Developer: Facepalm Games, Curve Studios (Console ports)
Publisher: Facepalm Games, Nintendo (Wii U Version)
Release Date: May 30th, 2013
Available On: Nintendo Wii U, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Reviewer’s note: I played this game on a PC and a PlayStation 4. There were no noticeable differences between versions. The screenshots are from the PlayStation 4 version.
If you cloned yourself, is that still you? The Swapper starts with this difficult question, but is this claymation sci-fi game actually able to answer it or should this one be left to the philosophers?
A woman wakes up on an abandoned space station with no sign of life and no clue as to how she got there. Her only company appears to be a group of telepathic rocks called The Watchers. Well, that, and her clones that she is able to make using a gun-like device called The Swapper. The woman begins to explore, and tries to discover just what has happened here. The good news is that space station Theseus just absolutely oozes atmosphere, and each new area is a lovely treat to behold. The bad news is that the actual story doesn’t hold up quite as well. While The Swapper has a few interesting ideas, it seems to have problems actually communicating them to the player. The Watcher’s messages are a scattered mess, and the terminals only really offer an idea of what happened. It seems like the game wants to get across these grand ideas but isn’t quite sure how to do it.
Thankfully, The Swapper’s puzzles more than carry it. At the start of the game I got the titular Swapper. This allowed me to do two very important things: create up to four clones of myself and transfer my consciousnesses between them. All clones followed my actions: if I ran left then all my clones ran left, if I jumped they all jumped. If a clone dies then I could create a new one, or I could “pick up” a clone by sharing the same space with it. I found myself adapting to this mechanic very quickly. It’s an extremely interesting mechanic and at the start of the game I was able to solve simple puzzles with little effort. Of course, the game doesn’t stay simple for long.
Eventually it introduces lights, which could either be red, blue, or purple. Red lights prevented me from swapping between bodies through them, but I could still make clones. Blue lights are the opposite: I couldn’t make clones in them but I could swap bodies. Purple lights allowed neither. After this gravity starts to get messed up, and sometimes I would have to direct clones on the ceiling. Pushable crates, pressure plates, and endless pits all added to The Swapper’s challenge. The puzzles were constantly demanding, and each one required me to think a little harder than the last. It’s amazingly well done and any puzzle aficionado should find a lot to love here.
Between puzzles you have to explore the space station, using orbs you earn from completing puzzles to open up new areas. Navigating the station is a bit of a puzzle in and of itself: sometimes I had to use clones in creative ways to survive long falls or get to ledges. Other times I would step into a zero-g environment and have to use the Swapper to help push me around. Sometimes I couldn’t help but feel like these parts were just wasting my time though, and I wanted to get back into the next puzzle ASAP. Thankfully, later in the game, they introduce portals that helped me get around the station easier and cut down on backtracking. Still, I think The Swapper would have benefited by cutting down on these and just going from puzzle to puzzle, but this is a small complaint at worst.
Really though, The Swapper is an amazing puzzle game. Each puzzle is a unique and challenging brain-buster that kept me thinking about how to solve it for hours on end. While it may not have succeeded with its story or exploration, I still appreciate what The Swapper does right and recommend it for fans of puzzle games.