Serial Cleaner Review

By Cindy Minguez, 3 months ago
Serial Cleaner, from iFun4all and Curve Digital, follows the chosen career of Bob Leaner, a man who makes his living cleaning up crime scenes for the mob (and other mysterious clients) in a constant game of hide and seek with the police. With its fun retro vibe and far out music, how does the new stealth title hold up?

A cool cat.A cool cat.

Anyone familiar with Blacklist will know "Mr. Kaplan." Serial Cleaner is a game after her own heart but with a cool 70's vibe. At first glance, Bob Leaner might be any other guy trying to look cool in America's 1970's. He lives in a suburban home with his mother, complete with shrubs in the front, neighbors next door, and a grill in the backyard. He reads the paper, watches TV, listens to the radio, and talks to his mom. Then he answers the phone and it becomes clear that Bob isn't your ordinary hip dude because he's got a job to do. He jumps in his spiffy station wagon and races off to do it. Bob, who does regular work for the Mob (and other mysterious clients), has only two things to do at the crime scene — pick up the evidence and get rid of the body — but the police are already here. He must avoid the eyes of the police, clean away the mess, and make his get away.

This is the basic mechanic for the entire game and it's very easy to pick up and play. "Cleaner Sense" will display the entire scene, highlighting any hiding places, body dumps, distractions, or short cuts on a map, which will help you navigate the area. The scene will be littered with various hiding places, such as potted plants, cardboard boxes, or closets. You cannot carry the body with you, however, when you duck for cover. The body has to be dropped then picked up and lugged to either a body dump or your car when the coast is clear. The field of vision of any policeman at the scene is indicated by a "cone" like the triangular area of a flashlight. You can distract police by turning on speakers or activating other loud noises and some maps have movable parts, such as sliding boxes, that can be used to block off policemen or re-route them.

Clean up that blood!Clean up that blood!

With each successive contract, the game does a nice a job of slowly upping the challenge so that you're not just dumped into a really difficult scenario. The jobs get more complicated as the number of bodies increases, as do the pieces of incriminating evidence you need to acquire. You have to start vacuuming up pools of blood. Hiding places become fewer while the policemen on site become more numerous. They get faster and more alert, even getting to the point that they can hear you through walls. If caught, you'll take a hit from a billy club then start again from the very beginning. Getting caught is really frustrating if you only have one body left to go out of five; it would have been nice to have checkpoints at certain stages, especially in later levels that are harder to finish. While you have as much time as you'd like to plan out your strategy, after a few chapters it can take multiple attempts to succeed.

The game has 20 story contracts but finding movie reels in the story levels unlocks bonus contracts. Likewise, finding fashion magazines unlocks new costumes to wear. The game boasts 20 challenge modes, but these are really just parameters you can turn off and on. For example, you can set a timer, turn off the vision cones, turn on one shot (if you're seen once, you're done), turn off Cleaner Sense, etc. I don't know that it's accurate to call them "modes" when you just have 20 different ways to make a level more difficult.

Avoid detection.Avoid detection.

After all is said and done, the biggest gripe with the game is that it so quickly becomes monotonous. It's fun finding your way out undetected for a while, but it doesn't take long to feel like you're just going through the motions. Despite the varied environments — a laundromat, a disco, a cabin in the woods — it's really just the same actions over and over again. The challenge modes don't affect this much either; despite various added difficulties, you're still doing the same things. In this way, it's reminiscent of the first Assassin's Creed. You can only walk up and stab someone in the back so many times before it gets boring.

On the achievement front, the game provides a nice variety of challenges. Several achievements are gained by doing simple tasks like reading the paper, listening to the radio, watching TV, or talking to your mom a certain number of times. Other easy ones include wearing a new outfit to a contract, sliding in blood, getting seen, or failing a certain number of times. Some will take more time, such as cleaning every drop of blood in every story contract or finishing all story and bonus contracts. Others are cumulative, such as when you dispose of 150 bodies or make policemen react to a missing body 100 times. The developer has done a nice job of creating a fun and varied list without making it too difficult.

Summary

Serial Cleaner is a fun stealth game that doesn't hold one's attention for long. Despite the changing environments and balanced approach to ramping up the game's difficulty, the title can become quite frustrating with no checkpoints or ways to save on harder levels when you're sent back to the very beginning, no matter how much work you've accomplished along the way. The 20 challenge "modes" are more like on/off switches for making the game more challenging in different ways, not really different modes of play. It has a retro 70's vibe with good music and a fun pixelated art style and does a great job of being easy to pick up and play, but it doesn't add enough variety to keep you coming back for more. Bob Leaner is a seemingly cool cat who ends up being a rather boring dude in the end.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Groovy vibe
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Nice art style
Negatives
  • Quickly becomes monotonous
  • Challenges don't change much
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent about six hours sneaking around and vacuuming up evidence, earning 18 of the game's 28 achievements along the way. An Xbox One copy was provided by the ID@Xbox program for the purpose of this review.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.