate: the best idea or only option?

Given that the scattered notes are an attempt to provide some exposition, not elaborating on the story is a missed opportunity that could really have contributed to the atmosphere and immersion that makes a horror game great.

Fortunately, the sparse story isn’t the focus of the game. It is the puzzle-solving and entity dodging where the game really shines.

Gameplay – Hiding From A Relentless Enemy

You may never really know why you ended up at the arcade, why you are playing “Janitor” or why there is an entity hunting you. But JANITOR BLEEDS makes sure that you have to take this threat seriously because the entity is hunting you, whether you understand it or not.

The game combines a good blend of puzzle solving and enemy evasion early on. You will gain access to a variety of tools necessary to continue exploring the arcade, such as a screwdriver that can open vents and a fire extinguisher that can peel away glowing sludge that hurts you if you step on it.

You will need to play “Janitor” in order to progress through the arcade, as what you do in the game will affect the environment in the actual arcade. You can also “send” items into “Janitor” by putting them into a side slot, allowing you to use them to take care of obstacles. You can also bring keys from the game into the real world, which are necessary to unlock new rooms in the arcade.

Early on you will be introduced to the entity that pursues you. Similar to the titular Alien in Alien: Isolation, the entity is fast and cannot be defeated. Your best hope is to hide from it by crouching under tables or ducking behind game cabinets, hoping it won’t see you.

If you are this close to the entity, it might be too late to do anything.

If you are this close to the entity, it might be too late to do anything.

While the entity isn’t always around, there are times when it has a constant presence in the area, meaning it is never too far away from you. You have to solve puzzles and play “Janitor” to progress while watching your surroundings and running from the entity when it arrives.

To make matters worse, the entity is attracted to certain clues to your presence, such as light from a flashlight and will hone in on your location if you use it too long. If it sees you hide (or knows where you are), it can also drag you out of your hiding place to attack.

Its nearby presence will be indicated by your screen getting some static and becoming blurry, which is a telltale sign that it has entered the area. This will also be reflected on the “Janitor” game itself, where the screen will start to experience glitches and other screen problems. That is your cue to either finish the game quickly or quit to hide at the nearest source of cover.

Being near the entity will have some distortion effects on your screen.

Being near the entity will have some distortion effects on your screen.

Your movement speed is also affected when the entity is nearby, slowing you down and making escape difficult, made worse by the fact that the entity can sprint towards you, resulting in a game over.

Fortunately, the game will make frequent auto-saves, allowing you to easily go back to a point before the entity killed you (or if you stepped on glowing sludge too many times). This allows you to learn the entity’s movement pattern, try different tactics to avoid it and find solutions to solve puzzles quickly.

The pressure to solve puzzles while avoiding the entity is intense, invoking a sense of fear and dread that you would expect from modern horror games. There will be a lot of trial-and-error as you experiment to find the best way to get past the entity and solve puzzles, which builds the terror as you learn you failed or you missed the timing.

Hiding from the entity and finding solutions to puzzles is rewarding in its own right, and opening up new areas of the arcade for exploration gives you a good feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that you were able to overcome the challenges the game sets out for you keeps you interested in tackling future challenges, which only get harder as you progress.

Hiding under tables is one way to avoid the entity while seeing the puzzle you need to solve.

Hiding under tables is one way to avoid the entity while seeing the puzzle you need to solve.

There are a few gameplay quirks that JANITOR BLEEDS does run into. For example, you obtain a flashlight in the beginning which becomes the first item to come up after you have finished playing “Janitor” or using an item like a key.

Early on this isn’t a problem, but the flashlight automatically turning on after a puzzle later on is frightening, especially because it attracts the entity to your location. This will happen even if the last item you used was something else, like a screwdriver, and this leads to a lot of unnecessary alerts. It can be frustrating to play with, as you may have just finished a difficult puzzle and mapped out your escape route, only to be betrayed by your flashlight turning on by default.

Even with the gameplay quirks, the balancing act of hiding from the entity and puzzle-solving gives the player a real thrill, challenging them to find the right balance or get stuck out of fear/get attacked by the entity.

Audio & Visuals – Retro Designs & Scary Music

JANITOR BLEEDS has a retro design for everything, like it was a throwback to the PS1 era. Almost all of the graphics are pixelated (by design), but the 3D shapes are still done well enough that you know what they are and it fits with the overall theme of the game.

This is especially true of the “Janitor” game itself, which is a 2D mini-game with graphics that wouldn’t be out of place in the era of Pong. This only serves to reinforce the fact that the game is old and unique, as while the cabinet looks “modern” by the standards of the graphics, the game’s age is old and yet still has mysterious powers.

The dated 2D design lends to the mystery of the game's impact.

The dated 2D design lends to the mystery of the game’s impact.

There are some graphical issues with the game that can sometimes inconvenience you. There are some long loading times for a few areas, and sometimes the game can freeze while it is loading a new area for you to explore or loading your latest challenge.

This can be a problem when you are trying to explore but you can’t tell if your game has frozen or it is loading. It can also be inconvenient when trying to find a place to hide if you are being pursued, because you’re not moving while the entity knows where you are the entire time. It isn’t enough to make the game unplayable, but it occurs often enough that it will interfere with your enjoyment.

Paired with the visuals is the deceptively simple yet creepy audio. As you would expect of an abandoned arcade, there isn’t a lot of noise. Throughout your explorations, there will be a subtle tone in the background which perfectly matches the feeling of walking through a location by yourself, or the feeling that something scary is just around the corner.

Walking through a dangerous arcade with creepy ambient noise enhances the feeling of fear.

Walking through a dangerous arcade with creepy ambient noise enhances the feeling of fear.

The “Janitor” game itself has simple music for a fun 2D game. It’s about a janitor cleaning up messes and unlocking new rooms, and it is meant to be enjoyable despite the ominous sounds that play when you need to solve a puzzle.

This contrasts with the sudden sounds of static that indicate the entity is close, and all background noise begins to soften as you can hear the entity’s footsteps, its “groans” as it tries to search for you, and the dreaded “yell” that you hear when the entity has spotted you, followed by the rapid thud of footsteps as it races towards you.

JANITOR BLEEDS might not have the cutting edge graphics that you might find in modern horror games, but it’s not necessary and you are still sufficiently terrified with the PS1-era graphics. The audio is done well, timed properly and provides the same feeling of dread that any horror game can bring you when you see an unstoppable enemy.

This review for JANITOR BLEEDS was played on Steam with a key provided by Lurkit.com.

Summary
JANITOR BLEEDS provides a great first-person horror experience where you balance puzzle-solving with hiding from a pursuer who relentlessly hunts you down. The simple graphics and well-timed audio enhance the horror experience, making you dread the pursuit. However, the lack of a story is a missed opportunity that could have immersed the player in the game. Slow loading times and a few gameplay quirks also prevent Janitor Bleeds from becoming the masterpiece it could be.
Good
  • Gameplay captures the thrill of hiding from an intelligent pursuer
  • Blend of puzzle-solving & hiding provide a good challenge
  • Audio enhances the fear & intensity of the experience
Bad
  • Lack of a story is a missed opportunity for immersion
  • Graphics can have a long loading time
  • Gameplay quirks can work against you at the worst times
6
Fair
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