Clean up after the new definition of “Christmas Cheer”.
PC Release: December 13, 2013
By Ian Coppock
Happy Holidays from Art as Games! It’s been a few months since my last review, but I’m making a quick stop by the old blog to give you that snarky Christmas game review you never knew you wanted. For this installment of our review series, we’re going to take a look at a Christmas-themed spinoff of Viscera Cleanup Detail. I can confirm that this is the first video game I’ve ever played that’s set in Santa’s workshop, though it’s not quite what I expected.
Santa’s Rampage is a standalone expansion for Viscera Cleanup Detail, a darkly humorous cleaning game whose style has no predecessor. Players step into the galoshes of an unfortunate janitor, who arrives to Santa’s workshop after Kris Kringle had a few rumnogs too many. Maybe it was the bitter cold, or the demanding letters from entitled brats. Only one thing’s for sure: Santa lost his goddamn mind.
The objective of Santa’s Rampage is to mop up the aftermath of Santy’s breakdown, from pulverized elves to pools of blood, and all the shotgun shells and whiskey bottles in between. Armed with a high-tech mop, a water bucket and a haz-mat bin, it’s up to you to remove all traces of this atrocity at the behest of a mysterious client. The more thorough your cleaning job, the higher your final score.
I don’t really know how to classify this game, or its parent production. I guess you could call it a post-shooter, because puzzler implies the use of logic, and the shooter has already come and gone. The workshop itself is a single map split between three floors, and you can procure an endless supply of buckets and bins to get the job done. Your only companion is devilishly dark Christmas music that blares from the boombox. The cheerful fire roaring away in the stone hearth also serves as an ample incinerator… once you clean the reindeer guts off of it.
Santa’s Rampage reaffirmed my belief that handling corpses and body parts requires a certain deftness. Dropping body parts will cause blood to splatter everywhere. Walking in entrails will also bloody your boots, so watch where you step, unless you want to re-defile that carpet you just cleaned.
Being a good murder janitor also requires an eye for detail. Santa got creative with massacring his workforce, hiding bodies in the ceiling and stuffing his desk with dynamite and broken glass. Telltale signs of nearby viscera are there for the discerning eye, but you have to search each and every crevice of the workshop to get it all. You don’t want Santa’s successor to find a rogue eyeball in his bedroom. And for Christ’s sake, hide that shotgun!
The thing I appreciated the most about Santa’s Rampage is the implications of all the gore you find. A dead elf hiding in the rafters, a snarky list of child’s demands or a reindeer riddled with poisonous darts performs that Fallout-esque show-don’t-tell. Tragic stories are found in every arrangement of corpses and every trail of shotgun shells. It’s clever, it’s dark, and it’s clever.
Doesn’t that just warm your heart? It does mine, especially since this game’s entire structure speaks to the completionist psychopath in my heart. The game does have its share of flaws; namely, the shaky ragdoll physics that can cause bins of gore to randomly explode everywhere, and the lack of proper instructions. You have to consult the wiki to get what all is needed to actually beat the map. Not a deal-breaker, but still annoying, and easily avoidable.
So what we have here is a Christmas-themed gore simulator whose entire gameplay revolves around incinerating entrails and mopping up body fluids. There’s no shooting, no puzzling, and not a whole lot of story, so who is this game really for?
As lots of surprised Steam reviews will tell you, Santa’s Rampage and the VCD experience in general are oddly relaxing. I can’t be asked to clean my real-world dwelling place but there’s something compelling about spending 30 minutes doing gaming’s bloodiest scavenger hunt. Yeah, you’re probably thinking, a janitor simulator sounds really fun, sarcasm face. But Santa’s Rampage is also propped up by a lot of dark humor compressed into a small, sad workshop. A monument to how far capitalism can push one jolly man over the edge.
It also opens the floor for all of your favorite dead elf jokes. Forget dead baby jokes, now you can gleefully tell people how many dead elves it takes to fill a crawlspace, or how many dead elves you can crucify across a set of rafters. I’ve been going door to door spreading this new brand of cheer and the looks on my neighbor’s faces tell me that they’ve just had their minds blown. Some have even started crying, no doubt from sheer enlightenment.
Speaking of rumnogs, it’s about time I got a few of those in my belly for the holidays. Thank you, Santa’s Rampage! Your cautionary tale about a bearded fat guy with a shotgun and a storeroom of Jager is an inspiration to us all.
Happy Holidays, everybody!
You can buy Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.