Many games see you taking the role of a member of a crime gang or a brooding vigilante to wipe up the city streets. I thought that I’d seen it all in this light, but Serial Cleaner proved me wrong. There are still plenty of other variations on the “violence and killing” theme that have yet to explored.
Serial Cleaner puts you in the padded shoes of Bob Leaner, a man who specializes in being the cleanup crew for murderers. He’s a bit of a freelancer, so he’ll take just about any contract that he can get his hands on. The premise is interesting enough, but how does the game hold up?
Easily the most praiseworthy aspect of Serial Cleaner is its presentation. As soon as the game starts, you’ll be treated to visual images that take you right back to the seventies. What makes it even more enjoyable here is that Serial Cleaner doesn’t use it as a gimmick; instead, developer ifun4all has crafted its identity on it to create an experience that’s very enjoyable from a visual and audio perspective.
You’ll be driving around in a classic stationwagon, dealing with lazy cops, and sporting a hairstyle that no one would be caught dead in today. It all blends together really well to give Serial Cleaner a sense of personality that’s not present in most games. It doesn’t shove nostalgia and satire down your throat like Retro City Rampage, but it still gets the point across.
It’s worth noting that the story takes a backseat in the game and isn’t much to write home about. It contains just about all the tropes you’d expect from a title taking place in the seventies.
Moving on to the gameplay, Serial Cleaner has a lot of great ideas in place. The game is a high-action puzzle game. Each scenario is a level where you’ll have a certain number of bodies, evidence, and blood to cleanup. Cops will be roaming the stage, waiting to find you at every corner. The trick, then, is to figure out the best route to make all of the evidence disappear while not getting caught.
This central idea works really well. The game also adds on further mechanics as you progress, but does a good job of explaining them so you know how to use them in the proceeding levels. I never felt overwhelmed by the environment, and the levels were really fun and exciting for the most part.
Unfortunately, Serial Cleaner suffers from some crucial design flaws that only became more aggravating as I got further in the game. First of all, the placement of the hiding spots (the only way you can protect yourself against cops), the dead bodies, blood, and evidence were all placed in random spots. Because of this, there was no element of trial and error with each playthrough. I had to constantly adapt in all the worst ways.
Making this flaw worse is the fact that the game isn’t particularly easy or forgiving. Cops detect you with a flashlight. If you get in their sights, they’ll chase after you. They move significantly faster than you and will almost always catch up to you if you don’t find a hiding spot. If you’re caught, then you have to start the entire level over and everything is placed in a different spot than last time. This wouldn’t be so bad if the cops were fairly predictable, but their movements were erratic and random. I rage quit several times because I put a nearly flawless plan together only for a cop to do suddenly look at me and force me to start from square one. It’s where I think a “checkpoint” system of sorts would’ve helped out- or at least the placement of items of interest remained stagnant.
Serial Cleaner doesn’t just make you play through the story and be done. in each level, there is either a magazine or a film reel to collect. The former unlocks new costumes for your character to wear (which can only be accessed by exiting the game and choosing them from the main menu). The latter gives you bonus stages placed on classic films like Star Wars.
I appreciated the added challenge of trying to acquire all of these items, but their placement was sometimes unfair and nearly impossible to get to. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that the bonus stages themselves are incredibly fun, especially if you understand which film they’re referencing.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review copy of Serial Cleaner was provided by ifun4all for this Serial Cleaner review.