Playing a game like Hotline Miami leaves one with so many questions. How can one guy take on this many thugs and walk away scott free? Where does he get that many weapons? Why the animal masks? Most important of all: what happens after the the killer decorates the scene of the crime? That final question is answered with ifun4all's clever top-down strategy game Serial Cleaner.
Taking place in the cocaine-showered 1970s, Serial Cleaner puts you in the hands of the mob's best cleaner. Our unnamed antihero lives a humble life with his mother, as he spends times watching TV with her and enjoying poker night with his close buddies. However from time-to-time, the phone will ring for the cleaner to go off and perform a certain task. That mission: clean up horrible murder scenes.
As the cleaner, you will find yourself grabbing dead bodies, stealing evidence, and cleaning up lots of blood with your trusty vacuum. At the scene of each crime, the police will be walking around making sure that no one tampers with the corpses, evidence, or even the puddles of blood that engulf the grounds. In order to evade them, you must be stealthy, quick, and often nimble. Hiding places and audio distractions will be your best bet to make your job a successful one, so it's always good to use them whenever possible.
Like Hotline Miami, Serial Cleaner takes the route of the one-hit-kill. Get caught, and you'll be forced to start the level from scratch. Usually this would lead to you building up your strategy on grabbing the bodies and the like, but that's not what ifun4all has done here. Instead each time you lose, the corpses and evidence moves to a different location, meaning that the only strategy that you'll be able to use is to be as fast as possible. As you dive deeper into the story, the more challenging it'll be to clean up the killers' messes.
It's this element that makes Serial Cleaner a fun and bloody brainteaser. Not every level play-through will be the same as last time, meaning you'll learn new tricks of the trade each time you revisit them. The game also does a fine job holding your hand for the first couple levels, before boosting the difficulty levels up to make your fingers do the thinking for you. It can get frustrating at times, but the overall tone and style of the worlds helps to make it still enjoyable even when you grit your teeth over another "Game Over."
Serial Cleaner is easy on the hands when you play it on the Switch in either mode. There's a simplicity to the way the game works, with one button commands in comfortable spots to implement. Picking up bodies, hiding in closets & bushes, and sucking the blood off of carpets and grassy areas are all mechanized finely on the Switch's controls.
However despite the fun I had with the game, there were a couple bugs that kept me from giving it all the A-OK. In a later level taking place in a woodsy cabin, there were a couple bodies that weren't reading properly when I attempted to grab them. This resulted in the cops shining their flashlights on me, ending with a chase and my guy on the ground arrested. It's an easy fix I'm sure, but in the current build it's quite the nuisance to deal with it entirely.
Serial Cleaner will take you a few hours to beat, but the fun continues long after the story of our nameless fixer-upper ends. Those who keep their eye on the scene may find various film canisters that will unlock bonus levels that are based on classic 70s films. The likes of Bruce Lee, Robert De Niro, and even the Alien franchise are spoofed in these levels, resulting in some clever takes and humorous nods mixed with it's fun gameplay. You can also find some spiffy outfits to wear based on the best/worst parts of the 1970s, as well as compare your times with others online and see if you can be the top cleaner in the gaming community.
- Great stealth/puzzle elements
- Humorous story
- Fun movie-based side missions
- Minor bugs
Serial Cleaner is the burgundy love seat of stealth clean-em-ups, one that's both nice on the eyes and comfortable to the touch. Although you'll find yourself dealing with the dirty work, the end result is a surprisingly fun time dealing with someone else's bullet-riddled messes. Grab your mustache wax and Dirt Devil, and experience Serial Cleaner with the heartiest kind of spic-and-span attitude!
Promotional consideration provided by Jaeck Glowacki of ifun4all. Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Background Music: Concrete and Gold by Foo Fighters - Dave Grohl's hard-rocking band has been compared many times to the classic rock era of Led Zeppelin, Foghat, and Black Sabbath. Their latest album keeps it fast and mellow, with "Dirty Water" and "Run" playing well to the bygone era of bell-bottomed guitar riffs. Also, keep your ears peeled for the drumming styles of a certain Beatle, albeit not the one you're probably thinking of...