If there’s something I admire the most about indie games, its the usual commitment to unique concepts and gameplay ideas. Big budget studios fund big budget ideas, and while all the guns and mayhem can be fun, it’s sometimes more interesting to ponder the less viewed aspects of gaming. For example, what happens to all the dead bodies and evidence after you’ve laid a path of destruction? Serial Cleaner might not be that literal, but it embraces the idea well enough to evoke these kind of themes. That’s because in Serial Cleaner, you clean up all the bloody bits that remain when the shooting is over.
Serial Cleaner for Serial Killers
Serial Cleaner is similar in style to games like Hotline Miami. Both in its bright and vibrant visuals to its story driven progression, Serial Cleaner borrows quite a bit of mojo from Hotline. The game still has its own flavor of charm, and thankfully feels like a great homage rather than a rip-off. Developer iFun4All does a great job tipping the hat while keeping its own identity and tone. Serial Cleaner is dark, funny, and unique, all traits of publisher Curve Digital, who have also released games like Manuel Samuel and Human Fall Flat.
Tales of Bob
Serial Cleaner follows Bob, a cleaner who lives with his mother. The mother and son duo share interests in some of the simpler things in life (like boxing), and Bob carries a penchant for gambling. As a cleaner, Bob receives calls from clients detailing grisly crime scenes. It’s his job to visit the scene and remove any evidence, bodies, and blood that’s left over. After completing each stage, we get a brief glimpse into Bob’s life at home and the world around him. This information is gathered through dialogue with his mother, watching the television, listening to the radio, and more.
Bob’s personal narrative takes a backseat for roughly the first half of the game, first delivering somewhat cliche scenarios. Italian mobsters, debts, gambling addiction, etc. Around the halfway point, the game takes an interesting turn in terms of story that I definitely won’t spoil. This narrative flip strengthens both the level designs and gameplay motivation, and I found it refreshing. Unfortunately, the game’s story ends abruptly, and I felt like the game was over just as I truly started to get attached to the characters.
To Cover Up a Murder
The story is ultimately a nice container for addictive and interesting gameplay. As a murder maid, each level will require you to complete numerous tasks. These usually include picking up and disposing of bodies, cleaning up blood splatter, and finding pieces of evidence. Your progress is always impeded by patrolling police officers and enemies. By studying their patterns and utilizing the game’s various shortcut, hiding spot, and distraction mechanics, you become a stealth master. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of stealth games. Serial Cleaner makes the tedious act of stalking much more enjoyable by injecting some action into the mix.
Serial Cleaner embraces the wackier side of stealth games; messing up and dashing for safety. Hiding spots work as “safe havens”, protecting you from being caught regardless of whether or not an enemy can see you. Running across pools of blood increases your movement speed, and turning sharp corners confuses enemies. For these simple reasons, messing up a sneaky approach doesn’t ruin the game, despite its one-hit-fail difficulty. If you’re detected while trying to carry a body, simply dropping it to the floor and dashing to the nearest hiding spot is a viable solution. This often results in multi-enemy chases across the map, just barely out of their grasp while careening off pools of blood.
Getting grabbed or hit by an enemy causes an instant restart, which also changes up body and evidence locations. This can be frustrating on later levels, but finishing a particularly lengthy level does have a satisfying feeling consistently. Due to Bob’s excellent cleanup skills, he has “cleaner sense”, an ability which zooms out the entire map and allows you to see important details of the map. This is an unlimited power and can be used at any time without restriction, making quick strategic decisions easy. Unsure of enemy locations in the next few rooms? Hop into a hiding spot or find a cozy corner and use cleaner sense.
The Bottom Line on Serial Cleaner
Serial Cleaner is not only a fun and inventive concept, but also full of charm and intrigue. Besides the surprisingly interesting narrative, the game asserts its quirky attitude and referential personality into a lot of mechanics. Stage names are all thematic; sometimes based on real life serial killers. Bonus contracts and silly costumers are rewarded in the form of in-game collectibles. Each bonus contract is based off of a popular film, with one of my favorites being an Alien inspired cleanup. The main game won’t take you too long, depending on your patience and skill. Most players can expect to wrap it up in 3-6 hours. However, Serial Cleaner contains plenty of extra missions, collectibles, achievements, and speed running potential to keep you cleaning. It can be frustrating at times and a tiny bit clunky, but this is one time I don’t mind cleaning up other people’s messes.