When I first heard of Serial Cleaner my first reaction was “What on earth?” However, when I watched the trailer, well I just couldn’t let anyone else get their bloody hands on it! With inspiration from the Fargo series, Pulp Fiction and real 1970’s murder scenes, this game is absolutely bonkers! If this alone is not enough to sell it to you, well you better continue reading below!
Game: Serial Cleaner
Previewed on: PC (preview code provided by publisher)
Contrary to its subject matter, Serial Cleaner is by no means a serious game but one of playful humour. It was an experience of which I have never seen before; in fact most gamers have probably never experienced this side of the story, or at the very least it’s a rare one.
So let’s set the scene for you, think of yourself as a silent Winston Wolfe. To further this, you are a 30-ish guy with a hot sense of style: tight pants, sunglasses, a great moustache and a red Station Wagon…why you’re just like a solo Starsky & Hutch! (On the other side of the law.) Unlike these guys however your life is not quite as glamorous; saddled with a hefty debt, you are eager to diversify your sources of income. Thanks to a mysterious client, the mafia and plenty of gangsters there is a constant supply of murders to clean up!
Serial Cleaner is still in its Early Access phase and at the time of writing I have been playing on version 0.2. Of course this means that there is still a ways to go before release but from what I have experienced so far, I AM IN LOVE!
From the instant I laid eyes on the trailer it was like a pair of hands leapt out and pulled me in to one of my dream worlds. The 1970’s theme and all of its aesthetics enraptured me! For starters, the soundtrack just oozes out that retro crime show vibe. Full of Funk, Smooth Jazz, Jazz Fusion and a bit of Soul, it is full of energy that had me grooving away. If that wasn’t enough the art is gorgeous! As an individual who loves design, especially illustration I just love this form of artwork! The designs are simple, using a blocky, minimalistic style with pastel tones and distressed textures. (It really helps to bring out the blood.) I can’t tell you how many screenshots I have taken to use wallpapers, I just hope there will be an artbook!
So on to the gameplay itself. Serial Cleaner is a 2D top-down stealth / action game and shares some similarity with Hotline Miami, fans of which are sure to enjoy this! So what does a Serial Cleaner do you may ask? Well, like the great Winston Wolfe you are there to solve problems, these problems being cleaning up the sloppy mess left behind by a serial killer and various gangsters. Obviously in a rush to flee the scene, a plethora of incriminating evidence has been left behind, from murder weapons, pools of blood to the dead bodies themselves. If life was easy then of course you would be in and out of the scene in a snap, sadly, the crime scenes are already under surveillance by the police. The controls are simple enough, moving with the arrow keys and using ‘S’ or ‘A’ to pick up items or hide. Controllers are also supported, I found using my Xbox One controller gave me more control over my actions.
Your task is to remove all evidence and escape without being caught, which is often an easy task as these officers tend to be thick as two planks. It isn’t always a walk in the park however, as tougher stages involve more police and cleaning. At this point there are 7 stages available, from a Bloody-Red Steak Diner to The Deadly Telegraph. (I tell you the humor is fantastic!) You are able to zoom out to view the full scope of the scene and plan your movement tactically. You can see where evidence lies, find practical hiding spots and view items able to obstruct or distract your enemy. This mode however does not pause your game so be sure to do this in a safe spot! Police have a visible field of view of which encroaching into this will of course alert them and chase begins. To avoid capture you have multiple options: hide in a nearby cupboard, move objects to put an obstacle in their way or take a shortcut. Hiding is always fun but at times I wish they were smarter, as they just seem to stare at the cupboard before grunting then losing interest amid confusion. (I mean you just saw me jump in there you dummy! Of course he was more interested in getting back to his doughnut…) Should you get caught you must start that scene all over again. The good (and maybe bad) news here is that the scene regenerates as a new randomisation each time you are caught, meaning you won’t get bored of replaying the same level twice. The downside is that any plan you had previously may not work a second time.
In its current build there are 4 enemy types, some are faster whilst others alert those nearby to gang up on you. Picking up objects is simple enough, whilst moving bodies as you can imagine is a more difficult task. Your movement emits noise which can alert police, carrying a body makes this louder so you must be aware of your surroundings. Bodies can be chucked in the back of your wagon or lobbed out a window, with a rather satisfying thud. The cleaning of blood is what confused me the most, I mean a mop would be a logical, quiet choice but what does our protagonist use, a damn hoover! Still it’s these silly details that give the game its quirky charm. Another charm is how the game uses Real-World Data to alter the environment. The game reflects the current time of day, meaning if you play at night the scene takes place at night too, adding an interesting dynamic to gameplay. To complete a stage you must collect all evidence and bodies, whilst only a percentage of blood needs to be cleaned in order to pass. I of course had to clean up every last speck! (If I’m going to be a professional then I’ll be damned if I don’t do it properly!)
I must say so far I’m impressed! There were of course a few small bugs such as getting stuck on a wall but otherwise Serial Cleaner is looking mighty solid. I’m looking forward to see how they can step it up a notch, maybe a time limit could make it more heart pounding? I can’t wait to see where the next update takes us and of course for the full release! For £6.99 this is one indie title I encourage you all give a go!