As the sword made its final cut, blood ran down it like melted butter on a knife. Red mist filled the air, the smell of copper becoming inescapable. His eyes were bloodshot and welling up from the sting of the bodily fluids that had splashed his face. The man looked around, and bodies lay strewed along his path of destruction. Arms littered the landscape, with trees looking like they’dAs the sword made its final cut, blood ran down it like melted butter on a knife. Red mist filled the air, the smell of copper becoming inescapable. His eyes were bloodshot and welling up from the sting of the bodily fluids that had splashed his face. The man looked around, and bodies lay strewed along his path of destruction. Arms littered the landscape, with trees looking like they’d grab you if you got too close. Heads were staring off into space longing for their eyes that could now be anywhere. The man takes his blood soaked clothing and drives away. Cue the cleaner that needs to make all of this go away.
Serial Cleaner puts you in the role of the poor sod that has the role of cleaning up the mess created by those that must resort to violence, much like Mr. Wolfe in Pulp Fiction, Tom Cutler in Cleaner, or the Charlie and his crew from John Wick. But instead of cleaning up a crime scene before the cops arrive, you’ll be doing so while the cops are already on the scene. Your mission is to pick up any evidence, bodies, and clean the area of blood while the authorities are patrolling the area.
If this sounds simple, then you’re right. It’s very easy to get into, and is reminiscent of Hotline Miami, as many games are since it launched. The main aesthetic difference is that this takes place in the 70s, and this is obvious with the art direction and the funky soundtrack. The game itself doesn’t involve an excessive amount of violence (you causing it, at least), but it takes inspiration with the hub of your house, the different events, the car to start and end a mission, and the phone call to receive your next objective. It’s almost like Hotline Miami: The Aftermath, if it took place in the 70s. There are other things you’ll likely come across that are similar, but the base gameplay is more along the lines of something like Viscera Cleanup Detail, except in 2D.
As the fuzz will be littered throughout each level, you’ll have to use stealth tactics to traverse the maps. Don’t worry though, as it’s not overly in-depth. You’ll see the vision cones for each character, and the noise you create is depicted by sonic waves surrounding you. If you enter the cone of vision, or are so close the officers hear you, you’ll be chased until caught. Luckily the levels contain hiding spots for you to slip into, keeping you safe from the nightstick of doom. And if you are caught, you get to start from the beginning of the level.
A neat, albeit optional portion of the game involves using your IP address to change the time day in the game. This isn’t like Boktai where you need the sun to defeat enemies, but rather changes the way you have to plan out how to complete the level. Think of how the amount of security changes in Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain depending on the time of day. Changes include the cops’ fields of vision being smaller, and noises being more noticeable. You can’t see as well in the dark, and not everyone works graveyard, so the forces you’ll face change depending on the time of day you’re playing.
Levels are not only based on actual events that have happened, but if you are able to find the hidden film reels in the base levels, you can play scenes that are from movies too. Alien, anyone? Speaking of the levels themselves, you’ll find that they change when you replay them. Not drastically, but the pickups and blood spatter may be in locations, and the patrols may be stronger or weaker, making you rethink your new approach. There are also additional challenges you can add to the levels, such as removing the cones of vision, as well as taking out any hiding spots you may seek refuge in.
There are some downfalls to the game though. While the art style is great, it can occasionally make depth of field a bit unclear. Moving around a tree or building without being able to tell where it ends can be the difference of getting caught or beating the level. The story is also a bit lackluster, considering the inspiration it takes from. However, the rest of the game does make up for it. You can also expect a series of trial & error attempts once the difficulty ramps up after the first few levels.
If you’ve ever wanted to be on cleaning duty for a snuff film, it’s likely this was made for you. The 70s art style, a funkadelic soundtrack, and some dark humor (reminds me of my ex…) help push this game beyond its downfalls. By the end of it, you should have no problem assessing the situation and being the one that Tarantino calls for his next film finale.… Expand