Have you ever wished you could play a game based around being a janitor for murderers?
Now you can!
In Serial Cleaners, you play the role of a 1990’s mob janitor in New York, cleaning up the murder scenes while sneaking past and around the cops. Each of the four characters has their own expertise, as well as their own story. The overall game is simple:
Get rid of the bodies.
Don’t get caught.
Serial Cleaners almost felt nostalgic with its nod to the ’90s. The models are all of the low-poly types you would have seen in an early PlayStation game, the sound quality isn’t good but it isn’t good in the way that it used to be, and there are a lot of references made to the era. This game brought me back to the early stealth games I played in the early days of my childhood, where the games revolved around intricate stages you figured out partly by sneaking around and avoiding being seen by AI, and trying to strategically complete various tasks in the meantime.
Having done some real-world work as a janitor, I couldn’t help but appreciate a lot of the aspects of this game. It also brought Pulp Fiction to mind as a nice blast from the past, when The Wolfe shows up to help clean up that mind-blowing accident in the car. That is the general feeling of atmosphere I get with this game.
All four playable characters are equipped with their cleaner sight, their own special abilities, and a vacuum that would put a Dyson to shame. What blood stains? This vacuum sucks those stains right out. The body was dragged and smeared the blood right into that carpet? Doesn’t matter! This vacuum means business. We shall call it the Blood-B-Gone.
Vacuums aside, depending on which character you’re using you might actually want to keep the blood around for some of the level. One of the characters can actually slide through it and knock enemies down. Another is a hacker, distracting the police with lights turning on and off, and another can vault over certain types of objects or obstacles. And another is a psychopath that chops bodies into bits and makes a huge mess in the process.
It’s a good thing we have a reliable vacuum cleaner.
Each character has their very own backstory, and the first missions you play with each of them gives insight into each and how they became a part of the Serial Cleaners crew. Some are more interesting than others, but they are all unique nonetheless. The story development is pretty cool, to say the least, and also fits into how the 1990s New York era truly felt. There is also some wonderfully dark humor which I couldn’t help but appreciate.
The actual cleanup is comprised of simple tasks that entail many steps. You want to get rid of any and all evidence at the crime scene: bodies, blood stains, or other pieces of evidence scattered about the crime scene. If you don’t want to leave any streaks of blood when dragging the bodies around, you have to take the time to shove them into a body bag. There’s also a likelihood that you’ll need to find a couple of keys to get into all of the rooms, or, depending on the character you’re using, you may also need to crawl your way through some ventilation systems.
With your Cleaner Sight, you can see any stains, bodies, or evidence you might have missed. Anything else you can toggle or interact with in some way has its own little logo indicating what it is you’re looking at, like a distraction, a key, or a vent. In the meantime, you’re going to be avoiding the police both inside and outside of the building you’re in. This can be done in a number of ways, from throwing a big piece of evidence at them and knocking them out temporarily, locking them inside a room you’ve already finished, or sliding into them when they’re unaware of your presence.
If something moves or changes in the environment, whether evidence goes missing or a door is left opened or closed, the police will briefly investigate this change, and that can be used to your advantage to maneuver around the scene. Once there are so many changes though, the police pull out their weapons and start seeking you out and, upon sight, will run at you and try to knock you out. Thankfully, the checkpoints in this game are pretty frequent, so if you do get knocked out you’re not going to have to repeat an entire level again because you forgot to manually save your progress.
Despite how complicated some of this might sound, the game is actually extremely easy to play. In fact, for some, it might be too easy. The AI is extremely stupid to the point where, if you lock yourself in a room, and they hear the vacuum, they will come to investigate but upon finding the door locked, they will shrug and walk away as if nothing happened. Their range of sight is also very low, and if they do happen to see you it takes them a while to go through their processing time of, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a MOB JANITOR!” You don’t have to worry much about their patrol patterns either, because they’re more concerned about a door left open than they are about you running right across their line of sight.
One thing that may make this game feel a bit clunky are the controls if you play it on PC. I was out of my element when I had to take my hand off of my mouse, as all movement of the character or camera was restricted to WASD and the arrow keys. This is one of those games that actually plays better on a controller, weirdly enough.
The game is also occasionally a bit buggy. For example, you’ll be standing there at the car’s trunk with a body over your shoulders waiting to dump it in, but you have to keep moving around the trunk because the highlight indicating that you’re within interaction distance keeps sporadically flickering in and out. It gets really interesting when you’re already in the midst of being chased by one of the police that actually happened to pick up on the suspicious behaviour.
A few improvements could do wonders for the overall package on offer here. A level selection option would be wonderful, easily allowing players to go back to a stage they loved without having to play through the whole game again. Extra difficulty settings would be appreciated too, as the game is very easy out of the box. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to encourage the game’s quality of life it would be cool if there were some additional challenges. Even adding in a time limit as an option could do wonders for that added bit of a challenge some people might be looking for.
Overall, this is a pretty chill game to play. If you’re looking for something nostalgic and super easy to play and not wanting any kind of a challenge, Serial Cleaners might be the game for you.
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