Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Serial Cleaner Review (PS4)

While seemingly almost every other videogame in existence has you killing your way through rooms full of enemies, Serial Cleaner, a new indie from iFun4all, has you cleaning up the mess after someone else did the murdering. The cherry on top is that it is set in the 1970’s and looks and sounds like an old cop show from that era, which means the core concept and overall presentation couldn’t possibly get any cooler and more appealing. Is it actually any fun to play, though? Continue reading our full Serial Cleaner PS4 review to find out.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Curve Digital
  • Developer: iFun4all
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Great concept; bonus movie scenes; awesome presentation
  • Cons: Shallow gameplay
  • MSRP: $15

Serial Cleaner has you playing as a mustachioed 1970’s man who takes up a job cleaning up crime scenes in order to pay off his gambling debts. His job isn’t just “cleaning” crime scenes, though, which is a real job by the way, as his real goal is to get there ASAP to dispose of the bodies and evidence and clean up any blood before the police can investigate. As you can probably guess, shady work like this has him dealing with shady people and things go off the rails pretty quickly.

The 1970’s setting gives the game a great funky vibe and the game references real world events of the era in almost every scene. Another great touch is that there are ten bonus missions – unlocked by finding hidden movie reels in the story levels - that have you cleaning up famous 70’s movie scenes from films like “Star Wars”, “Alien”, “Taxi Driver”, and more. The setting and premise in Serial Cleaner is just fantastic.

Gameplay is presented in a sort of ¾ top down view that makes it easy to see your character as well as any police patrolling the crime scene. You can also activate a “Cleaner Sense” ability that will highlight the bodies and evidence so you know exactly where everything is. From there it is all just a matter of carefully making your way around each scene and trying not to get caught as you carry bodies to drop off points (either your car or sometimes other places), pick up evidence, and vacuum up massive pools of blood.

At first the game seems really difficult because the police patrols are very precisely timed so you only have narrow windows to move around and get stuff done, but once you learn one very important fact – that the police immediately lose interest in you when you enter a hiding spot (even if they are 1cm behind you and watch you do it) – the game gets a fair bit easier. It is still difficult, don’t get me wrong, but once you learn that deep dark secret that the police are super bad at their jobs in Serial Cleaner, the game can start to feel pretty shallow and repetitive and all of the tension in the experience is gone forever.

Things do get a little more interesting in later stages as the levels get larger and more complex, there are moveable objects you can use to change A.I. pathing and, eventually, the police will start shooting you on sight rather than chasing you when they spot you, but the game is over by the time things actually start heating up. The game also has some extra challenge modes like a drunk mode and a hardcore mode that removes vision cones and cleaner sense if you want to make the stages more difficult. The replay value is also upped a bit as item placement will be different each time you play a level.

Ultimately, I’m pretty torn on Serial Cleaner. It definitely seems like something I should like and is mechanically solid and has great presentation, but I mostly feel apathy when I’m playing it. It is surprisingly wooden and joyless, which considering the macabre nature of the subject matter I suppose I can understand, but that also means it isn’t exactly fun or memorable. Compared to a similar morbid stealth / puzzle game like Party Hard (though you’re doing the killing in that game rather than cleaning it up) that managed to be fun and satisfying while tackling some pretty dark and evil stuff, Serial Cleaner doesn’t leave much of an impression. It is still worth a look if you’re interested in the concept and setting, but I’d recommend waiting for a sale.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.