Created by Polish developer iFunforAll and published by Curve Digital, Serial Cleaner undoubtedly takes some inspiration from Hotline Miami with its top-down viewpoint, retro art-style and 70’s beats, but instead of carrying out the carnage you’re cleaning up after it! Serial Cleaner is a story-driven, fast-paced stealth/action game, characterized by a 1970s theme and aesthetics. The protagonist cleans up murder scenes by disposing bodies, covering up blood stains and hiding murder weapons and other incriminating evidence.
Exploring, experimenting and fast paced decision making are the key words here. Getting caught and questioned would put a black mark on the protagonist’s career and the environment is often crawling with itchy-fingered police officers accompanied by nosy bystanders. The game uses Real-World Data to modify gameplay according to the time of day in player’s location.
Serial Cleaner takes a humouristic, slightly macabre approach to its subject matter, and doesn’t treat itself too seriously. Just take a look at the protagonist. He is a 30-ish man with a sharp sense of style and an iconic 70s look, complete with a moustache, large sunglasses, and tight pants. After saying all of that, what is it like to play? Let’s take a look…
It’s the early ’70s and the business of the mob is at its peak. Hits are happening right and left. So with all of the blood being shed, how do the bosses manage to keep themselves out of the spotlight? All of the families and their assorted associates have one secret weapon: The Cleaner. Serial cleaner is so much fun that I’m glad I dedicated nearly a full day to it. This little gem is based in stealth mode, which means you can’t “pretend” to be stealthy like a lot of people who think they’re stealth experts do. You have no weapons, you have no tricks of the trade, you have nothing but a vacuum and some cleaning supplies along with your own two legs to lift bodies around. You sneak your way around various sized maps, grabbing bodies and disposing of them, nabbing evidence and hoovering up bloodstains and making sure you don’t wander into an of the cops vision cones. A rather simple premise that builds up in complexity as new features are added such as shortcuts which teleport you somewhere else on the map, items that can make loud noises and move cops out of their patrol routine and movable objects that change the officers paths and can even trap them!
Serial Killer could have easily slipped into the trap of being another standard indie game stuffed into the Miami Hotline mould, but it does a very good job of carving out its own identity.
The maps include places like club 42, an alligator infested swamp and the docks, exactly the sort of 70s’ cop show locations a player would expect. The levels are built to be tackled in a number of different ways and each one comes with a generous series of challenge modes that will keep you coming back for one more try. Challenges range from the sublime (drunk vision!) to the ridiculous (super hardcore mode takes away vision cones, cleaner sense, and sound cues), and most are split into night and day variants. On top of the normal levels and challenge modifiers, there are unlockable movie-themed bonus stages that riff on the era the game is set in, complete with tongue-in-cheek titles like ‘In Space, No One Can Hear You Clean’.
One of Serial Cleaner‘s most striking aspects are the visuals. Employing a gritty, line-less, comic-book feel, it manages to encapsulate 1970’s sensibilities perfectly. Things are drenched in oranges and peaches, which seem to be the predominate colour scheme for that time period. As a neat little touch, assorted events from that decade are referenced, making the experience all the more authentic. The sleek, Kentucky Route Zero-ish art style really puts you in the mood for some vintage cloak and dagger. Basically, a huge festival for the eye balls!
The music in Serial Cleaner fits this type of game just perfectly. Be warned, you will find yourself grooving in your chair while you play! The creators thought through the sound board on this game with great detail and care so much so that if you close your eyes you will instantly be transported back to that era ( maybe minus the flares ) and believe you are in an episode of Hawaii Five O. Have a listen for yourself…
Take it from me, you will NOT get bored of this game. Each time you die or essentially get busted by the po po, the bodies won’t be in the same location they were before. This makes the game so much more tolerable since you die a hell of a lot. Who in their right mind could get bored of the funky 70’s beats, the awesomeness of the cleaner’s Ron Jeremy moustache and just how amazing it is to clean up murder scenes while trying not to get caught? If that doesn’t make you come back to this game time after time then, I hate to tell you this, but you just aren’t groovy enough baby.
Serial Cleaner is probably the best indie game on the market right now and definitely my IGOTY (indie game of the year ) A very successful retro aesthetic that fits perfectly into a bulletproof gameplay. Running around with a vacuum cleaner has never been so much fun. Indie developers, THIS is how you create a unique and engaging game!
Serial Cleaner gets a blood soaking deliciously groovy Gold Thumb Culture Award with 9/10
Disclaimer: We were provided with a code to complete this review.