Serial Cleaners has an utterly brilliant concept, rather than the killer you’re the cleanup crew; you’re the ones tasked with making sure a massacre doesn’t get clocked and if it does then that there are no fingerprints left to point the blame.
Serial Cleaners is an isometric stealth game which is a good pairing considering you’ll need such a vantage point to ensure that you can get around each level effectively. Early on you’re introduced to the crew; the gritty experienced leader-like figure, the explosive psychopath, the feisty free runner and of course the spunky young hacker. It’s New Year’s Eve and the world is shifting into the 2000s and this particular cleanup crew are reminiscing about the jobs that made them, it’s a plot that surprisingly effective and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes do with the obvious budgetary limitations, as you’ve probably gathered each of the four characters comes with their own particulars when it comes to the job however these are just specific skills and whether you’re hacking computers to switch off lights leaping over chain link fences to evade the cops or slicing and dicing corpses the purpose is still always the same, get rid of the mess!
Serial Cleaners is a very mechanical game which is to say that it doesn’t try to hide away from its gamified nature of an otherwise fairly gruesome aspect of professional crime, each level works the same, go in clean up a certain amount of blood, remove the bodies and take the evidence, once all of that is done you’re free to head to the getaway car and call it job done. It’s refreshing in its uncomplicated approach and fans of stealth games will likely find some fun here especially in the later stages where the challenge ramps up, but much like the character tropes and storylines it’s built upon serial cleaners suffers heavily from the now laughable tropes of the stealth genre and to a pretty startling degree. You’ll start by playing on your tippy toes edging your way around pools of blood and crouching around every corner as you plan out your strategy in real time while trying to evade the cops that are patrolling unerringly back and forth, that’s right this is the sort of stealth where you’ll need to time your route through a space by matching it up with the moment that a guard just happens to be staring at a completely blank wall, the fact is that all this precarious play is completely unnecessary and you’ll learn far too quickly that trepidation is not the name of the game you can jog past any guard barely a meter away without even a twitching of an eardrum.
Interacting with the environment will naturally cause some suspicion among the patrols but there’s no sense of scaling of intrigue, no real investigation of any kind and if you break line of sight for just a second then you’re as good as invisible. This is obviously open to abuse but special mention should go to the vacuum cleaner, it’s an all-important tool for the cleaner and an essential part of every mission but its problem isn’t its curious ability to suck up blood from snow or dirt, we can suspend our disbelief enough to accept that this is a video game and so video game rules apply, the issue is that you’re able to use this thing not only in the next room but practically within reaching distance of an officer so as long as you keep any guards outside of the tiny zone of influence while using the vacuum then you’re as good as silent and that’s really the main problem with the game. It’s not about trying to be quick or smart but instead it’s about simply waiting until the patrol routes create a window of opportunity so you can rush in and complete the cleanup work, you can be clocked vacuuming or even dragging a corpse from just the other side of the room and no guard will consider it important until they very slowly walked over to check out what’s going on, they will go and scrutinize the same door opening and closing over and over again, they’ll investigate bodies mysteriously being packaged up or vanishing altogether and they might even find it odd that blood simply disappears from the floor but they’ll never start to question that something is up and that maybe just maybe they should actually do some work and hunt you down.
Overall, Serial Cleaners’ main problem is that it’s kind of a wasted opportunity, there’s room for a game like this on the market and it’s stylishly presented enough that it could easily garner an audience of obsessive stealth-loving cleaners, it just doesn’t achieve the necessary tension to make it a compelling stealth game and its mechanics are too open to abuse to reward careful play or smart decisions as a result the potential thrill that could have been is lost. Hopefully the developer will come up with some updates to freshen up the AI at the very least but for now we cannot recommend this game for any stealth fans.