The Swapper is a short, but sweetly addictive puzzle platformer that begs the statement, “If Dead Space were only a puzzle game.”
The Swapper is an independently developed game by Finnish studio, Facepalm Games, and was released in spring of 2013 to universal acclaim on the Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Curve Studios recently aided in the port of The Swapper to the PS4, PS3, and PSVita ecosystem and plans to move the title to the Wii U in early November. Early previews and reviews praise the game for its creative and difficult puzzles, atmosphere, and visual aesthetic. Plot and gameplay-wise, The Swapper strives to amalgamate the best parts of the puzzle games of yore, while forging a better path betwixt the two.
The Swapper’s plot is interestingly expressed through omniscient lines spread out in predefined, specific areas that trigger once the character crosses back-and-forth and across the threshold. Computer terminals are also laid throughout the network of excavation shafts and satellite wings, which provides notes, letters, and further insight into the events leading up to the current predicament. The supplementary portions of the tale are slowly divulged by the only other survivor on the space station, who at first remains unnamed and a mystery to the protagonist, as she furthers her descent into the Theseus Space Station.
Gameplay is primarily puzzle based — Early on in The Swapper the main character receives an eponymous device that creates clones of the character. As the character moves the corresponding clones (up to four) move in unison. As long as the controlling character is within eyesight of a clone, the player can ‘swap’ to that clone taking control of it. The puzzles become more complex as the journey unfolds. Different colored lights affect the use the Swapper resulting in situations where the player can only create clones but not swap to them, or vice versa. Gravity panels are introduced later in the game, which also turn the puzzle solving (literally and figuratively) upside down!
None of the gameplay mechanics are terribly unique or groundbreaking, but they are done with such finesse and ease that they are worth mentioning. Between the puzzles, the aforementioned plot devices are used to divulge bits and pieces of the overarching plot, creating tension and mystery, as the player navigates amongst puzzles in a Metroidvania-esque manner.
The Swapper is an exciting twist on old school puzzle platformers. The mechanics are great, the story is interesting, and the aesthetics create a vivid atmosphere that supposes Dead Space were a puzzler. The only downside to the title is its short playtime and lack of replay value. There are a handful of hidden terminals to be found, but observant gamers will find that it only takes them a solid fifteen to twenty minutes to glean all ten terminals from their hiding spots. The Swapper fits well on the PlayStation ecosystem and I would highly recommend this title to anyone who missed it on the PC and is looking for a solid puzzle game on consoles.