Cloning and hyper-intelligent space rocks. That probably wouldn’t be the first idea for a plot to come to mind for many of us, but that’s what puzzle-platforming game, The Swapper, is about. As you may imagine from that premise, The Swapper is a peculiar game that puts players in the midst of a mystery surrounding sentient alien rocks dubbed “The Watchers,” that has caused problems for a group of scientists while on a distant space mission. The derelict space station on which the game takes place, can only be successfully navigated with a cloning device used to solve puzzles which require the player to be in more than one place at once.
This cloning device is the primary hook in The Swapper. It allows players to create up to five versions of themselves that can be swapped into and controlled while the clones mimic the controlled player’s inputs exactly. In order to power up the different areas of the ship, players will need to collect orbs that can only be reached by solving complicated puzzles.
It all starts out innocently enough. Place some clones onto some switches to pave the way for your character to collect an orb; or maybe you’ll need to swap somewhere that you couldn’t normally otherwise reach. Just as you start feeling good about yourself, The Swapper turns up the heat. Different colored lights will inhibit your ability to create and swap into clones. Eventually, anti-gravity joins the fray to complicate things even further. These mechanics keep what is essentially a very one-dimensional game, from getting too repetitive.
Players receive very little in the way of clues or hints. The game offers you no tools other than your cloning device to help you get through it and has one static difficulty setting. Sorry, no easy mode for you. So when the going gets tough you better get going, because The Swapper gets real difficult real fast, and the only thing that will get you over the hump is your intelligence.
At times, the spike in difficulty was too intense. Being stuck on a single puzzle for almost an hour because my brain and the cloning device wasn’t enough to get the job done was very demoralizing. There will definitely be puzzle people that will breeze through the game because they’re geniuses. However, for the rest of us, some other tools or hints to help get through the tougher patches would have made the ride a little less taxing.
Although I spent a little more time on some puzzles than I would have liked, getting that “Aha!” moment and finally solving them was a wonderful feeling. It isn’t unlike other difficult games such as Dark/Demon’s Souls, where you know it’s your fault that you can’t beat it. It isn’t any less frustrating throughout, but the sense of accomplishment is strong when you finally get through it.
The Swapper is more than just puzzling. There is a very dense story that is told by text log entries found throughout the space station. You’ll run into plenty of Watchers (those intelligent space rocks) and they will challenge you with with questions and statements regarding the nature of a soul. The plot is essentially optional, as you have to locate and read the logs found on terminals scattered throughout the game to completely unravel it. It’s definitely worth the effort though, and those that put the time in will find the cloning and swapping mechanics that are mostly taken for granted, carries a deeper philosophical weight. This story all takes place within a dreary yet beautiful space station that is only really lit up by the colored lights that will be a source of torment for players throughout the game.
The Swapper isn’t for everyone. Its plot is dense and tucked away. Only those dedicated to knowing the full story will bother to locate and read all of the terminals. Also, at times, it can be extremely difficult and its one-dimensional gameplay won’t do it any favors in attracting a wide audience. However for what it does within its niche, The Swapper is a complete, well-constructed, and well-thought-out game that will keep hardcore puzzle/platformer fans looking for something new very entertained.
[+Mysterious and heavily philosophical plot] [+Solid and well thought out gameplay] [+Eerie yet gorgeous setting] [-Dramatic spikes in difficulty] [-Short length masked by a couple of brutally tough puzzles]