The Swapper (PS4 [Reviewed], PS3, PS Vita, PC)
Developers: Curve Studios (PlayStation), Facepalm Games (PC)
Publishers: Curve Studios
Genre(s): 2D Puzzle Platformer
Released: August 5, 2014 (PlayStation), May 30, 2013 (PC)
ESRB: E – Everyone
Facepalm Games released The Swapper to near unanimous praise over a year ago for PC, and thanks to Curve Studios the mind bending puzzler is primed to land on PlayStation’s 4, 3, and Vita on August 5th.
You begin your journey in The Swapper emerging from an escape pod and boarding the doomed Space Station Theseus. Within minutes, you’ll acquire the first of two abilities that you’ll need to complete the game; a device that allows you to make up to four clones of yourself. Soon after that, you’ll gain the ability to swap between the clones.
Yes, within the first probably 10 minutes of the game you are introduced to the two mechanics you’ll need to see your way through the journey. And what a great, albeit short, journey it is.
Theseus is an “open-world” in the Metroidvania style; you’ll explore, gain items (orbs), and backtrack. It’s a sprawling, gorgeous environment with a memorable atmosphere and story.
Unlike most games, you won’t encounter any enemies in The Swapper. If you die (and you’ll just respawn where you were at), then it was because you failed at jump swapping, fell, or got crushed… all things that are on you that could have easily been avoided.
Instead, The Swapper’s challenge comes from increasingly difficult puzzles.
Using your cloning device and swapping ability, you’ll have to figure out how to control a person in order to grab an orb. These puzzles can involve anything from four switches, crates, and three different kinds of light (red, blue, and purple) that each affect your abilities in some way (you can swap through red light, you can’t create clones in blue light, etc.)
The puzzles start off simple enough, but it won’t take long until the real mind benders begin to show up. Some will initially seem downright impossible, but then after examining it (and lots of failed attempts) will become crystal clear in that “how did I not see that sooner?” kind of way.
The more challenging puzzles will require you to not only use all five characters and swapping, but using them at different times, killing some off, and shooting out more clones. If that weren’t hard enough, some add in the additional challenging of needing to have almost pinpoint timing thanks to some tricky situations.
All in all, it takes 124 orbs to open up the last area, where you’ll make a decision and the game will end. That doesn’t mean you solve 124 puzzles though, as many of the harder ones give nine orbs upon completion. It took me about four and a half hours to complete the game, and that was with some exploration to find the 10 secret areas.
For the trophy hunters, this is an easy 100%. However, it’s also one of those games were it’s completely possible (and in many cases likely) that you can beat the game and never earn a single trophy. To get the game’s 10 trophies, you’ll need to find all 10 secret areas and access the module in it. I found about half by exploring, the rest I used a guide on YouTube to get.
I’m not going to spend any time talking about the story of the game. It’s told through a few small scenes, dialogue coming from rocks, and modules that you can optionally access. It’s an interesting game and if you seek out the story and get invested in it, the ending could definitely stick with you for a while.
The Swapper is simply put a great indie puzzle game. It looks gorgeous, has mechanics that are fun to play with, has a compelling story, and a rich environment. The only thing holding the game back any is the short length (you could beat it in under four hours easily) and the lack of replay value. On the plus side, your $20 is getting the game for three systems, and there’s certainly value in being able to take your PS4/PS3 game on the go with your Vita (assuming you have one; I don’t).
If you haven’t experienced The Swapper on PC (and I hadn’t), then do yourself a favor and pick this up on whichever PlayStation system you have. It’s a fun, head-scratchingly clever puzzle game.
* A PSN code was provided by the publisher for review.