Serial Cleaners – Review
Follow Genre: Stealth game
Developer: Draw Distance
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Serial Cleaners – Review

Site Score
Good: Well-written backstories for the titular characters
Bad: No replayability factor
User Score
(1 votes)
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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

If you happen to frequent the Switch eShop regularly, you’ll undoubtedly have seen the icon for 2017’s Serial Cleaner pop up countless times as it’s one of those titles that is seemingly always on sale on the platform. While we haven’t gotten around to picking the Switch port up for ourselves, it seems like the game has been successful enough to warrant a sequel, Serial Cleaners. We’re not sure whether or not having played the original makes for a more fleshed-out experience in terms of story or if this is a completely standalone affair, but we can tell you from experience that newcomers won’t feel lost in terms of story. Of course, story accessibility isn’t the only criterion by which we can recommend a game, so how does Serial Cleaners hold up if we’re looking at the title as a whole?


Instead of taking a linear approach, Serial Cleaners’ narrative unfolds itself over a series of flashbacks spanning several decades. There is a framework setting, set on New Year’s Eve of 1999, which provides an easy-to-follow structure: the titular “serial cleaners” are a team that is hired by criminals to remove all evidence from a crime scene. This team is led by Bob, the protagonist from the first game. In Serial Cleaners, Bob has gathered his team, Hal (a.k.a “Psycho”‘), Erin (a.k.a. “Vip3r”) and Lati.  This foursome has come together to celebrate the transition from the ’90s into the 2000s. During their get-together, they recall previous interventions. Each anecdote then translates to an in-game mission. By playing through these stories, you’ll discover more about the backstories of each team member, including how and why they joined Bob’s team. The writing is fantastic and was our main driving factor behind playing the game, as we got to know these characters and even started to care about them. They’re all archetypes, but they will inevitably grow on you.


If there’s one thing that Serial Cleaners absolutely nails, then it’s… well, the story. However, if there is a second aspect that is fantastic about the game, then it’s the visual presentation. Taking visual cues from games like Disco Elysium and GTA, and sprinkling them with references ranging from Fargo (the film, not the series) to Kevin Smith’s Clerks, what you’re getting here is a love letter to the aesthetics of the late ‘90s -which makes sense, of course, given the game’s setting. Serial Cleaners makes use of grungy retro graphics to further drive the ‘90s aesthetic home, to great effect. The opening cinematic in particular sets the tone, although the heavy reliance on VHS-style filters and special effects that look like they were ripped from music videos from the era the game pays tribute to may be a turn-off for some people.


You’d expect a game with Serial Cleaners’ premise to rely on tense music to tie into the whole stealth theme, but after the opening cinematic, the game subverted expectations and presented us with a stylish and laid-back jazzy soundtrack. We have conflicted feelings about this as this is fitting of the narrative framework of Bob and his crew recalling stories, but the soundtrack doesn’t really change within the missions themselves. Even when a cleaner is spotted by police and must make an escape attempt, the music remains as chill as ever, removing a sense of urgency and immersion. The voice acting, on the other hand, is fantastic, bringing each team member’s personality to life. Sound effects are important here as well, given the game’s stealth-based nature, although these only come into play when you’re actively listening, not when you’re making sounds yourself That being said, as the latter ties more into the gameplay aspect, we’re covering that in the next section of our review.


As an environmental puzzle-based stealth game, Serial Cleaners sees players take on a series of missions that all follow a similar core structure: a crime has taken place and it’s up to you to make sure that the police won’t be able to gather the evidence necessary to connect the dots and find out who did it. Apart from overlapping basic abilities, each cleaner brings their own specific skill to the table, although you can’t choose who tackles which mission, as Serial Cleaners is a narrative title first and foremost. Bob’s approach is probably the closest to the idea most people have when they think of a crime scene cleaner, as he is able to wrap up bodies and dispose of evidence. The other three have wildly different abilities: Lati uses graffiti to confuse and distract policemen as well as being able to make quick getaways with parkour, and Erin is a hacker that uses remote access to trigger switches. And then there’s Hal. His expertise involves chopping up bodies with his trusty chainsaw and using dismembered limbs to knock out NPCs. We can’t really call Hal’s way of dealing with things realistic but at least it’s gruesome fun.

Granted, realism isn’t really a factor here: being stealthy typically involves staying out of sight from the police but as long as the cleaners themselves aren’t spotted, investigators typically won’t bat an eye if a corpse has moved from one side of the room to another. Investigators will also barely respond to the sound of a vacuum sucking up blood (don’t ask) provided you stay just out of earshot. You also have your trusty “cleaner sense” which allows you to scan the area for nearby NPCs and plan ahead while staying out of sight. This ability is similar to Batman’s Detective Mode ability in the Arkham games. The degree to which enemy NPCs are oblivious to your actions is laughable at best and can be immersion-breaking. This is where Serial Cleaners fell kind of short of our expectations: there is only a single specific way to take on a mission, and once you identify what it is, things become a bit of a by-the-numbers affair. We would have preferred it if Serial Cleaners had taken a more realistic and difficult approach to its stealth-based gameplay with different ways to approach a crime scene rather than the linear line of action that the game offers now. That’s not to say that Serial Cleaners is a bad game, or even an easy one, because there is still quite a bit of challenge, but the game really pushes it when it comes to suspension of disbelief.

It goes without saying that Serial Cleaners’ linear approach doesn’t bode well for replayability. There are no time limits or scores to improve: once you clear a mission, there are no real reasons to revisit it, even though there is a so-called “free-run mode” after you play through the game once. Add to this that Serial Cleaners isn’t a particularly long game either, clocking in at around ten hours, and the €24.99/$24.99 price tag becomes difficult to swallow. However, if the previous title is any indication, then Serial Cleaners might end up showing up in a plethora of sale events. If you can pick it up at a serious discount, then this is definitely a title to consider, but at full price, the stylishness doesn’t quite hide that there isn’t a whole lot of depth to Serial Cleaners’ gameplay, even keeping the unique character abilities in mind.


Conceptually, there is a lot to like about Serial Cleaners, from the references to ‘90s pop culture to the gritty visuals and the well-written backstories for each of the cleaners. The game falls a bit flat when it comes to replayability and realism, but overall we still enjoyed figuring out the solution to each mission. We find it a bit difficult to justify the game’s price point given the limited content present here, but if you can pick it up at a decent discount, then Serial Cleaners is definitely worth a shot.

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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Serial Cleaners - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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