In some games you go out and kill people. In some games you have to stop people killing other people, this we know. But how often do you take the role of the poor sod that’s left cleaning up the mess? I think you’ll find that the answer is hardly ever. So what’s any of this got to do with anything? Well keep reading as I give you a little review of Serial Cleaner. Surprisingly enough, none of this has anything at all to do with breakfast.
As I’ve just mentioned this marvelous little stealth game puts you in the shoes of a “cleaner.” Not in the janitorial sense of the word, but rather one of the individuals that cleans up the Mafia’s mess before the police get there and do their own spot of cleaning. In true cleaner fashion you have to remove evidence, make bodies disappear and clean the whopping big pools of red stuff that are painting the levels. While doing this you’re avoiding being caught by the cops. If you’re seen by one of these boys in blue you better have a good place to hide and a quick way to get there. If you get caught you’re going back to the start of the level.
Adding to this pretty simple premise is a story line, which you’ll pick up between levels when you’re at your mum’s house. I mean … of course you live with your mum. After all, who puts “likes putting bodies in bins” on their job resume and has the social wherewithal to be able to look after their own lives properly? So yes the story is good and yes it’s involved, making you want to know what’s happening next. And no, as usual I’m not telling you anything about it. We don’t want to spoil the fun now do we?
One thing I absolutely love about Serial Cleaner is the artwork. It’s colorful and has a smudgy painted feel to it. It makes the game look cartoony without becoming juvenile. This clearly isn’t a game for kids, so the fact that the devs have respected their player base is really nice to see.
Another neat little thing with Serial Cleaner is extra stuff you’ll find if you’re thorough. Collecting magazines that you’ll spot about the place will earn you new clothing for your cleaner. This is obviously a cosmetic thing, but it’s still a nice little touch. Even better than this are the film reels. You’ll find these hidden about the place and when collected, they’ll open new, film-themed levels for you to play through.
This is a brilliant idea. You’re effectively getting what would normally be classed as DLC for free as long as you’re willing to work for it. Personally I think this should be the case with so many more games. If you’re skilled, you’ll get the extras rather than just forking over cash to get everything from the start. This deserves another pat on the back for the devs who clearly place their audience having fun over money.
Something else to note – and I can’t work out whether this is a good or bad thing – is that these levels are hard. It’s far too easy to get impatient waiting for guards to be looking in another direction and make a run for it. In a lot of these levels their are multiple police officers. Just because you’ve managed to dodge one of them doesn’t mean you haven’t wandered into the patrol zone of another. You really have to be aware of your surroundings and only move when it’s safe to do so. Just running blindly about the place will find you repeating levels a lot.
So with all this good stuff being mentioned it’s time for me to have a moan, only a little (and only) moan: the controls. This might just be my opinion, but I genuinely feel that a lot of companies are moving more toward gamepad/PC use. This is great if you have a pad but for us keyboard only users the controls seem to be getting a bit forgotten. In this particular case, I’m not going to moan too much about this. You have a choice between two control sets. For me the most comfortable one is the layout that uses arrows for movement.
Now, the thing with keyboard controls is that it helps when your command keys are close to each other. For the most part they are in that you’re using A and D to pick up evidence and haul/drop bodies respectively. Then someone decided to make the cleaning button shift. This is not a comfortable key to be trying to hit when you’re doing something on the fly and it’s even less comfortable when you’re being chased. This is fine when it’s a command you don’t use often, (I mean, be honest, how many games have movement commands that you literally never use?) but this is serial cleaner and doing that for expanded periods of time is more likely to give you serial carpal tunnel.
All in all I really don’t have a lot to complain about here. Other than the aforementioned control issue which is completely a personal thing there really isn’t anything I’ve come across thus far that I find hugely annoying. This is a title that offers a challenge, looks nice and makes you want to keep playing. As far as I’m concerned that pretty much ticks all the boxes. If you don’t like the stealth genre this is going to really frustrate you. Saying that … if you don’t like the stealth genre then you probably won’t be reaching for this game in the first place.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Serial Cleaner. I base a lot of my review scoring on how much I want to finish the entire game. In this case I’m still playing and will be getting every last scrap I can out of this title. I’d even go as far as to say I’d happily give some cash to just to see this game prosper. If you like being sneaky and thinking on your feet you’d definitely be wise to give this one a whirl.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Picking up the pieces
Gameplay - 7/10
Challenge - 8/10
Look and Style - 8/10
This is a brilliant little edition to the stealth genre. It's actally quite nice to take the role of that character who isn't necessarily good or bad. I definitely suggest giving Serial Cleaner a shot. Expect a fun but tumultuous ride.