The Swapper is one of those Indie titles you tell your friends about. Developed by Facepalm Games, The Swapper is an atmospheric puzzle platformer game that takes place in deep space and sees you playing as a survivor/scavenger/someone trying to make sense of everything that has and is happening.
While roaming around this giant spaceship/station, you come across The Swapper, a device that lets you create clones of yourself and lets you swap to them, thing that becomes important to solve the many puzzles in game, but more on those later. The story is intriguing to say the least and as in a sci-fi fashion, it will not make any sense until the end and after you’ve found and read all of the text logs spread out the station. It has sci-fi written all over it, desolate space station, clones, mind swapping, talking brains, ancient alien lifeforms, a conspiracy… yeah, if you delve deep into it, you will really enjoy it, but I am not going to spoil it since it’s a pretty short game.
Well, pretty short if you actually understand and know how to solve the puzzles. To progress further in the story and to unlock new areas of the station, you have to collect orbs which are “locked” behind a puzzle. As many puzzle games, the early ones are fairly easy and totally make sense. You just have to create a clone and place him over a button and create another one to reach the orb so you can swap to him or something similar like that, easy. However later in the game, the puzzle become crazy difficult. New gameplay elements are introduced like colored lights that block you from creating a clone or swapping to a clone in a specific area, sliding doors which are activated by standing on buttons, gravity altering platforms and some other stuff that really really make some of the puzzles insanely difficult.
Now, you might say that since you have the ability to create clones, doesn’t that feel like a cheat, where you can create a clone directly on top of the orb and be done with it? I wish it was that easy my friends, I only wish… See when you create a clone, he behaves like you meaning that he will do what you do. If you walk left or right, he will walk left or right. If you jump, he jumps. Yeah, you also cannot create more than four clones. Now combine this, with the elements I talked above and add the crazy “outside the box” thinking the developer had while compiling some of the later puzzles and you are in for a pain.
For example in many of the later puzzles you will need to be standing on a specific point, create a clone on top of a platform, walk a few millimeters, create another clone in the air, swap to him while he is falling to his death then from him swap to the one in the platform while walking backwards so the other clone down below falls to his death, just so you can be able to create once again four clones. Then create one on top of a switch, jump and create one that will fall into a gravity altering platform and while he is falling towards the ceiling swap to him then create another clone near the orb and swap to him. Phew… that’s a lot of thinking and since the game doesn’t explain pretty much anything to you, no tutorials, no examples, you are left there scratching your head, cursing and falling to your death over and over again.
But yet somehow, I think that all of this was deliberate. Going back to the story, you don’t know who you are, why you are there and what are you supposed to do. All you can do is explore this derelict station in search for an explanation, any explanation. And you kinda get that, sure most of it comes as cryptic messages from the alien rocks, the text logs or from the “other one”, but you have to piece all of it together. When this type of story-telling collides with the “outside the box” puzzles and the visual style, it makes The Swapper one of the most atmospheric experiences ever to hit a console.
Sure, the artstyle will not blow you away with vibrant colors or beautiful designs, on the contrary it’s pretty much a bland grey and probably the most boring artstyle ever, but again, everything it’s deliberate. It is supposed to be that way. You are alone in this giant station, there are no enemies or NPCs you can interact with. Even though you can create clones, you are still alone, cause they are well, you.
Bottom Line: The Swapper is an unique experience with an intriguing sci-fi story and interesting head-scratching gameplay elements. It may be short, but there’s no useless padding, it’s just enough. And if you get it on the Playstation consoles, being a Cross-Buy/Save title, it makes it totally worth the price. Now Get Swapping! Thanks for reading!