Five years after the premiere of its first part, 505 Games has just released Serial Cleaners, the sequel to the popular independent title with the intention of offering a more varied sequel with a revamped graphical aspect but without losing the aesthetic touch of the original. . With new characters to clean up its crime scenes, I’ll tell you if this stealth game “looks clean” or if it’s better to dispose of them as bodies to be disposed of in its levels.
When thinking about the genre of games with touches of stealth in isometric or aerial perspective, it is inevitable to remember games like Desperados 3, Shadow Tacticsand -of course- a classic saga from our own lands: Commandos. Although the approach of these and other similar games revolves around completing a series of objectives in a map of varying size and getting out without getting caught, this same premise can be adapt in a thousand ways, which is more original and fun. Something that has already demonstrated in 2017 the original series cleanerthe simple yet fun and innovative game in which we play Bob, an ordinary guy from the 70s with the inglorious task of cleaning up crime scenes perpetrated by his bosses.
Now the Polish studio Draw distance-formerly known as iFun4All and creators of its first part- brings us its sequel, Serial cleaners from the hand of 505 Games. And despite the fact that initially it seems that we are faced with a multi-level improvement of what the original title gave us and a single protagonist – now with three partners and each with their own style of “cleaning” -, the reality is that the additions and changes made by the authors have achieved this I’m more frustrated than amused with the game, more because of the poor implementation of its novelties than because of the ideas it tries to incorporate into itself; and it is that sometimes it is true that ”less is more”.
Serial Cleaner was a very simple game; its premise was clear and not very complex, but well executed and presented. He even succeeded – as Diego Emege jokingly points out in his analysis of the original– make us smile for the comedic way of presenting something as grotesque as dead bodies and massive blood splatters at a crime scene, in addition to the way completely folk of Bob having these objects: a vacuum cleaner and the trunk of his station wagon while playing “run, run, I’ll catch you” with the police. All presented with a retro flat color cartoon aesthetic inspired by the 70s (with a soundtrack also inspired by the era). It seemed like everything had to be better than in the first part, but no, and now I’ll tell you why.
Autopsy of a wreck
Serial Cleaners moves forward in time to the 90’s, but he also wanted to do it in the artistic and technical section. This flat design is still present, although now with greater variety in the color palette and textures and an isometric perspective that gives it a greater depth to the presentation of the cartography, thanks to the unity motor. The music and cutscenes are also now more cinematic, serving the purpose of storytelling. how is new years eve for Bob and three other “cleaning” professionals: Lati, Psycho and Viper. The plot of the game places us and the whole team in the middle of the end of the year festivities, and between cups and cups we learn how this particular group formed through some jobs they had to do throughout the last decade of the 20th century.
The plot of the game introduces us up to 20 assignments -mostly unrelated- and scenes that show us who these four crime scene cleanup professionals are. Besides seeing how they met, we also learn that each cleaner has its own style. To cite two examples, Viper can hack devices electronic devices and create distractions for cops, or Psycho, able to temporarily stun police officers by throwing blunt objects at them, or limbs from corpses he has torn to pieces with his chainsaw (unless he is caught by a police officer who is not on alert and passes out at the sight).
Obviously, all this suggests that we will be able to live varied missions, with many options to solve, and having to alternate between the different members of the team to leave the scene clean as they say. Unfortunately, it is not the case. The vast majority of missions are played “solo”, i.e. we only control one professionals, although there are three missions in which we can alternate between two predefined cleaners. Therefore, the cards are custom made of what they are capable of. In principle, this would not be a problem, because in these games there are usually missions for a single character in which they can show themselves in different ways to solve the puzzle they pose. But no. Whereas in the original game the missions were simple as can be, but felt organic and entertaining, here I have fought with environment and scene know exactly what the cleaner in question had to do and where.
The distractions and disposition of the police or guards left no room for trying other means of completing the mission. as much as you can reverse the order in which you will take the evidence or remove the corpses, but that’s it. To make matters worse, in the few missions where you have another cleaner, you cannot use them at the same time or quickly switch between them; you have to go to a point on the map and exchange them. with whom you forget make “repeat pieces” like those of the other titles that I mentioned at the beginning of the analysis.
Many times you want to pick up evidence or a corpse and end up lighting up attracting attentionSpeaking of interacting with map features or objectives, you often want to pick up evidence or a dead body and end up turning on a light or some other device that gets the attention of the cops, or you keep opening and closing a door. But that’s not what will annoy you the most about Serial Cleaners games; this dubious honor is reserved for the AI cop. In these games, one aspect that is generally very well supported is the patrol behavior and routes. They must feel consistent, but not oppressive for the player. Also, the main flaw of Serial Cleaners is that the AI does not follow its own rules, or responds inconsistently to what we provoke in the game. To give some practical examples: How is it possible that a policeman who is two meters away from me -back turned- don’t hear me unscrew a grid with a black & decker and go about your business but be able to hear me dragging a corpse on the other side of a wall and come to investigate it?, or why to arrive at the source of a sound that I made to distract them, they take the longest route instead of the most direct, preventing me from taking the one of which I have need ? And why, if they see me carrying a corpse, do they start to approach, but when I let go and hide, they resume their journey? as if nothing?
To say related to this last point that, inexplicably, the developers substituted the vision cones from the previous game by a direct line of sight which, if filled, makes them alert and chases us away. If they come with the clubs it doesn’t matter because if we run towards them we will tackle them and that gives us plenty of time to hide. But if they pull out the guns, the one I stop at and get shot at charges me to the last checkpoint. The worst is yes just before before they shot me, this ‘checkpoint’ had been saved, there was barely time to take cover, and sometimes I had to restart a mission because of this programming oversight, that the cops don’t go off alert when they catch us and respawn. In addition, the absence of vision cones makes it very difficult know if you can cross such and such an area without being seen, and if you add to that the Eratic behavior when their routes are changed – or not, as they are able to investigate what an open door does but ignore the fact that there is now a corpse where there was none before – well, far from being something fun to dodge, it becomes a frustrating activity and that depends on luck that AI protocols work in our favour.
Beyond seeing these other endings, there are no replay options.In the technical section, despite the fact that the game seems quite well In what I ask for this type of experience, I experienced serious bugs, such as my character falling in a vacuum after going through a ventilation duct, or it being difficult to interact with certain objects. It hasn’t happened many times, but they are there, and combined with the negative points from before, it subtracts even more points. That and that there are scenes that lack music or special effects. And since the scenarios look more realistic, even though it’s an independent film, they could have endowed with facial expressions to the characters (even if they were cartoonish or exaggerated to look good) in the scenes to indicate their moods or accompany their jokes, pretty good I must admit and full of 90s pop culture references. story, although as I said it is well acted by its characters, it is a bit diffuse and, although it has multiple endings, only one thing changes and at the request of the developers I will not reveal here what and how. Unfortunately, beyond seeing these other endings, no replay options, or optional missions as in the previous title, or the possibility of selecting missions once completed. If you want to play the penultimate mission and you have completed the game, start with the first until your arrival.