Before the main event there’s usually a warm-up act – a stand up comic, maybe a support band – but what happens after that? Someone has to pick up the pieces and tidy up. These are the true heroes like your parents who pick up the plastic debris after you’ve hosted a Lego Woodstock. It’s not a glamorous job but someone has to do it, but find the right employer and it pays well. Let’s talk Serial Cleaner for the Switch.
While loitering the Nintendo eShop I stocked up on a handful of games. Of those, Serial Cleaner was near the top as it has been on my wishlist for some time. The wishlist on the Nintendo eShop is a funny old thing. I know some people use a wishlist for items they want to buy someday or perhaps waiting for the price to drop. For me, it’s a convenient way to remind myself what I want to play next but if the price does come down, I might do a bulk buy. The price was right but is Serial Cleaner Switch any good? Yes. I love it!
Cleaning is a gentleman’s business
Set in the 1970’s you play Bobby – the cleaner of the title and not one of the fairies your folks claim to clean up after you. He lives with his mum, got himself into a debt problem and needs to pay off pretty darn swift as the people he owes money to are on the wrong side of the law.
Not that that matters – loan companies are ‘legal’ and no different than the leg breakers. To clear his money troubles he has a cleaning job – the type of cleaning that gets rid of bodies, guns and stubborn stains such as blood, crayon and blackcurrant. It pays well and the company benefits are out of this world, but no dental plan.
Serial Cleaner is a gentleman and eases you into the gameplay but without hindering you with tutorial after tutorial. You’re given the basics such as your cleaner vision (that’s what I’m calling it). This isn’t the sought after domestic superpower to spot a stain or dust but to locate your target for the level – i.e. dead body locations, evidence and the crimson you need to clean up.
Proper stealth, proper sneaky
A stealth game that does actually play as a stealth game is mildly refreshing as you actually have to sneak around. You can’t take out the old bill with a melee attack or tranquiliser. You have to tiptoe around them and avoid any contact whatsoever as if they catch you, that’s it. No lives, no health – back to the start of the level known as a contract. Bypassing these agents of law means observing their patterns – where they walk and their line of sight.
The sight system is similar to Metal Gear Solid, Hitman or a driving theory test: a triangular cone of vision. It’s orange by default but switches to red if they see you. The fuzz then gives chase until they a) catch you or b) you hide in a pot plant. As you do. You can ‘disappear’ in plain sight while they are giving chase, but the button response can be a bit fiddly and it’s easy to double press the button and hide then reappear, only to be hit with a truncheon. Fnar fnar.
Random product placement
Levels are the same but body and evidence placement is random. This is perhaps the bit where you can have a moan about Serial Cleaner as you can have the perfect strategy but eff it up and get caught, then on restarting, the bodies, guns and confetti are dispersed in different locations – forcing you to re-evaluate your strategy once more.
This is the worst part of the game for me, and to be honest, it isn’t bad at all. Frustrating sure, but you’re unlikely to be spending hours on a level at a time. Overall, it’s a relatively short game – some 20 missions and 10 bonus missions. Having another play-through option adds to the longevity – and yes, I do see myself playing this again and again.
The cops have a simple patrol pattern so if you’re patient, you know where they’ll go next but if seen, their pattern may change. Ideal situation: don’t be seen. Each level doesn’t have a ranking system so you need not worry about unlocking trophies by speeding through or doing x, y, then z as there isn’t a set time limit.
Serial Cleaner does have a story
There are many times where I’ve planned my strategy out – seemingly flawless – then I either cause a disturbance triggering another NPC to chase me or I think, yeah I got this and try to speed run it and in the process get caught and having to restart. It isn’t as frustrating as some people have said. Simply don’t get caught, init?
It’s pretty easy to give away spoilers in reviews unintentionally – more so with games like Octopath Traveler. I often find myself posting these pictures on Instagram realising that there are a lot of folk like me who are only just getting balls deep in the story.
You can’t ruin the story with Serial Cleaner play-throughs – at least through the contract side of things, but between ‘scenes’, the dialogue shared with Bobby’s mum or when he natters on the phone gives way to the lightly woven narrative. It’s a simple one but it’s good. It goes with the overall feel of the game and the artistic choices throughout. By the way, I have to add – the soundtrack is awesome. It provides just the right tempo and ambience. Most of all, it’s funky and I demand you stand up and dance to the beat just once.
Easy to pick up but messy
Serial Cleaner is why I play the Nintendo Switch over the Playstation 4 these days. Easy to pick up games with just the right level of difficulty, not too taxing of my time but most of all, the fulfilment level. Serial Cleaner isn’t an exclusive Nintendo Switch title but it’s ideal for the platform. I’m sure it works just as well – maybe even better – via Steam or the like, but when I was taking screenshots and capturing video for this, I did it all in portable mode as it’s convenient and keeps the missus happy that I’m not hogging the biggest rectangle in the house.
There’s scope for a sequel as this really is a good game. Maybe in Serial Cleaner 2: This Time It Gets Messy you play Bobby’s offspring who has a penchant for boxing (linked to the Serial Cleaner story) and they implement their own style of cleaning. Instead of dumping the bodies into the car, you drop them in some sort of acid or made into pies. I’m not going to find out what type of acid or a suitable pastry as I’m not a psycho and don’t want to, nor need to know. However, you could feed them to pigs. They’d go through the bones like butter. In the end though, yes. Get this game. It’s very good.