Once in a while you get a concept that instantly makes you intrigued. Serial Cleaner is definitely one of those. Even from the name alone you can probably guess what it’s all about, which is very clever. You are a cleaner who specialises in cleaning up crime scenes and is contracted by the mob. You quickly destroy evidence, clean up blood and hide bodies. It couldn’t be simpler and it’s couldn’t be any more genius. The game was made by iFun4all, who recently published two questionable quick mobile ports to the Switch, so it’s fair to say I went in with a bit of apprehension. But it seems they really nailed it with this one.
You are Bob the cleaner. A man with talent. Talent for cleaning up crime scenes. There is a little bit of a story that bubbles away between jobs. Bob is an older gentleman, still living at home with his mother, making a living with his shady cleaning practices. Despite the expected high pay for such a specialised and discreet service, Bob has been getting into debt through gambling and has to take on jobs from even less trustworthy clients to pay it off. It’s not a story that’s going to keep you fully invested, but it’s okay, it adds to the overall package and it’s nice they tried. It’s also fairly non-intrusive since scene and dialogue is kept short and between levels, which is nice.
Each stage you are tasked with cleaning up the crime scene. First, disposing of the bodies. You can pick up bodies with the Y button and haul them to your vehicle and dumping them in the boot. After a short while you can get a little more inventive with your body dumping by feeding them to crocodiles or piranhas.
The second main objective is to pick up evidence; guns, knives, saws and so on. This the simplest thing to do since once pick up, you don’t need to do anything else. As a cute detail, Bob collects many of the pieces of evidence picked up and displays them at home.
Then there’s the blood vacuuming of which you have to clean up a certain percentage of the blood that’s on the floor. You hold the ZR button to suck up the red liquid, which is spread out in patches around the map.
You have to do all of these while police officers menacingly prowl the area, or stand guard in strategic positions. They each have their own fan shaped view area, very Metal Gear-esque in that regard and, of course they have incredibly bad sight. They can also hear things. Walking and vacuuming creates a little bit of sound which can alert one of them to run and check you out, even if they are in the room next door. This can actually be used tactically to lure them out of position. If you’ve been spotted, or want to avoid being spotted, you can hide in bushes or cupboards which, even if a cop is an inch away from grabbing you, will instantly make them lose you should you enter a hiding place.
Some more complicated things that follow are the interactive elements in the stages. It’s not too long until you are able to move objects such as doors, vehicles and boxes which confuses the cops and also changes their patrol path. You can even use this to trap them which helps a lot, as well as block their view. Then you can use noisy things around the environments to distract the cops. You can even use shortcuts to teleport you around the stages. It introduces the concepts gradually which is nice, although later on, maps can become a little on the complex side, your Cleaner Sense can become a maze of different colours which is slightly overwhelming.
Your Cleaner Sense is activated with the ZL button. This allows you to view the whole playing field, see all the objectives and see all interactive objects. For me, its greatest use is observing the patrol routes of the police. You can’t move while in Cleaner Sense, but stand somewhere safe, and you’re good to go. It’s well worth studying everything before commencing.
It can be fairly difficult at times, especially if you don’t take complete notice of your surroundings. I must admit I did get stuck for quite a while on one particular stage, but that was because I didn’t pay enough attention to see that there was a box I could push to block one very troublesome cop’s sight. It really pays to study your Cleaner Sense before fully attempting the level. A nice touch is that after failing the level, objective placements maybe in slightly different areas so you’re not always doing the same thing over and over again. Granted, it doesn’t seem there’s a huge amount of potentials places for things to go in a stage, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.
Somethings that’s really interesting is the art style and era they have gone for. For some reason they chose the 1970’s, which is probably as a result of making it more comical, being able to give characters moustaches, sideburns and aviator sunglasses. It doesn’t play a huge part in the game though, more for circumstance of not using modern technology I suppose.
While my complaints with the game are few, I did have a slight problem with the environments which, while nicely stylised, are sometimes a bit of a mess to discern what is what. It’s just a little too heavy or chaotic at times. Things blend together, you’re not always sure where you can walk and I ended up getting caught on things which was a little annoying. Sometimes I ended up getting caught because of it.
The music is pretty nice. A soul/funk vibe ripped straight from the era. It suits the art style particularly well. Some tracks can get a little repetitive though, especially if you need to replay a level multiple times before you succeed.
Overall, Serial Cleaner is a huge step up in quality from developer iFun4all. Curve Digital have made the right choice in publishing this for the Nintendo Switch. It offers a very unique gameplay concept, with the most tense stealth I’ve played in a long while. Yes, the environments can be a bit of a indecipherable mess at times, but you’ll still have a good time playing it. If you pick up Serial Cleaner on your Switch, I have no doubt that you enjoy it and definitely get your money’s worth. It’s not the best game on the eShop, but a damn fine one.
Game provided by iFun4all