TT@EGX Rezzed: Mopping Up a Bloody Mess in Serial Cleaner

By Sam Quirke,
Sometimes when I'm playing a game with stealth elements, I'll have quietly dispatched my targets and vacated the building. I'll be wandering nonchalantly down the road when I start to wonder, won't all that blood be a bit suspicious? Surely there are some bullet casings around the scene that could potentially lead the cops to my door? In the majority of games I seemed to get away with it, even if I left several conspicuous corpses behind. A part of me imagined that somewhere in the shady corporation or guild that hired my assassin is some poor bloke who has to quickly go and clean up my various messes before the police work it out. Like many similar jobs, this guy would be doing all of the important work without any of the credit. I almost admired him.

Maybe someone at iFun4all felt the same way. At first glance Serial Cleaner looks like your classic top-down stealth game but rather than eliminating targets, you are cleaning up after the killers. It's a great twist on the formula and it was one of the most entertaining games I played at London's EGX Rezzed event.

Serial Cleaner

When Serial Cleaner was announced with a trailer, its "clean up someone else's mess" core gameplay reminded many of RuneStorm's first-person physics simulator Viscera Cleanup Detail on Steam, but Serial Cleaner is considerably different. Despite the overtones of cleaning up blood and gore and a large dose of humour, it's primarily a stealth game and you have to approach the level just as the always-absent assassin would.

The police are already on the scene and you must avoid detection while you complete your objectives. Like a lot of top-down stealth games, your adversaries have a cone of eyesight that you need to try and avoid. If anyone spots you they will chase you down; because you are a cleaner and not a strongman, it's Game Over as soon as a cop reaches you. You'll have to make use of hiding spots in the level to avoid capture. Like Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear, these spots take a variety of forms, from cupboards to reeds, and there's even a cardboard box at one point. A lot of nods to other series make the game subtly comical, which makes it stand out from other similar titles.

Serial Cleaner

Another stand-out aspect is the audiovisual style of the game. Every aspect plays into the seventies pastiche, whether its the mustachioed cleaner himself, the angular artwork or the cracking soundtrack. The developer told me that several composers worked on individual tracks in order to cover every point on the seventies spectrum, whether that's funky jazz, disco or hard rock. The music tied the whole aesthetic together; I completely lost myself in the game with the headphones on.

The objective in each of the game's levels is straightforward; get rid of the bodies and the evidence, and clean up a certain amount of blood. You can see what you have left to do by accessing the extended map, a necessary tool that allows you to see what patrols await you further ahead. The level structure was the same on each attempt, but if you get caught and restart you'll find your objectives have moved.

Serial Cleaner

Each part of your objective list has its own problems. Picking up an item of evidence is as simple as interacting with it, but because the police have already labelled the spot, they will come and investigate when they notice it's gone. When you pick up a body you need to hide it, either by going all the way back to your car or, in some levels, using a spot in the environment. That might be a third storey window, but it might also be the belly of a crocodile. Finally there's the matter of all the blood; clearly we're working for some extremely messy killers because it is everywhere. Hilariously, the character whips out a very seventies vaccuum cleaner to deal with the problem. I often found myself waiting for a patrol to pass and clearing a swathe of blood before running back to my hiding place, reaching my blood collection goal in small increments and always being careful to monitor my surroundings, as the vaccuum creates enough noise to attract attention if a cop is close.

Should one of the boys in blue catch you in the act, you have a small window of opportunity to get to a hiding place. They will instantly lose you as soon as you hide, which is both hilarious and a relief; they might be dumb, but they are fast. It lends the chase sequences a bit of tension and a bit of humour, which is a pleasing mix. Apparently, later enemies will react differently to the player; certainly in the third level I encountered a whistle-blower who would bring all of his nearby colleagues into the chase if he spotted me, lending even more panic to my escape. I took many attempts to complete each level that I played but it feels rewarding. Each time I restarted I got a better sense of the layout and the best way to approach each level. It's really up to you how you tackle the objectives and in what order — I personally preferred to get the bodies out of the way first as this felt the most difficult, before going back for the blood at the end.

There will be more to the final game than simply dodging cops and cleaning up a big mess, fun though that was. A challenge mode will see you approaching the levels with various modifiers; the example given was "drunk mode", which will presumably make the janitorial life exceptionally difficult. In terms of the narrative, we can expect a bit of a mystery to unfold around our janitor and the motives of the perpetually absent murderers that leave him to the clean-up detail.

Overall Serial Cleaner felt like a classic stealth game with enough personality to feel fresh. The subtle humour, visual style and soundtrack made the game stand out in the crowd, and I look forward to seeing more of it. No firm release date has been confirmed, but we are still anticipating a summer 2017 release for Serial Cleaner on Playstation 4.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.