The Swapper was originally released last spring for the PC platform. I played it there, enjoyed a brief hour or two and then moved on to another game.
It’s not that I wasn’t happy or satisfied with title, I was. The aesthetics, the pacing, the atmosphere and the core mechanics all clicked instantly with me. I just, you know, played it a bit and stopped. We’ve all done this, yes?
Fast-forward to this year, and The Swapper has been ported onto the PlayStation family of systems by Curve Studios. Originally developed by Facepalm Games, The Swapper made the platform switch courtesy of a studio that’s already done the same for the likes of Thomas Was Alone, Lone Survivor and Proteus.
Since The Swapper was just released on the PlayStation line, was placed in the PLAY program and features Cross-Buy and Cross-Save, I figured I’d pick it up. Out of the last 48 hours of my life, I spent 12 on a plane. Five of those 12 hours were spent beating The Swapper.
This is my review.
The Cold of Space
Aside from playing The Swapper on PC briefly last year, I beat the game exclusively this time around on the PS Vita. Coupled with a solid set of headphones, the visual and aural experience was as exceptional as I remembered.
The Swapper places gamers in a mysteriously jettisoned escape pod crashing towards an odd space station. Once aboard the station, you’ll quickly learn that something’s wrong. You grab a device that lets you create up to four clones of yourself. The clones, once placed in a spot around the room, mimic your movements exactly.
You’ll also pick up an add-on to the device that lets swap between clones, thus abandoning the old husks when you clear a puzzle or escape a space.
Immediately, there’s a sense of regret when it comes time to abandon clones. The Swapper sets itself up as a story about moral dilemmas, disappearing sanities and mankind’s unending ambition for “progress,” and it’s clear early on that there’s a much grander problem at work behind the scenes of this seemingly abandoned space station.
It’s almost spooky. That weird sci-fi feeling is accentuated by the aforementioned aural and visual tone, one that pretty much wrapped me up over two separate flights.
Frustrating Puzzles Meet Strong Controls
The gameplay specifically comes from the puzzle-solving. You’ll need to get orbs in order to activate panels that open up more of the station and further the story. The orbs are hidden behind access panels. Each orb-holding room is a puzzle.
Maybe you’ll need to make three clones that step on three switches in order to open a door. Maybe you’ll use one clone to pull a box while the other falls into perfection swapping position. Whatever the case may be, each puzzle is unique, and each presents a wealth of problems.
Which brings me to my only big contention with this game. There’s a slow build for more of the puzzles. There’s a sense of progression in difficulty gaps. You’ll learn how to do one thing, and then another puzzle will ask you to combine that feat with a new one. That’s fine, that’s good. Some puzzles, though, introduce mechanics that almost seem random.
Like, perhaps, losing a clone at the start of a puzzle and only having three to work with throughout. This happens in only two puzzles in the whole game, and both of them are obnoxious. Especially since I was on a plane without internet, hooray me. Living life without a cheat book brought me back to middle school.
Luckily, Curve Studios did a good job porting The Swapper over. The PS Vita version is missing the precise nature of the keyboard and mouse, of course, but clone creation and aiming can be mapped to either the right stick or the touchscreen. Don’t like touch gameplay? Neither do I. You can disable that in the options. Don’t think the right stick moves fast enough? Neither did I. You can tweak the sensitivity in the options.
Far too often, console ports are teeming with reduced control options and missing configuration. Not so here. The Swapper on the PlayStation family can be messed with to your liking, so enjoy.
Great mechanics, atmosphere and story come together in a game that will leave an impression.
While I won’t touch on the ins-and-outs here in order to spare you from spoilers, know that The Swapper arrives with a very interesting finish. It’s one that I’m likely to talk about with friends who’ve already completed the game.
Facepalm Games deserves congratulations for managing to match a game’s tone and plot with its core mechanics so wonderfully. The acting of swapping or order to solve puzzles becomes more than just a method for moving by the game’s conclusion, and you’ll feel the weight of what you’re really doing throughout the entire experience.
Things come together extremely well here, and The Swapper stands as the best in-flight I’ve had since beating The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Not that the games warrant comparison, but that’s a good league for this indie wonder to stand in.
We purchased The Swapper on PS Vita with company funds. We played the game to completion before starting this review.