Publisher: Curve Digital
Release Date: 30 November 2017
Price: $14.99 / £14.99
Reviewed by Phil Myth
Serial Cleaner is a refreshing take on the stealth genre which strips you of any means of combat, and challenges you instead to complete each and every level without being spotted.
You play as Bobby, the cleaner, who is employed by the mob to tidy up their crime scenes. Unfortunately, by the time Bobby arrives, the cops are already in attendance, meaning you have to sneak around to stash away evidence, dispose of the bodies, and vacuum up the blood. Sure it's a bizarre scenario, but it makes for some great gameplay.
Stealth Jim, but not as we know it
The levels are all super varied, from newspaper offices and boxing gyms, to wastelands and TV studios, no two levels are even remotely alike, even if the ultimate goal hardly varies. Each level features numerous lawmen who must be avoided, and they all have a cone-like field of vision that will be familiar to anyone who's ever played a Metal Gear Solid game.
More often than not the key is to watch for their patterns and learn when to make your move. This trial and error is mixed up though, by the random location of the various bodies, trinkets and pools of blood in each level. If you get caught before you're finished, you have to start the level from scratch, and your objectives won't be in the same place they just were. This approach does help keep things interesting, but it can also be a little frustrating if you fail at the final hurdle and have to start all over again, with everything in a different location.
If you do get spotted whilst tackling your grisly job, you can always make a beeline for the various hiding places that are dotted around each stage. Make it to one before the cops catch you, and they'll look around puzzled before heading back to their patrol.
There's also various shortcuts and moveable objects as you progress through the game that can aid your escape, whilst also serving as rudimentary puzzles to be solved in order to remove each body. This again adds enough variety to keep things fresh across each of the game's 20 main stages, and there's an interesting - if not particularly deep - plot to tie everything together too.
Each level also has a hidden item to be found, which unlocks either a new costume for Bobby, or a bonus stage. These unlockables are all based around iconic 70s movies and are well worth hunting down.
With such a macabre premise, the choice of a papercraft artstyle might seem slightly bizarre but it works spectacularly well and the game looks ridiculously cool. The 70s setting and aesthetic is set off superbly with a soundtrack that has quickly become one of my all time favourites, full of funky slap bass, jazzy blues guitar, and groovy shuffles. Stylistically, it's a very cool game.
There can be some frustrations when the random placement of bodies and evidence can occasionally leave them in almost impossible locations, and although the level variety is top notch, the non-changing nature of the objectives can feel a little repetitive at times. Without giving too much away, the final couple of levels do do something different, and a little more of that variety throughout the game wouldn't have gone amiss.
Overall though, Serial Cleaner is a highly enjoyable game, and is cooler than a pair of aviators and a handle-bar moustache. The level design is perfectly varied, and there's enough hidden extras to keep you playing even after you finish the main campaign.
Pros & Cons
+ Rewarding gameplay
+ Varied level design
+ Fantastic presentation
- Little variation in objectives
- Occasionally frustrating goal placement