Review: Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Rampage

It's definitely a niche title, as are all of the games in this series, but if the premise appeals to you, then the cleanup in Viscera Cleanup Detail is a unique sort of game that is actually rather enjoyable.
Review: Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Rampage
Date published: Jun 27, 2014
2 / 3 stars

Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Rampage is a simulation game developed and published by RuneStorm.  It's one of a series of three games, the original Viscera Cleanup Detail, Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warrior, and this game.  I'm going to start with this one because while each of them has their own mechanics in addition to the common core elements, they each have their own, and Santa's Rampage has the most interesting additional mechanics.  Each of these three are standalone.

It's worth nothing that while the core game is still getting content and feature additions, the Shadow Warrior and Santa's Rampage standalones are feature-complete and mostly just receiving bug fixes.  The core game is on Early Access but the two standalones are not and are full games, albeit available for a low price.

Other than those dispensers, you have your gloved hands which you can use to pick up those gibs and other trash, the mop to clean up those floors, and a handheld scanner item that has two modes - one for objects, the other for the blood splats and other decal-based messes for you to clean.  The scanner is basically optional - there's nothing so hidden that you won't be able to spot if you're perceptive, but it does help you find some of the more well-hidden bits, and in the base game and to a lesser degree the two standalones there are some bits that are indeed quite well-hidden.

In the other two games there is a plasma cutter item that allows you to break down larger physics items to make them easier to fit them in the furnace at the risk of causing burn marks you'll have to clean up, but it is not present in Santa's Rampage, compensated for by not having anything overly-large in the level to dispose of.

The mechanics are well-implemented and work brilliantly,
with a couple of major problems.

Its certainly a unique premise and the core mechanics work well with the theme and are implemented very brilliantly for the most part.  It's simple, easy to understand, easy to get into, and the game doesn't need you to take hours to understand it even when it does offer some depth.  The physics engine of the game is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.  It allows for some really brilliant packing stuff into those bins and the ways the bodies or gibs flop about seem quite realistic and offer a sense of actual weight to objects that would be heavy and in contrast lightness to objects that are relatively light.

That physics engine for all of its obviously-thoughtful implementation has its failings, however.  You are not given much of a way to manipulate the object you're carrying to either be able to view ahead of you, or to fit it in something, and sometimes the game decides you are carrying the object outside of your field of view that usually leads to problems.  Physics objects and their collision detection also sometimes randomly ping either the player or the objects just entirely at random and in very dramatic ways, to the point where objects get hurled where you literally can't access them or get stuck in world geometry in some instances, both of which are kind of fail states since you won't be able to properly clean the level as a result.

The premise is what holds up the game, as well as the black humour throughout.

It's a funny game, in a sort of grim way.  Santa's Rampage is in particular stuffed full of that kind of humour, with letters you can find which hint at the reason for the titular jolly man's rampage, and all sorts of allusions to the Christmas fare and subversions thereof, from the world itself to those notes and even in the achievements.  Firecrackers and TNT are the unique mechanic in this particular Viscera Cleanup Detail game, and I must admit a certain glee in being able to deal with the situation by just blowing everything up and cleaning up the scorch marks.  It was particularly cathartic after how nagging the attention to detail the base game demands can be.

The Final Word: Recommended - Whether or not you like Viscera Cleanup Detail in any of its forms depends on whether you can dig its black comedy and its premise, but if you can, you will probably enjoy yourself.  I found it strangely absorbing, myself, in the same sort of way Minecraft or Space Engineers can be, and for me it ends up being something I play while I listen to a podcast or the like.  There's certainly a lot of macabre charm to be had in Santa's Rampage in particular, and the dynamite and chasing it's achievements add a good bit to the formula, so it's worth a look.