There’s a lot to like about Serial Cleaner. It’s kind of like Viscera Cleanup Detail, but 2D and really 70s. It’s got music with a funky bassline, and that kind of orange/brown/purple colour palette that still graces the living room of the old boy who lives down the road, so right off the bat you’re bobbing your head going ‘Yeah, I can dig this.’
There’s obvious influence from both slasher and crime films, and Serial Cleaner goes as far as having not only unlockable outfits inspired by films (so you can do the whole thing dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange), but also bonus levels, including a Star Wars-esque cantina. These help to flesh out the game alongside what is a relatively short single player story, though you have to find hidden film stock in the story levels to unlock the bonus ones in the first place.
In the story, you’re living in a two bedroom suburban bungalow with your mum, and a dog house but no other evidence of a dog, and racking up debt gambling with a mobster, so he starts calling in favours. You become the Cleaner, disappearing evidence from crime scenes with a hoover, some body bags, and the ability to instantly hide in any nearby plant pots or cupboards should a policeman spot you.
At the same time, you begin getting anonymous calls contracting you to clean up after a notorious serial killer. The two jobs take you to a variety of locations, including a cabin in a swamp, a club, a motel, and so on and so forth. The difficulty spikes sharply, as more bodies appear at each crime scene, and you have to clean up greater quantities of blood. Every time you get pinched, you have to start the level again, only this time the evidence, bodies and hiding places might all have moved slightly. You might actually start to feel like a criminal mastermind, snatching a piece of evidence here because you know on his next patrol the cop will see it’s gone, and is thus distracted from the doorway there.
Different police types are introduced, including faster scouts, agents with taser guns who zap you on sight, and officers who whistle blow to call other units. Be prepared to rage quit, either through repeated exposure to your own stupidity, or sometime being caught by one tiny sliver of a guard’s cone of vision that wasn’t blocked by a chair, an infinitesimal needle that screws you over entirely.
The cleaning process was made even harder for me, though, by a recurring bug that darkened the whole screen as if the gamma had been turned all the way down, highlighting only the interaction boxes around key items like bodies. It wasn’t even reset by the old turning-it-off-and-on-again trick, and was only fixed by completing that level, which was quite hard because it made spotting the policemen’s cone of site extremely difficult. A few levels later the game would switch the lights off again.
The team is already fixing some other issues, and I hope this is one of them, because, without it, it’s an enjoyable, if sometimes finicky, genre send-up with a good sense of humour. With it, it becomes a few lighting grades shy of unplayable.
A fun take on both stealth games and genre films, Serial Cleaner will be more enjoyable if it can fix a bad lighting bug that made it almost unplayable.
Publisher: Curve Digital
Available on: PlayStation 4 [reviewed on], PC
Release date: July 11 2017