Review of "Janitor"

Janitor is a Z-code 5 interactive fiction game written with Inform 6 and is © 2002 by Peter Seebach and Kevin Lynn. At the 2002 XYZZY Awards, it was a finalist in the Best Individual PC category.

Review by David Welbourn

Do you like puzzles? Do you like a challenge? Are you nostalgic for games like Colossal Cave and Zork I? And do you like breaking mimesis? Yes? Then this is the game for you.

Remember Zero Sum Game from 1997? In that game, you had just finished an adventure with the high score, but then your mom ordered you to put all your treasures back where you found them. Janitor starts out much the same way, except this time you're a janitor at the Flavorplex Text Adventure Company, a player has finished the game, and it's your job to put everything back. And just like in Zero Sum Game, the score goes down when you solve a puzzle, not up. Fortunately, Janitor is far less bloodthirsty.

An added conceit to the proceedings is the addition of mimesis and space warping technologies. The internal game, a cave-crawl called Flavorplex Qualifying Adventure, is built like a series of movie sets adjoining the company's hallways, and populated with actual treasures. But internally, a mimesis field makes the sets seem real and hides the access corridor exits, while some other pseudoscience connects the rooms so that they follow the adventure's desired layout. And you're equipped with a mimesis disruptor in your mop so you can see how the rooms really are and get your job done.

So once you've understood all that (and probably made two contradictory maps of the place), and stopped chuckling at all the in-jokey game references, you can start figuring out what goes where. As you might imagine, it's somewhat tricky, and in places somewhat unfairly so. I wasn't done when my two hours ran out, and I had to rate it partway through. (There are hints, both in-game, and in an external html file should you need them. And, in time, I did need them.)

Still, the game wouldn't let me go. Quite apart from the desire to successfully reset the game, there were clues that something wasn't quite right about Flavorplex; there's a mystery to solve as well. You might want to talk to your boss's secretary, Eva, guest starring from Grim Fandango, about a few things.

And when you've won Janitor, you can still continue to play by playing the Flavorplex game forwards! What fun.

Rating: 8.

✍️🏻 See my handwritten notes.