Early 2010 bore witness to some of the greatest indie titles of all time. With games such as The Binding of Isaac, Hotline Miami, and Super Meat Boy, the early 2010s could be regarded as the renaissance period of the indies. As the above mentioned titles have modernised the games of the old, and while some, such as the incredible Hotline Miami, stayed 100 percent true to their source material with their pixel-art aesthetic, they’ve still managed to improve on their spiritual predecessors.

With coming years, indies started to become a staple within the industry, as digital console stores have embraced the smaller developers and simplified the submission process, ultimately opening the door to hundreds of sole developers and indie studios. But once the floodgates were open, the idyll existence of the indies has come to an end.

The previously sporadic indie releases have gathered pace, and these days we have a handful of indie games released nearly every week. But such state of affairs is not a reason to celebrate, but rather lament, as the ‘modern’ indie titles, for the most part, are nothing but cheap, clunky cash-grabs.

If one were to explain the transformation of the ‘indie-sphere’, he/she could state that it has underwent the same change as Josh Homme. Between 1987 and 1991, Josh Homme was a part of Kyuss, a stoner/desert rock band, with meaningful music in its truest form, just like the first major indie games. But then, when the days of Kyuss have come to an end, he has started a new band, named Queens of The Stone Age. And while it was much more successful than the aforementioned Kyuss, it was nothing more than a soulless ‘pop’ band, which had a lot in common with the modern indies.

What happened to Kyuss was a true shame, and it is likely that a band of such caliber will never come back in any capacity. But as it turns out, the same rule does not apply to indie games, and this is because indies have just made a fully fledged return with the rather incredible Serial Cleaner, which releases today (11/07/17).

Serial Cleaner is an action-stealth adventure title set in the 1970’s, right in the heart of the golden age of organised crime. However, unlike other titles of the stealth genre, Serial Cleaner plays out at a much faster pace, meaning that while stealth is an important factor to the overall success, thinking on your legs and immaculate planning are just as important.

The vast majority of in-game levels revolves around a handful of mechanics. Some levels will require you to collect a body, others will have you pick up an item of evidence, or clean up a certain amount of blood, whereas a large number of them will have you do all three things at the same time. And all of this has to be done while avoiding the police officers present at the scene.

Serial Cleaner may come across as a difficult title at the beginning, but the longer it is played, the easier it becomes – just like any other game. Within a couple of levels you’ll master the use of hiding spots, and their release mechanics. Whereas later on in the game, you’ll be able to put entire levels in motion and set them up them to your advantage, with movable objects such as cars, gates, and containers. And once you get a firm grasp of all the stealth mechanics, including shortcuts, which are featured within some levels, you’ll become a true ‘Serial Cleaner’.

Serial Cleaner’s gameplay is full of intricate and captivating quirks and gimmicks, but its brilliance lays not within the hiding spots or gate-switches, but within the tension and the adrenaline which builds up within you. As every single level is full of thrill and immense amounts of pressure, as you are always required to complete a large amount of objectives, while facing insurmountable odds. But the crushing pressure, which each and every level brings to the table, ultimately makes the Serial Cleaner much more enjoyable. As once the player reaches the end of a level, after having collected all the evidence and disposed of all the bodies, he/she feels like he/she has just accomplished something significant.

The core gameplay of Serial Cleaner is truly incredible, but a game, especially an indie game, is nothing without an interesting visual façade, but thankfully, in the case of Serial Cleaner, such is just as incredible as the title’s gameplay.

Serial Cleaner features a minimalist, pop-art visual design which is in fitting with the setting of the title. And when compared to other indie titles of recent years, it is truly unique. Yes – it shares slight similarities with titles such as The Wheels of Aurelia, and LA Cops. But where those two titles were nothing more than clunky, 3D slogs, with inconsistent aesthetic, the Serial Cleaner is a true work of art.

Serial Cleaner maintains its aesthetic design from the very beginning until the very end, and unlike the two aforementioned titles, it is a 2D game. And the excellence of visual design comes through every single level, as despite the 2D aesthetic, the in-game levels are clear as day, and you’ll never be in a situation where you’ll walk into a wall, or walk through a surface you expect to be solid throughout.

On top of the rather brilliant visual level design, each and every in-game locale features its own little gimmicks. For example, during one level set in a forest, the portion of the map will be filled with wildlife such as foxes, so there is always something interesting going on in your peripheral vision. Whereas another level, set in a park, features a tree at the forefront, and whenever you enter the lower portions of the screen, you can see a large squirrel peacefully sitting on a tree, which is right in front of your screen.

If one were to take a step back and take a look at the Serial Cleaner from a distance, he/she could state that it is an incredible game, both mechanically and visually. And one that doesn’t just concentrate all its efforts on the main premise, but also on the smaller things such as visual accents, or the addition of complex escape mechanics, which are an incredible addition, which other developers would most likely overlook.

Summaries and conclusions to video game reviews are usually very soulless, and impersonal, but in the case of Serial Cleaner, such summary is impossible to write. As on the personal level, I believe that Serial Cleaner is the greatest indie game to come out in a very long time, and it is highly unlikely that any other title of this type, and/or genre will dethrone it anytime soon. But despite its brilliance, Serial Cleaner simply cannot be categorised as a perfect 10, and this is because it suffers from a handful of accessibility issues, mostly related to the fact that at times it is extremely difficult to see hostiles’ vision cones on green backgrounds, especially for people who are colour blind. And that’s a shame, because the lack of alternate colour schemes can be fury inducing, and takes a lot away from the enjoyment of the title. But it doesn’t change the fact that Serial Cleaner, is the best goddamn indie game since the original Hotline Miami, and the best indie game of this generation.



Author

Kamil

My name is Kamil, and I'm the 'Feature Man'. I write news, and reviews just like everybody else, however, feature articles are my true forte. And this is not because I'm another self-centered, pseudo-intellectual games journalist, but because there are many discussion worthy matters which go unnoticed in the flurry of other video-game related articles. If you want to read more of my #HotTakes and #Opinions, or if you simply want to fight me over the internet, you can follow me on Twitter @Kama_Kamilia.