Serial Cleaner came in under my radar. These days, I feel like that’s kind of an accomplishment in itself. But knowing nothing about a game before getting to play it is kind of refreshing and fun. It doesn’t take long to figure out what Serial Cleaner is all about, however. Picture a game like Hotline Miami or Enter the Gungeon, except that you’re the guy that they call after everything is said and done to come in and remove the bodies, evidence, and blood. You have to sneak into the active crime scene, with police on patrol, and remove the bodies, any evidence left behind, and clean up a certain percentage of the blood before making your escape in your wood-paneled station wagon. The game takes place in the mid ‘70’s and has that special retro flair that is becoming so popular these days, but can so easily be done badly. When done right (which in this game, it is) it can feel so nice.
The learning curve in the game is done very well. Each level, early on, introduces you to a new mechanic in the game, slowly building the complexity of the levels, without ever really overwhelming you until you feel fully comfortable with all the different options available to you. Coupled with a very simple and satisfying control scheme that can be enjoyed just as equally with a keyboard as with a controller, I was immediately impressed by the simple joy of each tightly constructed level.
Similarly to Hotline Miami, we are given glimpses into the main character’s “real life” between missions when you return home and have conversations with your mother, listen to the news on the radio, read the paper, watch the TV, etc. It gives a hint at who your character is and what is going on in the world around you. Also, a little bit of a sense of how your actions are affecting the things around you.
The game is played from a top down view and the graphics have an almost hand-drawn action-comic look to them. I really liked the way the game looked, except that there were a few times when the tones of the background made the vision cones of the patrolling police a little difficult to discern. Overall, however, I enjoyed the look and feel of the various missions and the different locales they presented you with.
The levels are all very unique and interesting. I never felt like they were just cookie cutter renditions of the others. They all had a very different feel, even though the objectives were all very similar. Another thing that I really appreciated about it was that if you fail a mission and have to start over again, the locations of the bodies and evidence would be slightly different each time, which made you have to approach the mission differently. There is no just learning the optimal route and going through the motions. Each time is slightly different than the one before it.
Ultimately, for a game that I knew nothing about, I was surprised and impressed by how well-done it was, especially for something that, on the surface, seemed so simple. They figured out a way to bring something new to the table for a style of game that has been done to death, and make it new and interesting, without having to reinvent the wheel. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a purely stealth based game.