The Fair Shake

Janitor Joe

Greetings Readers! Carl is helping poor Janitor Joe, a human trapped in a space station overrun by some evil robots. Unfortunately, he has no weapons, but he can jump pretty high, probably since he’s in space and all. He needs keys to get out of all five levels of the space station. Help him escape!

This doesn’t look so bad…

Janitor Joe was programmed and released in 1984 by Kevin Bales. I should say ‘released’ as it was actually a program created over the course of 5 days as a fun experiment. It was a free release that quickly spread over the BBS’s of the day, and of course, friend-to-friend via floppy disk. It spread because it was free, and more importantly for the purposes of this column, it was and is a damn fun game to play, even today. Remember Flightmare? This game was usually on that same 5 1/4″ floppy. Mine is, along with a few other gems.


I wish more games had concise instructions like this.

So who is this Joe? He works as a janitor in a large multi room space station. The Mad Robots have gone Berzerk… (I know… I know..)  I’m not sure why robots need cleaning up after, but that’s beside the point anyway. Anyway, he wants to get out of there before the Mad Robots kill him, and ideally, before he runs out of oxygen and dies. Each room is unique in the challenge offered. From slides to elevators and invisible moving platforms, your mission is to escape the station with all the keys, and more importantly, your life. With a little luck, you’ll find the secret room on the way out, as well.


Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! Slides.

Graphically, Janitor Joe is simple. It was originally programmed in BASIC. The now-retro style works, and would make a nice t-shirt print. Joe is a little faceless stick figure, the robots are little white blocky figures with red chests. If they had faces though, they’d be pretty mad. Everything is clearly identifiable as a ladder, or a platform. If one pays careful attention to the intro animation, they’ll learn about all the possible platform types they’ll encounter. The black background is simple. Just pretend each room in the space station has  a BIG glass window for a wall. Janitor Joe’s sounds are simple, but they are acceptable and match the games appearance. A simple ‘bit bit’ noise indicates movement with a nice ‘bling’ for obtaining a key, while climbing a ladder has a ‘beep-beep’ noise. Did I forget to mention the  the amazing intro tune? It’ll stick with you… like it or not.

Ele-lator go up! Ele-lator go down….

Play control is decent once you get used to it. (Reminder, the game is default to joystick, you need to alter that before you play… Unless of course, you have one). The only issue is Joe moves until you make him stop by pressing the up or down arrow, or by making him jump. It’s a little hard to get used to. Hit detection is actually very good, as the jump over a robot’s head needs to be timed just right. Death comes either by an invisible timer, falling too far, or a robot electrocuting you. (Note to self: If building robot, coat it in rubber.)

Of course, like most old games, you’ll need DosBox running. Slow it way down… This game was meant for Tandy 1000’s and the like. Man. The time I put into this little platformer when I was a kid on a Tandy. The slide level is still pretty cool. Sad to say, I never beat this game. The invisible level was always hard, even today. Actually, it pisses me off now that I think about it. I think I’ll sit down with this tonight and play for awhile.  Need a quick platformer fix? On the lookout for off the beaten path games? Want to say you played a great early 80s freeware game? Give Janitor Joe a Fair Shake.


This article is over, too.