Lewis
Jul 11, 2017
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: iFun4all
Review platform: Serial Cleaner was reviewed on a standard Xbox One with prerelease code provided by the publisher
Release date: Jul 11, 2017
If there were any games to draw a comparison to for the simple matter of describing Serial Cleaner, it would have to be Hotline Miami. Not because it’s a complete copy in any way, but more because it’s the exact opposite. Whereas Hotline Miami sees you viciously cutting down rooms full of criminals at high, octane speeds, Serial Cleaner has you patiently sneaking through locations to clean up the aftermath of a murder spree.

Even visually and audibly Serial Cleaner is Hotline Miami’s polar opposite; Hotline Miami’s neon lights and modern aesthetic is replaced with a muted, 70’s geometric style while the soundtrack switches Miami’s electronic-synthwave tracks to a much smoother wavelength, featuring funky basslines and jazz you could click your fingers to. They’re both presented on a 2D plane, but all-in-all Serial Cleaner is a more relaxed alternative to the wavy chaos of Miami’s gunfights.



Playing as The Cleaner, your job is to sneak into crime scenes and steal the bodies of victims before the police can lock down the scene. To do this you’ll have to pay attention to the vision cones of your enemies, find suitable hiding spots and manipulate specific parts of your environment to sneak around and clean up all evidence of the events prior to your arrival. Whilst attempting to stay out of the police’s sight, you’ll have to collect the murder weapon, bodies and a souvenir; the majority of stages also have you mopping up a certain percentage of blood in the stage just to make it that extra bit challenging.

As the barebones story of Serial Cleaner progresses, stages escalate with more enemies, more cops, and more blood to mop up. These stages are usually where the game is at its best; larger stages regularly offer unique, additional ways to dispose of bodies and hidden paths for enhanced stealth routes. While bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, in Serial Cleaner the larger-scoped levels are where most of the effort has most definitely been placed.



That’s not to say these levels are perfect, it’s just that the broader scope combined with added freedom allows the simplistic mechanics of Serial Cleaner to shine. No matter how well polished the level design is, they can’t help to mask the fundamental flaws that plague every level in the game. Most of my problems with the game have to do with its AI: Serial Cleaner’s policemen are some of the ineptest enemies I’ve been pit against in a game this year, and it shows often.

With a movement speed ever-so-slightly quicker than your run speed, Serial Cleaners police are just about challenging enough to catch you off guard whilst you’re learning the ropes. Their wide vision cones can ever-so-slightly clip you as you’re sneaking around a corner. This, however, is before you learn that diving into a hiding space—no matter how close you are to the cop—causes them to quickly forget you exist and simply walk away. What would initially be a tense moment where you and your foe lock eyes before you quickly dart towards the nearest truck withers and dies as soon as you realize that you only need to reach a hiding spot to not get caught.



Serial Cleaner’s biggest mistake is that it never really evolves. From the third or so mission onwards you’re given your mechanics and are sent into the wide ol’ world of cleaning. It’s a simple game, so simple that it becomes a fault. There’s a neat idea in Serial Cleaner, but it’s one that lacks any form of depth or complexity for it to become a game you desperately need to pick up. Whereas Hotline Miami had the mask and rating system to encourage replayability, outside of its bonus missions Serial Cleaner doesn’t really have anything to hook you.

Summary

Serial Cleaner is a neat idea that isn’t as fleshed out as it could be. A killer art style and soundtrack help the game leap just a step above what would be an otherwise dull, albeit unique game of hide-and-seek. Outside of a few bonus missions, Serial Cleaner lacks replayability and a deep hook to keep you playing.
Our score: 6/10

Decent - A game that may have niche appeal, flawed but enjoyable.
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