Draw Distance’s Serial Cleaners offers an interesting take on the top-down/isometric stealth genre. It’s being published by 505 Games, and we checked out the PlayStation 5 version.
Although it’s easy to confuse the two titles, Serial Cleaners is actually the follow-up to Draw Distance’s own game Serial Cleaner, which came out back in 2017. Although I never played that one, I’m assuming that the premise is quite similar to the one in this game, where you’re tasked with the somewhat gruesome task of cleaning up murder sites for the mob. And although that doesn’t sound very stealth-like by itself, the other side of the law is also interested in the scene, and you’ll have to stay out of their way.
So while the idea of cleaning doesn’t sound too appealing (in real life or in a game), it’s implemented here in a way where it becomes a mix of real time tactics and stealth, as you plan to clear a site of bodies and other remnants of the crimes that were committed there. Without getting caught in the process, of course – but there are safe points where you can save your progress in case that happens.
Serial Cleaners is set in the 1990s, which translates to the game’s art style as well as the layouts of levels – especially indoors, where you’ll probably recognize a few pieces of furniture. There’s a nice bit of diversity between locations too, as it’s not just apartment after apartment but you’ll also work outside, on a cruise ship and even in a video game arcade.
Because of the real time tactical elements in solving these scenes, parts of Serial Cleaners feel like Commandos – the four members in your crew of cleaners even have their own character-specific skills. It’s the setting and objectives that are very different though – you’ll be clearing out bodies, wiping up blood and getting rid of other evidence in the scene by remaining out of sight. The cops that patrol the scene can seem overly unaware that the scene is being cleaned while they’re walking around in it though, so don’t expect anything overly realistic in terms of AI.
If you do get caught, you can try to either run away or find a good place to hide for a bit – which in true video game sense makes your pursuers believe the danger is gone and they can just return to what they were doing before. The game’s somewhat forgiving in that sense, which makes tackling its diverse scenarios fun to do as it encourages taking risks and experimenting, and you can generally just stay in a flow while doing so.
Add a nice and stylish presentation layer, complete with voice acting, and Serial Cleaners is a game worth checking out. At close to 10 hours worth of gameplay, it’s a stealth adventure with a novel theme that we enjoyed playing.