App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Playing Serial Cleaner is profoundly confusing and disappointing. What is purportedly a game about a professional “cleaner” for the mob is actually just a barebones stealth action game where you steal evidence from police. When expectations are properly managed, I’m not sure Serial Cleaner is all that great, but it’s especially tough to enjoy Serial Cleaner when you were hoping for a game that could actually deliver on its amazing concept.
Cleaners for the mob typically alter crime scenes to make it difficult for authorities to figure out what actually happened. This might involve some amount of actual cleaning, but it could also involve planting evidence, killing witnesses, or disposing of bodies. In order for this subterfuge to be effective, cleaners need to do their job before authorities arrive to the crime scene so the police can’t tell fact from fiction.
Serial Cleaner does not understand this idea in the slightest. Instead, its conception of a cleaner is a person who shows up to a crime scene as it’s being processed to steal evidence, remove bodies, and vacuum up blood. The result is a stealth action game where you avoid vision cones of police while you clean up increasingly complicated crime scenes.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with Serial Cleaner taking liberties with the idea of what a “cleaner” does or how they do it. In fact, the game’s sense of whimsy through its 1970s trappings is probably the best thing about it.
The problem here is that Serial Cleaner’s take on what a “cleaner” game should be is so boring. It's just a stealth action game full of every tired mechanic in the genre. Police have vision cones that you want to avoid, you make noise with your vacuum and footsteps so you can’t do things too close to cops, and you need to run and hide in a box when things get hot. If you get caught you have to start over.
If you’re cool with Serial Cleaner’s pedestrian gameplay, I’m still not entirely sure you’d want to play this version. There are some visual bugs in the mobile port that can make speech bubbles pretty hard to read. Also, the game controls using a virtual joystick, which is not as ideal as using a controller or keyboard on other platforms.
Keeping these things in mind, there are other generic stealth games you could play, instead. Better yet, you could play stealth games that are actually good and original, like Sneaky Sneaky or Space Marshals 2.
The bottom line
I can easily imagine a world where Serial Cleaner is a different and better game. It could have been a time attack game where you try to do as much disruption to a crime scene as possible in a certain amount of time. It could have focused on how to dispose of evidence and bodies once they’re in your car. Instead, it’s just an extremely conventional stealth action game that does very little to stand out.