The 70’s were an interesting time. Hippies roamed the land and “flower power” was in full swing. People were rocking tight pants and mustaches while doing the hustle in discotheques around the country. It was a magical decade full of peace, love, understanding, and oh... did I mention mass murder? The 70’s contained some of the most notorious murders ever known, like Ted Bundy; Charles Manson; the Son of Sam; and the infamous Zodiac Killer. Lightly inspired by famous crimes of the 70’s, Serial Cleaner is a stealthy cleanup game with a dash of macabre humor. Your job is to clean up crime scenes and dispose of the evidence while avoiding the police and security patrolling the area. Complete your contracts successfully and you’ll make a killing: get caught and its game over, dude.
Your main goal in Serial Cleaner is to complete each story contract. The concept is easy enough to pick up and the control scheme even easier. Each level has a certain amount of bodies to dispose of, incriminating evidence to pick up, and a specified percentage of blood to clean up. When you pick a body, you have to take them back to your station wagon and place them in the back. Blood can be cleaned up by pulling out your vacuum and walking over it until the floor is clean. Evidence items simply have to be picked up, no fuss no muss. Once you complete all the required objectives, you have to get back to your trusty station wagon to make your escape. There is one small issue, however: the police are always on the scene and if they catch you, you have to start over from the beginning of the contract.
This is where the stealth element comes into play. Enemies have a vision cone, step into it and they will chase you down and knock you unconscious. Your movements also generate noise that is displayed on-screen as a wave emanating from your character. You have to be even more careful when using your vacuum as it’s pretty noisy. You have a few options to help you evade capture. Placed around the level are hiding spots that you can jump into to avoid being seen. Even when an enemy is hot on your tracks, you can still jump in to avoid being captured. After a few moments, they lose interest and go back to their patrol route. Carrying a body slows you down and doesn’t allow you to interact with anything, but you can drop them at any time, just in case you need to beat a hasty retreat into a closet or the nearest plant. Another thing to watch out for is that when you move bodies or pick up evidence, any guard that sees it in a different place will come investigate out of curiosity.
Get caught too many times and the game will randomize the level. This means moving the hiding spots around, bodies, blood, and evidence. Luckily you have a special ability called “cleaner sense” that when used, gives you a bird’s eye view of the crime scene while marking out all the hiding spots, objectives, patrols, and other useful things that you can interact with. There is no penalty for using it nor is there and special requirements to use it. Be warned though, using cleaner sense doesn’t pause the game. Enemies still roam around so make sure you use it in a safe place or you’ll get busted while you’re checking out the area. Later levels will have plenty of useful things to interact with. You’ll be able to move certain objects and press buttons to open up or block off certain areas to create shortcuts, and sometimes block off patrols so you can get to a tricky piece of evidence. There are also shortcuts that can take you to another part of the crime scene quickly, and stationary items that can be activated in order to make a lot of sound to draw the guards in and distract them for a short amount of time.
There are a few things that give Serial Cleaner a good bit of replayability beyond completing the main story mode. First are the collectibles. Hidden throughout the levels are magazines and film reels, which allow you to unlock new outfits and bonus contracts, respectively, which are both inspired by popular movies. As a lover of pop culture, I got a huge kick out of these. It’s a laugh-inducing experience when I’m cleaning up a murder scene in a sanitarium inspired by One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while dressed up like Robert Deniro’s character from Taxi Driver, complete with Mohawk and all. Other than that, there is a satisfying challenge mode for those of you who prefer a... well, uh... challenge. There are actually quite a few challenge modes. There are a few that add detrimental effects to your abilities, such as turning off cleaner sense or disabling the enemy’s vision cones. Other challenges range from a simple time trial run to an endless cleaning mode where you must remove one body at a time until you eventually get caught in an effort to see how many bodies you can dispose of. And of course, the cherry on top is the online leaderboards so you can compete with players all over for the best score/completion time.
When it comes to Serial Cleaner’s sound and odd graphical style, the influence the 1970’s has had on it shines through. And I’m not just talking about the main characters oversized sunglasses and epic mustache. The instrumentals are full of funky guitars and the occasional saxophone, and they sound just like something that you might hear in a show or movie of that time period. The art direction has a minimalist feel to it, and it may sound weird to hear me explain it like this but it is very angular looking. The artwork is made up of a lot of sharp angles and straight lines. I’m no art buff, so I’m not exactly sure what the style is called, but it is definitely unique and cool to look at.
If you enjoy games with a weird concept and a dash of morbid humor, then Serial Cleaner is definitely worth a look. Serial Cleaner’s soundtrack and style of graphics are a blast, and its stealth gameplay is easy to pick up, yet challenging enough at the higher levels. Thanks to the challenge modes and unlockables, there is enough gameplay to keep you dumping bodies for hours. I also found that Serial Cleaner is a good title to pick up and play whenever you have only a little bit of game-time. So if cleaning up after other people’s messes sounds good to you, give Serial Cleaner a whirl.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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