Unlike most games, Serial Cleaner isn’t about violence and gore. At least not perpetrated by you, anyway.
No, your job in Serial Cleaner is to, unsurprisingly, clean up. You’ll not be doing your usual rainy day inspired spruce-up of the house however; you’ll be cleaning up the bloody messes left by some rather unscrupulous folk. Unethical it may be, but it’s also apparently quite lucrative.
Your task in Serial Cleaner then, is to sneak around a number of increasingly complex crime scenes, removing evidence, cleaning up blood and disposing of bodies. Doesn’t sound so hard does it? And it wouldn’t be, if it wasn’t for the pesky cops patrolling the areas, ready to give you a good koshing if you’re seen.
Gameplay variety is afforded by diverse level layouts, a couple of enemy types, and multiple interactive elements within each level. Selected objects can be moved or interacted with to create new paths or trap police units, sound emitting devices such as speakers can be used to attract patrolling officers’ attention, and shortcuts can be taken to quickly move between two places. Sometimes you’re able to dispose of bodies in amusing ways, too, rather than the standard method of carrying them back to your car, such as feeding them to crocodiles.
In many ways, playing Serial Cleaner is reminiscent of playing Hotline Miami. The story is told via short playable scenes that take place back at your house between missions, level design is fairly similar, and the difficulty of the game is comparably hardcore. If you get caught by the police at any point during a mission you have to start again from scratch, and trust me, when the police see you, they are relentless.
Unfortunately the harsh difficulty works against Serial Cleaner. Unlike in Hotline Miami, repeating the same mission again and again isn’t much fun, as hiding, sneaking and cleaning up blood isn’t as endlessly rewarding as gunning down foes with a myriad of weapons.
The controls grate a bit too. Limited to eight directions of movement, controlling your cleaner often feels a bit awkward, and picking up bodies and evidence can be troublesome in the heat of the moment. They’re highlighted just before you move completely into range to pick them up, making for some frustrating instances when you need to act with speed.
Serial Cleaner‘s hiding mechanic can also throw up some mixed feelings at times. It’s a godsend that you can hide from police even when they’re hot on your tail, but it does come across as a bit daft. Honestly, the amount of times I had a policeman literally a millimetre or so behind me, only to see him look in puzzlement as I climb into a pot plant or cabinet just before he busted my ass astounded me.
Because of its difficulty, Serial Cleaner could be a fairly short or a gruelling drawn-out experience depending on how skilled you are. The gameplay available can also be prolonged by unlocking and completing a number of movie-themed missions, providing you can find and collect the required movie reels in the story campaign. And there are also quite a few alternative outfits to unlock for your cleaner – just for fun.
With its charming papercraft-like visuals and enjoyable 70s themed soundtrack, Serial Cleaner can be a lot of fun if you have the patience for it. Getting stuck on a level can quickly turn the experience sour though, especially when you feel like it’s the controls that have let you down rather than your own skill level. Still, if you’re a fan of games like Hotline Miami, it’s definitely worth a look.