Serial Cleaners Review: The return of the mala cleaners

Mr. Bob is back, and this time he’s not alone. The journey into the pulp decadence of the 70s that took place with Serial Cleaner (in this regard, we refer you to the Serial Cleaner review) finds a sequel in a new title signed Draw Distance and called in the plural: Serial Cleaners. This time the project counts on the support of 505 Games and wants to significantly expand the playful recipe linked to the shady activities underlying the experience. Well, we plunged into cleaning entire crime scenes with sincere interest, to appreciate the new solutions adopted by the development team and now we are ready to tell you about it.

A varied crew

New York City, New Year’s Eve 1999. Bob “the Cleaner” comes home after a night of work e meets her team on a year-end reunion: we have Hal “Psycho”, a madman unable to communicate but always ready to dismember corpses with his trusty chainsaw; Lati is the artist of the group, a young African American whose athletic abilities stand out from the rest of the crew; Finally, Erin “V1p3r” is a hacker specialized in creating diversions who speaks almost exclusively with neologisms.

Thirty years after his previous adventures, Bob is almost the same. His Ford Squire is still there, there is no shortage of thick porn actor mustache – and even the goatee has sprung up! – and the urge to clean up burning evidence and corpses crime scenes has never ceased to motivate him. The cynical and cold spirit can be intimidating, but it is still New Year’s Eve and there is time to warm up. If Serial Cleaner focused primarily on action, the “plural” project matures on the narrative front, giving us precious time to get to know Mr. Bob’s colleagues and what brought them together to celebrate the dawn of the new millennium. While outside the chalet in New York City the citizens prepare to throw fireworks and shout at the top of their lungs full of hope for the leap to 2000, the group of cleaners takes a dip in the past and remembers, with more or less pleasure, the first jobs completed together: some became a Cleaner after being framed, others wanted to imitate Bob and get his attention. The final result? A close-knit team ready for anything to get the job done.

Although the continuation of the story may seem repetitive in the formula chosen by Draw Distance, Serial Cleaners succeeds adequately in the intent to surprise the player and rock it in an atmosphere that is more noir than pulp, thanks to the very pleasant jazz background music and the aesthetic representation of the lively and grotesque urban life in the underground scenes. The narrative is not characterized by particular freshness or uniqueness, mind you but the general atmosphere is more gritty and intriguing when compared to the first chapter.

Art direction is what elevates Serial Cleaners: Bloody scenes between two-story parking lots, homes and arcade halls, see the addition of specific on-screen details for each character. For example, using the chainsaw with Hal shakes the view and adds texts that represent the psychopath’s thinking; or again, the dynamics of hacking with Viper let us enter a purple-green dimension between strings of code and leet jargon. These elements not only fill missions with character, but help highlight the variety of playable characters and their approach to cleaning.

The leap to 3D, between pros and cons

In the transition from stylized 2D aesthetics to 3D, the presence of a reduced number of polygons and animations is evident, together with poorly defined textures and, in some cases, models positioned inaccurately during the narrative phases. If in the latter case the work done by the developers is not very precise, the visual impact turned out to be very characteristic and attracts precisely in its imperfection. The graphic system set up by the Polish team has repeatedly fascinated us both during the cutscenes, between close-ups of the characters and the illustration of the landscapes, and during the gameplay, where plays of light and three-dimensional models animate pleasant scenarios to behold.

That said, the transition from two to three dimensions has clearly affected the gameplay. In fact, Draw Distance has managed to package a more physics-based experience, whose stealth dynamics are favored by the isometric view, which is fully suited to understanding the level. It is a pity that the camera cannot move at will to see the rooms from multiple sides, especially since it takes away from the player – especially for lovers of the genre – the possibility of studying the environment in order to exploit it properly to complete. the mission. Unfortunately, Serial Cleaners offers a not very deep gameplay, limited to the few dynamics highlighted on the screen (in any case in greater number than Serial Cleaner), which vary depending on the Cleaner used.

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To give you some examples, Viper can sneak into the air ducts to move between rooms without being detected; Sides with his graffiti can distract the police present at the crime scene; or Hal can make the agents pass out by mutilating a corpse in front of their eyes. Unfortunately, the title lacks an arcade mode with free selection of stages and does not require the player to change tactical approach based on the chosen Cleaner, precisely because the levels are designed for specific protagonists. In other words, don’t expect the production to offer any other content beyond the main storyline.

The “sense of the cleaner” remains a key dynamic already present in the first chapter: thanks to it it will be possible to obtain a complete overview of the level, from the blood streaks to the evidence to be collected, passing through the objects that can be activated in order to distract the patrols. Its usefulness is evident: in moments of confusion or in the initial phase it can help the player, while in the middle of the action it serves to understand the range of action and the guards. However, it is not essential in order to quickly complete the mission.

AI makes it all too easy

The unique skills are linked to levels which are also small and actually quite linear: this plays to the detriment of the playful experience, which still remains enjoyable, and it is a shame given the potential of the playful recipe. The biggest problem is artificial intelligence: Serial Cleaners is very mechanical and each level is summed up in the sequence “enter quietly, clean the blood, remove bodies and evidence, escape”, further simplified by police patrols who are not aware of the vacuum cleaners in operation and open air ducts with cordless screwdrivers. Or again, in the event that a policeman discovers us, it is possible to stun him by closing a door or a bar in his face: with the right timing he will find himself on the ground, otherwise he will chase the Cleaner along the longer road.

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Focus on storytelling

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The “sense of the cleaner”

The simplicity of the playful package is indeed suitable for newcomers to the genre, which might particularly appreciate Serial Cleaners, but at the same time makes the meticulous action planning that fans care about unnecessary. Advancement through the stages is reduced to timing the route using the right time to walk – or even run – behind the guards. The end result is a stealth model in which the trial and error approach risks being preponderant, with levels that can be completed in a hurry once the scenario is framed and the serious flaws of the AI ​​discovered. In other words, there remains a little bitterness in the mouth for the only partial success of this criminal experience, which with a few more tricks could have scored a much more important blow.

Serial Cleaners Review: The return of the mala cleaners