No one considers who has to clean up after murder scenes. Serial Cleaners offers players a glimpse into the life of the most aggressive users of cleaning products yet.
Cleanup on Aisle 4
Serial Cleaners follows Bob from the prequel Serial Cleaner, as he and three other “Cleaners” come together for a funeral. They sit around and reminisce about how they fell into the life of crime scene cleanup and eventually how they all became a marigold-wearing family.
As this is a story told from multiple perspectives, you can expect that it does a little jumping around. I feel this does wonders for the story. Rather than just accepting that the ‘Cleaners’ go from scene to scene in a linear path this has more of a ‘Greatest Hits’ feel about it as our unhinged cast regale the others in a friendly game of one-upmanship.
So Many Products!
The Cleaners all have distinctive personalities and are quite well-written. You have Bob who is the legendary cleaner, the one that brought the crew together. There’s Psycho, who as the name implies isn’t the most level-headed. Lati is more political and street-based. Finally, there’s Vip3r, who is a technowizard with a passion for 1337 speak and the main source of cringe throughout.
The story is mostly about the history of how this crew got together. Some of the most interesting bits don’t even involve cleaning up crime scenes. For example, there is a scene involving Bob trying to make a go of the “honest life”, showing how it grinds him down, eventually triggering him to fall back into what he does best.
The narrative as a whole is much better and far more engaging than the original Serial Cleaner game. It’s not exactly anything particularly mind-blowing, but certainly one for fans of Tarantino-esque films.
Spit and Elbow Grease
So how does one go about cleaning up a crime scene? Well in a traditional isometric view with a heavy dose of stealth, of course! No one wants to get caught tampering with a scene of mass murder now, do they?
Each level provides you with a set of objectives to achieve while remaining unseen by the eyes of the law. This boils down to disposing of bodies, cleaning a certain amount of blood up using your handy vacuum cleaner, and making evidence go missing. No evidence, no crime, as they say.
How you achieve this is with a heavy dose of sneaking around and using your Cleaners’ abilities to get the bodies and big evidence to your car. How you go about this depends on which Cleaner you have control of for that mission.
Bob is a master of his trade, he can wrap bodies in a bag causing them to not leave a blood trail as he goes. On the flip side, he can skate on blood which gets him places much faster but also knocks people out of the way in doing so. Psycho can dismember bodies leaving you less to carry. Lati has parkour skills, so can navigate levels with ease. Vip3r can hack stuff causing distractions from afar and taking lights out at whim.
Each mission is usually dictated by which Cleaner you’ve picked beforehand and can be chosen in any order. Some missions give you the chance to switch between the Cleaners, opening up new ways of achieving your objectives. For instance, there’s a level with Lati and Psycho where you can use his handy chainsaws to open up new paths for Lati and cut bodies up. This makes them much easier to transport than dragging a whole corpse through a television show set!
Despite being the Cleaners for some truly horrific crimes, they don’t get their hands dirty themselves. You can only knock Police unconscious by throwing evidence at them or using your abilities. Psycho can lock them in crates to incapacitate the force, but ultimately you’ll never have enough crates to create a truly law-free run.
Grab your Mop and Bucket
The controls work well and are fairly intuitive. Each Cleaner has several tutorials explaining how they work and the differences. The only issue I found caused a level reset because of the context-sensitive nature of the action button; a body had landed near a ladder and I was unable to move it due to the context-sensitive option switching to climb instead of carrying.
Sadly as enjoyable as the narrative is, it doesn’t quite stave off the feeling of repetition as the game goes on. Despite some levels offering interesting gimmicks, it always boils down to the same objectives. You’ll often find you’re doing the same things to move enemy patrols despite the ramping up of difficulty.
On that talking point, not all Cleaners are made equal. I always found that despite the odds, Vip3r had the toughest stages due to her abilities being limited to hacking and climbing through vents. The difficulty always seemed to spike on her missions but I guess if you’re gonna be 1337 then you need to prove it!
Bang! The Dirt is Gone
Serial Cleaners has taken the low poly PlayStation 1-inspired route for its graphics and at a distance, it looks quite impressive. Unfortunately, the cutscenes tend to zoom in on the character models, and they look like something Silent Hill wouldn’t allow through its streets.
Fortunately, at a distance, you don’t see the basic textures and with film grain, it looks quite good. The various settings and weather effects also carry the visuals further than initially expected. There is just a certain charm when it comes to the grit of it all that works for this title.
During cutscenes, words will flash up on the screen in a fashion that would make Suda 51 blush. It adds to the dark theme of the game and gives off a real punk vibe. This is a massive difference compared to the almost parody cartoon look and feel of the original.
How Does a Dyson Handle?
While I can’t comment on the other platforms, the performance on the Nintendo Switch wasn’t the greatest sadly. Psycho’s first level in a Fargo-inspired snowy location ground the framerate down. A level involving Bob going through a cocaine-induced trance also juddered the game. When there isn’t a lot going on, the game performs fine, but the busier sections take their toll here.
I can’t say much about the soundtrack. While the ambiance in levels added to the tension, there isn’t a single track that stuck out to me. It was a mostly forgettable aural adventure.
The voice acting is good for the most part. Bob plays it cool and collected while Psycho grunts and swears as you would expect. Again Vip3r crashes through the wall of tolerance with a voice suiting someone who happily says “Lol” and “Haxorz” out loud.
I loved my time with Serial Cleaners, which clocked in at around 10 hours. It was everything you could expect from a sequel of a game that showed some real promise.
The greater lean on narrative and the gritty aesthetic carried the game much further than the original Serial Cleaner, but sadly the core gameplay loop remains mostly unchanged. This is fine initially but wears thin toward the end.
If you’re a fan of Stealth games and movies such as Pulp Fiction, you’ll lap up everything Serial Cleaners has to offer. While it outstayed its welcome, I’d have no qualms about hiring this motley crew for another clean-up.
SERIAL CLEANERS IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to 505 Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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