Ah the 70s… an era of funky music, the sideburn and moustache combo, Watergate and murder. So it’s only logical that killer would need a little bit of assistance in cleaning up the mess after, right? Cast your mind back to EGX Rezzed and you may remember that we played the demo of Serial Cleaner and were instantly in love. When the game was released in July, we just had to get involved and check out the finished product. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in.
Serial Cleaner is a 2D stealth, action puzzler that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a bit of fun while giving you a challenge. In this title made by ifun4all and published by Curve Digital, you play as The Cleaner, a chap who lives with his mum and cleans up crime scenes for a living while wearing some sharp 70s threads and delivering some witty retorts. It’s dirty work but someone has got to do it. Your main goals are to clear the crime scene of all evidence, bodies and blood if required and not to get caught while doing so. Straight away you may be lulled into thinking that this will be easy… just wait until there are more cops, more bodies and impeccable timing is required over anything else. This is a story-driven game and while not too serious, brings a nice narrative to keep you playing and to build up to the final contracts.
The story itself is pretty straight forward, you get a call, you carry out a contract and get paid but after a little while, not all is as it seems and you soon realise that things are about to get really messy… and you’ll be the one cleaning up after. There are some nice little touches throughout the game which point out some key events in 70s history and also draws inspiration from real 1970s murder scenes. You hear things on the TV and radio or read things in the paper that link back to real events in the 70s which I found to be a nice bit of trivia hunting and if I recognised an event, it brought a little smile to see that ifun4all have done their homework. The art style, music and setting are a delight in my opinion and that coupled with the throwback moments about past events, just make it all the more fun. The story isn’t complex in nature but as you work through the 20 main contracts, you probably start to like The Cleaner even if he is a terrible gambler, getting into all sorts of trouble with the wrong people and… you know disposing of evidence while aiding and abetting a deadly murderer.
The contracts start off simple enough with a couple of cops, one piece of evidence to pick up and one body (and if you’re out for collectibles a movie reel or magazine which I’ll come to shortly). But pretty quickly there are numerous cops, some of whom move around the map and more evidence and bodies to dispose of before it throws in some blood to hoover up along the way. You will learn that timing is of the essence and lingering a moment too long or not watching the cops around you may result in a chase. The controls are simple and you’ll use your Cleaner Sense to see the whole map and pin point where everything is, which includes the hiding places you can hop into if needed or items that can make sound as a way of distracting the cops. The Cleaner Sense is pretty handy if you’re trying to work out the timings and pathways of the police. But, if you get caught, your careful assessment and planning will go out of the window as the maps are procedurally generated meaning bodies and items might not be in the same place next time. There are only couple of contracts in which this doesn’t happen, but either way, you should try not to get caught!
The game doesn’t end once you have completed the 20 contracts. In fact, if you do seek out all of the movie reels hidden within some of the contracts, you’ll unlock movie based contracts! That’s right, you may be starring in a Karate Kid or Monty Python themed crime scene and these are pretty fun as well as being challenging. This works well alongside the costumes that can also be collected by picking up hidden magazines dotted around other contracts and there are some great costumes. I spent the majority sporting the Ultra-violent look from A Clockwork Orange! You can pick and choose as and when you want, but adds an extra layer of fun to proceedings. There is also a challenge mode which may take away cops cones of vision and even give you a drunk cleaner to make completing a run all the more difficult. I for one may spend a rather long time trying to do this and may even try and counteract the latter by having a beverage! They are hard so be warned!
The one thing I’m still not entirely sure of is the use of Real World Data in this game. At the start of the game you’ll be asked if you want your location to be used as it will generate item placement based on where you are. The only other thing it will do is change between day and night depending on what time you are playing. I think I would need to play somewhere else to get an idea of how the mapping works based on your location as the maps themselves don’t change other than the evidence, bodies, blood and hiding spots. Either way, I liked the day/night change in the game and it is definitely trickier when the lighting is lower. It adds to the challenge I find while just being a nice touch. If you would prefer not to have this feature enabled, it can be unticked easily within the Options screen.
If you’re a trophy/achievement hunter then this title could be fairly easy to complete. It will just mean putting some hours into it which I have certainly enjoyed doing (please note at the time of writing, I have not yet got the platinum). These range from simply completing contracts to doing them in the day or night time, getting chased and caught, hiding or distracting police and your collectibles. There are a couple of surprises in there but I have to say I’m slightly dreading having to try and clean up 100% of blood in some of the contracts… I certainly need to up my game to get that one! It is certainly making me want to continue playing the game and while it does have some challenging levels, it isn’t impossible to complete and I do enjoy the slight panic of a mistimed exit from a hiding spot resulting in a chase when you are trying to clear the last body.
Serial Cleaner is an enjoyable and delightful game. I knew from the moment we played at EGX Rezzed that this would be a game that I would want to complete and have a good time doing so. With the combination of art style, music, subject matter and sense of humour, the game brings a little light-hearted fun to what is a pretty grim subject and I still love the idea of a chap going around hoovering up blood at crime scenes. While I continue to try and get all of those trophies and challenge modes to try and complete, there are certainly hours of fun to be had in a game that you can pick up and play whenever you fancy.
Serial Cleaner is available of Steam, PS4 and Xbox One for £11.99 but you can also pick up the soundtrack as well for an extra £5 to get it as a bundle. Our thanks to Curve Digital for providing us with a review copy for PS4.