The Swapper: Review - Games Weekly

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Monday, February 2, 2015

The Swapper: Review

Indie games are, at the moment, enjoying something of a “golden age”. Thanks to services like Xbox Live and PSN, indie games are not only getting out to the masses, but often they’re supplied for free, allowing players to experience the talent that is out there, but not necessarily handled by a big-name publisher. Until the shine wears off (if it ever does) indie developers have a lot of opportunities to make names for themselves.

Of course, there are also checks and balanced that (theoretically) are in place at major publishers, and indie games aren’t always subject to these quality controls. The result is a game like The Swapper, which manages to be a brilliantly challenging puzzle game and an infuriating frustration all at the same time.

The Swapper places the player in the role of a nameless astronaut trapped in a crumbling excavation on an alien world. The look and feel of the game is unique, largely thanks to the fact that the developers hand made everything in the game in plasticine. Yep, they handmoulded every aspect of the game in painstaking detail, digitised it and then imported it into the game.

This technique lends The Swapper a gritty, unique feel that is rather appealing, and adds significantly to the overall haunting quality of the title.

Back to the astronaut. Right, so to navigate this excavation requires the use of several people to solve puzzles. The problem is that the astronaut is alone that is until he finds a device called The Swapper. With this “gun” he can project a cloned version of himself into the level, and even change consciousness with it. In this way, the player can create multiple copies of the astronaut, and use them to solve the puzzles.

The catch there is always a catch is that the clones mimic the player’s movements. So placing a clone on a ledge may have him falling off if the player moves. Things are further complicated by red and blue lights that prevent effective use of the gun.

But what makes it even more challenging is that The Swapper can be extremely demanding, even overly so. In later stages the game requires an extremely high degree of precision. In fact, this rises into the realms of being unreasonable, and the player will often find that just being a tiny bit off of where the developers wanted you to be will result in failure.

And then there’s the pace of the game. Even when the plot (which is crammed with a few heavy handed philosophical questions) is screaming that the player needs to hurry to avert impending doom, the pace is quite leisurely. It is this kind of inconsistency, as well as the inconsistencies in difficulty, that keeps The Swapper from true greatness. It is also the kind of thing that marks the difference between an indie game and a major release although we’re not so sure about that anymore.

But it is still a really enjoyable game, when all is said and done. The puzzles are all traversal based, with switches that need to be activated, tough areas that need to be reached, and so on. If you can get your head around the cloning mechanics (and can get past some of the more frustrating bits in the later stages) The Swapper will prove to be enjoyable enough, even if it is plagued by occasional inconsistencies. The idea, at very least, is pretty unique, and will have you scratching your head more often than not.


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