Developer: Goblin Council
Publisher: Goblin Council
Reviewed on PC (Steam)
The Bottom Line: Short but thoroughly satiating, this modern take on the graphical text adventure is packed with juicy horror and hilarious high jinks.
You’ve just arrived home from an exhausting day at work. You slam your car door shut, unlock your front door, and stagger inside. After a quick detour to the kitchen to grab a beer and peanuts, you head to the living room and plop your posterior down onto the welcoming cushions of your La-Z-Boy recliner.
No sooner have you cracked open your drink when some jerkface rings the doorbell. Grumbling under your breath, you extract yourself from the recliner. Who could it be? Probably those wretched cookie-peddling children again. Don’t they know that Matlock starts at 7 o’clock sharp?
You swing open the door. A man in a cleansuit stands before you, a chainsaw in his hands. The motor growls as you turn to run, but it’s too late. The revolving chain tears through your flesh, spilling your viscera onto the carpet you had dry cleaned just last week.
Game Over. Welcome to Cleansuit.
Adventures in Home Defense
A graphical text adventure by developer Goblin Counsel, Cleansuit abounds with horror vibes and dark humor that cuts deeper than Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw. Your goal is singular: Survive.
You control the action with via text parser. You use text commands to move from room to room, pick up objects, craft weapons, and lay traps. If you’ve played classic adventure games before you will feel right at home, but if not, Cleansuit’s brief tutorial will get you up to speed. Compared to The Eye of Borrack, another text adventure I played recently, Cleansuit is eminently modern and approachable. It even has a built-in map and a useful help command.
By confining the field of play to a two-story home and its backyard, Goblin Counsel have crafted an experience that’s loaded not only with amusing descriptions and Easter eggs but also tough choices. For instance, after being ingloriously ripped to shreds by a chainsaw on my first crack at the game, on my second try I went directly to the phone to call for help. But whom to call? The next-door neighbor, the cops, or the pizza delivery man? The right choice could lead to survival, the wrong one to death by horror-film trope.
And die you will. There are over a dozen ways to survive and even more ways to die. To uncover them all will require some trial and error, but the short length of each playthrough ensures boredom never sets in. It helps that most death scenes are extremely chuckle-worthy – try taking your laundry out of the dryer for a good laugh – and as such death often feels like more of a reward than a punishment. If I have a gripe, it’s that recollecting items from the house every new playthrough can grow tedious, but the limited size of the play area and the option to use abbreviated text commands mostly quieted my grumbling. Once I’d familiarized myself with the house, I was able to zip around and grab everything I needed within seconds.
Speaking of time, in-game time only passes when you issue commands, freeing you to ponder on each move as long as you wish. There is, however, a limit on the number of moves you can make before the cleansuit man rears his vacuum-sealed head. Because of this, sometimes you may wish to focus on exploring and gathering information instead of survival. Death, as it were, is the price you pay to glean useful knowledge for future attempts.
In the audiovisual department, Cleansuit performs admirably. Locations are presented via text descriptions and static images with a style that could be described as “low-poly 3D run through a rental VHS tape” – a perfect fit for the slasher-film vibes. The synth-driven soundtrack, meanwhile, is reserved but always comes through at the right moments. Of particular note is the brief riff that plays every time you give up the ghost. After dying a few times, I started grimacing as soon as I’d heard its first note, before I even had time to start reading the accompanying epitaph.
Cleansuit is a short experience. Within two hours of play I’d seen most of the horrifying hilarity it had to offer. But this brevity is a strength, leading to a focused game that plays with a sense of purpose, one that feels tightly crafted, with every nook and cranny properly considered and executed. Play it now or save it for next Halloween, and while you’re at it, perhaps take a quick peek at Goblin Council’s upcoming game, Mortal Meal. It’s a dish I’m looking forward to.