Games are a powerful medium. Like a good book or thrilling movie, they can make you feel incredible at times, but given care, there are times when they bring about feelings like nothing else. The Swapper, for instance, makes you feel like a genius every time you manage to find a solution to one of its puzzles.
When you finally are able to complete one of the many carefully laid out contraptions in The Swapper, there’s no better feeling in the world of videogames. Trust me, you can blow up as many cars as you want in Grand Theft Auto V or stealth your way through an entire playthrough of Deus Ex – once you figure out how simple the answer to a deceptively complex puzzle turns out to be, there’s no helping feeling like a grand champion couch potato.
It also helps that The Swapper is incredibly well written and atmospheric. As a lone astronaut trapped in a derelict spaceship, you manage to discover a very special flashlight-like contraption that’s suitably called Swapper. This device creates up to five clones of yourself, each moving in sync with your own steps, but the catch is that you’re able to freely swap control among any of them. Well, as long as those darned colored lights don’t get in your way.
The deal with puzzles in The Swapper is the smart use of your clones and forward thinking far enough to counter whatever obstacles are in your way. Four types of light serve as obstacles in these stages: red blocks your ability to swap out, while the blue one prohibits you from adding any clones within its range and more often that not, these two converge into purple, which ruins your day blocking all of your rays. The fourth light is usually placed at the entrance to a puzzle and it’s used to reset your clones, but throughout the game, it comes up in puzzles with a completely different mechanic that turns out to be one of those “ah ha!!” moments from before.
There are tons of those moments throughout the entire game and that’s one of the reasons you’re likely to enjoy The Swapper. It delivers the type of satisfaction that’s a result of working to resolve an issue, and much like in life, it feels great to come up with something that at first glance would never work, only for it to be beautifully creative and functional.
Visually, it’s quite impressive how Facepalm Games achieved such a strong sense of hopelessness within the game and it only goes to show how much can be done when there’s strong art direction behind a game. The world of the game looks lived in and alien at the same time, and thanks to the incredible used of lighting, even a living room with a sofa looks eerie in this game. Not to mention – but mentioning anyway – the unique style given to your character’s animation and movement, which is simultaneously very precise but sufficiently loose, giving you enough room to fit in quick adjustments during The Swapper‘s more demanding moments.
The Swapper originally came out on PC and just recently found its way to the Sony platforms. It plays wonderfully as a cross save game between the consoles and the Vita. Analog sticks suit the point/shoot/platform nature of this game quite well, and hey, it’s one hell of a game to play on the go in quick sessions, thanks to its quick, bite-sized approach to puzzle design and the many ways to quickly get around a relatively large world.
You cannot go wrong with The Swapper. It will frustrate you at times, but the payoff is incredible once you finally figure everything out. And if you do get annoyed, be sure to keep it to yourself, because even though no one can hear you scream in spaaaace, they sure can on the bus or subway. Trust me, I know.