Crumbs, dust and debris are scattered across the carpet. Four people are in the room, but I seem to be the only one bothered by that cobweb dancing in the draft. I can see my friend’s mouth moving, but it’s nothing more than meaningless noise while the dirt from someone’s shoes is scattered at the front door. With anxiety rising, this social engagement is beginning to feel like a prison, and then I hear it—a beep, followed by a familiar, beautiful whir. An automated angel glides across the ground, relieving the floor of the mess and me of the cleanliness-based tension. A simple appliance to some, that little Roomba is my hero.
To say that the Melbourne-based studio Samurai Punk decided to create Justice Sucks: Tactical Vacuum Action specifically with my tastes in mind might sound like an exaggeration, but I can’t help but feel like it’s the truth.
Scarily similar to a recurring dream I have, you play as Dusty, a Roomba-like vacuum that belongs to the McClean family. Drawn away from his daily duties, Dusty is forced to defend his home and family as a group of would-be burglars break in to loot the McClean’s valuables. Unfortunately for our Hoover hero, the FamilyCorp warranty squad bust in and throw the situation into chaos, kidnapping the McCleans and seriously damaging Dusty by throwing him into a TV. You can’t keep a good vacuum down, though, as Dusty is transported into a digital dimension where the bulk of the game takes place, allowing the vengeful vac to hone his skills and plot his revenge.
There’s something fishy going on here
Told through text, cutscenes and comic-styled panels, the story is goofy and silly, but it’s told with a tongue planted firmly in a cheek, making it genuinely entertaining. Nothing is taken seriously, with the cute aesthetic and adorable main character being juxtaposed with some bloody violence that furthers the hilarity. Oh, and Dusty meets his hulking, muscle-bound digital avatar when he enters the TV dimension, named Sexy McClean. That is all.
Keeping the house spotless might be Dusty’s purpose, but that doesn’t mean he’s limited in a scuffle. Not content with shining the bad guy’s shoes, Dusty can hack electronics in his vicinity, causing them to activate or malfunction, thereby inflicting damage or adverse effects on the enemies in the area. This can result in a door closing on an enemy’s head, an outlet short-circuiting and electrocuting everyone nearby, a fridge blasting cold air that freezes everyone in front of it and so on. Time slows and hackable objects are highlighted when you enter the hacking mode with a button press, making it simple and easy to set and trip traps at will.
If you’re clever, you can string together these environmental attacks to increase the damage output. For instance, setting off a sprinkler, dousing the baddies in water and then electrocuting them will do wonders. Your hacking is a valuable tool, but Dusty is a mighty yet vulnerable vacuum that can be destroyed in a few hits. Luckily, this short king can hide underneath objects, traverse through vents and travel where the human enemies can’t. Stealthily darting between furniture while picking off your foes in creative ways is easy to get a handle on and satisfying once you master it.
S is for Suck
Hacking is undoubtedly your primary offensive tool, but it’s not your only trick. As you progress through levels, you’ll unlock various abilities and perks that can be equipped, with three slots available at any one time. Perks are passive buffs ranging from seeing a hackable object’s radius to gaining blood (more on that in a moment) while hidden. Abilities, on the other hand, are activated by the player and often cause damage to enemies. From summoning Sexy McClean to sucker punch an individual foe to immediately fixing all hackable objects in the room, the abilities are handy when you’re in a tight spot. There are plenty of skills and perks to unlock, but the variety is a bit limiting, so you’ll likely find what works and stick with it.
Rather than being tied to a cooldown, abilities use a resource you gain by…cleaning up after murderous actions. Yep, Dusty is powered by the blood of his enemies. Damaging and killing bad guys spill a lot of claret, which Dusty can either roll over to clean or use a Kirby-like suction ability that sucks up the mess in seconds. Best of all, the bodies of downed enemies can be sucked up and hilariously minced into a meaty mess, accompanied by the sound of a grinder. When I alluded to violence earlier, this is what I meant.
Don’t mind if I do
Throughout the reasonably short, two-hour runtime, you’ll work your way through seven distinct levels, from the McClean family home and a tropical cruise to a trashed airport and a pumping nightclub. Each location has a unique layout that incentivises exploration, with secrets hidden throughout. The enemies within the levels vary slightly between sites, but it’s less noticeable outside of their over-the-top appearance.
Each level houses a number of missions that can be tackled in any order, with the next level unlocking once a number of them have been completed. Elimination tasks you with taking out enemies as quickly and creatively as possible, Stealth Rescue has Dusty locate and extract each family member that is being held hostage, and Bomb Squad gives you a timer to hunt down and defuse several explosives in the area. Though most of the mission types are fun to participate in, a few will instantly fail you if you’re spotted, which does grind my gears. The tasks are simple enough, but your speed and efficiency will net you a score and a ranking, giving you a reason to come back and try again.
I consider that foreplay
Though it depends on the type, some missions will end with the prompt “quick, clean up,” challenging you to go back through the area and clean up the mess you’ve made. Being a Dyson die-hard, I loved this by default, but it’s also a fitting and fun way to end a level considering you’re playing as a sentient vacuum. For those like me, who find comfort in cleaning, the Cleaning Frenzy mission forgo the violence and scores you on how quickly you can tidy the area. Splendid.
To say that I’m enamoured with Justice Sucks would be an understatement. The fact that the player character is a Roomba is obviously appealing to someone with the PSN name of TheVacuumVandal, but my enjoyment goes far beyond the quirky premise. The simple yet entertaining hack mechanics combined with excellent level design make each mission a puzzle that’s fun to solve. Though the abilities could do with a bit more depth, the gameplay loop and overall charm that the game has in spades should be more than enough for those looking to have a high score-chasing good time.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Samurai Punk
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- September 9, 2022