Step into the polished shoes of The Cleaner, a professional crime scene cleaner for the mob. There's no business like the cleaning business, and right now business is boomin'. Sneak around crime scenes avoiding detection from the guarding cops as you vacuum up blood, hide bodies and remove evidence in this 70's styled, fast paced, 2D action/stealth game.
Single-Player, Action/stealth gameplay, Plenty of unlockables to attain
4 hour campaign, 5-6 with additional missions
November 30, 2017
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Curve Digital
Genre: Action, Stealth
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Rating: M for Mature
Blood and gore have always been a staple of many action titles, whether it be shooting through World War II or chopping the limbs off of zombies. If you think about it, we never get to see the aftermath of these incidents. With Serial Cleaner, from developer iFun4all, we are finally be able to take part in the aftermath of any bloody conflict. As its name suggests, you play as a person who comes in to clean crime scenes where murder has taken place, all while evading the police. It’s this completely bizarre concept that makes Serial Cleaner so unique.
Violence: Considering you play as someone cleaning up after serial murders, there is plenty of blood and guts to be cleaned up. Actual physical violence does not occur other than when a cop is trying to chase you and beats you over the head with his baton to knock you out. Some crime scenes can be extremely gruesome in nature with blood smothered all over the floor and dead bodies mutilated with limbs missing or completely indistinguishable.
Language/crude humor: F***, a**, d***, g**d***, s*** and God’s name in vain are used multiple times during the story through exposition, but there is no audible dialogue. There are crude jokes made through snide remarks about certain wrestling positions your character makes when betting for the wrestling matches with the people he works for.
Other negative themes: Deceit is the main culprit here with the protagonist living at home with his mom, but lying to her repeatedly about why he is going out and hiding contract obligations from her. She has no idea that he is putting himself and her in danger by taking these illegal contracts of cleaning up serial killer murders.
Editor’s Note: It should be reiterated that while this game does not contain the quantity of questionable content that would be featured in a game like GTAV, the principal gameplay of Serial Cleaner involves tampering with evidence, which is a crime that in real life can result in up to twenty years in prison. As always, please exercise discernment when considering playing.
Serial Cleaner doesn’t have the most engaging or in-depth narrative, nonetheless there is a story to be told here. You play as Bob, a freelance cleaner who mainly cleans up after crime scenes of serial killers. This means that Bob has to infiltrate crime scenes, clean up blood, pick up any left over evidence, and, most importantly, dispose of any bodies. Bob has to do all of this while not being caught by the police and then has to successfully flee the crime scene.
Much of the story is told by text on-screen when Bob gets phone calls from different criminals looking for cleaning jobs. You’ll get to learn more about Bob as he responds to certain conversations. Also, a bit more of his character is fleshed out when he talks to his mother in between jobs and he exemplifies the momma’s boy trope. A more linear connective story is told by interacting with objects, like the TV or radio, in Bob’s home which foreshadow certain cleaning opportunities you’ll be called for later.
The gameplay falls into the genre of action/stealth with some puzzle elements. Some of your time is spent walking around your home with your mother and your home serves as the main hub area where contracts and fleshing out the storyline occur. The rest of the campaign finds you performing contracts which can take three to four hours to finish. These contracts have you visit different crime scenes and clean up most of the evidence without getting caught. It’s simple in concept, but quickly becomes more involved with larger stages and the introduction of more complex mechanics.
Early contracts will only have you disposing of dead bodies and cleaning up a certain percentage of blood. It’s simple at first with these early sections acting as a tutorial where you learn to scope out the AI pattern of characters, learn to be patient, and know when to move around the crime scene. As Bob, you can use your “cleaner vision” to zoom out the entire map and see where everything is. This ends up being a really handy tool that color-coordinates different interactive objects and actions to perform. Although it is a vital tool to use, it doesn’t freeze time, so it’s important to know when to use it and if there are any cops around before zooming out.
The main challenge of these contracts is the AI patterns and other elements that are added onto the contracts as you progress through the game. As stated before, Serial Cleaner is relatively simple at the start, but it does become increasingly more complex and challenging throughout the play through. For example, when picking up blood, you use a vacuum cleaner that makes more noise. Noise is represented by a diamond-like pattern for every step you take that can alert nearby cops. Other elements like carrying a body can not only make you louder, but also slow you down, making for another thing to keep track of.
Cops and guards move around the crime scenes with cone vision and if you appear in their sites they will run after you, most likely catching you as they are rather quick. This is where one of my main problems with the contracts come in which are the hiding spots. If you are being chased by the police and find a spot that is indicated as a hiding spot, you can completely ditch the cops here. The cops can literally be ready to capture you, but if you jump into a hiding spot they will have no idea where you went. I certainly used this mechanic to save myself sometimes, but I can’t help but feel it’s also cheap to exploit.
As you get further into the story the number of cops and objectives increase over time, making it much harder to avoid the police and also spacing out some of the hiding spots. Interactive elements are also introduced, such as distractions that can make noise to get cops to leave a certain area. There are cops later in Serial Cleaner that won’t leave their position unless there is some sort of distraction caused. You will also be able to start moving objects such as crates, cars, and even giant boats in a harbor. Moving these objects adds some more complexity to a level by changing the layout of the map, but also patrol routes can be hindered and some cops can be enclosed in rooms if done right.
I do wish there were more contracts in the main game, however there are additional bonus contracts separate from the campaign. These come in the form of ten unlockable bonus contracts that you can earn by finding different film reels in the campaign. These bonus contracts are unrelated to the regular contracts and instead, take on film aesthetics from different pop culture hits. Outside of the bonus contracts you can unlock new outfits for Bob to wear, also from other pop culture phenomenons.
Serial Cleaner’s visuals are charming, but nothing really amazing or outstanding. The graphics are somewhat flat, but they do have a certain flare and style to them to make the title look unique. The colorful aesthetic really helps to point out certain objects in the environment and brings a nice flare to the proceedings. A highlight of Serial Cleaner is its catchy 70’s jazz influenced soundtrack. The music is great to vibe with and makes the trial-and-error gameplay a little more manageable.
Overall, Serial Cleaner is a fun and charming stealth indie game. I wish there was more of a compelling story to get involved with, however there is good replay value here with challenges, and unlockable contracts and costumes. The difficulty was never frustrating with the difficulty curve being gradual enough to successfully learn new gameplay strategies. Any fan of stealth titles should definitely give Serial Cleaner a look.
+ Stylish 70's aesthetic
+ Clever Stealth mechanics
+ Catchy and groovy soundtrack
- Hit-or-miss AI
- Graphics can appear flat
- Story is nothing to write home about