The Swapper Review
There will be clones.
After either winning or being a finalist for multiple Indie Awards in 2011 and 2012, The Swapper has finally been given a proper release on Steam this week. I hadn’t been following the game for very long, but it looked interesting and I was excited to finally get a chance to play it. Big or small, when a game wins a bunch of awards, it must be doing something right, right? Let’s find out if The Swapper is worthy of the most important awards of them all: your time and your money.
The Swapper is a 2D puzzle-platformer, where you play as an unnamed, silent astronaut, sent to a research space station to investigate the disappearance of its crew members. The story is told mostly through digital messages left by the crew, who had been doing research on some ancient aliens called The Watchers, and the rest by the lone surviving crew member left on board. I wasn’t blown away by the story, but it was well written and interesting enough to fill in the gaps between all of the puzzles that you’ll come across.
In the end, even if you do get lost in the story, the main reason you’ll enjoy The Swapper is for its unique gameplay mechanics and how you use them to solve puzzles and collect orbs. The Swapper isn’t just the name of the game, it’s also the name of a piece of alien technology that you find when you arrive at the Theseus Research Station. The Swapper can be used to create clones of yourself, bend time and swap back and forth between your clones. By right clicking the mouse, you can create up to four clones, that will jump and move back and forth just as you do. When you aim at one of them and click the left mouse button, you swap positions with that clone, jumping back and forth between them as needed. The gameplay is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and thankfully the unique mechanics and controls work perfectly. While I would have preferred being able to use a controller, using a mouse and keyboard works just fine. One of the developers did mention to me that they would look into adding controller support if the community showed enough interest. So if you want it, make sure you let them know.
As you move through the research station, you’ll come across sections that are closed off until you have the required number of orbs to unlock them. To collect these orbs, you’ll have to use your clones to solve puzzles to reach an orb at the end. It’s not always easy though, with different colored lights interfering with the Swapper. Blue lights don’t let you create a clone through them, red lights don’t let you swap with a clone through them and purple lights don’t let you use the Swapper at all. You’ll have to figure out where to position your clones to swap, jump and move back and forth around the lights to solve the puzzle. To make it even harder, you can only create a clone and swap to them in your line of sight and your clones will move with you, so if you jump, they jump and if you move forward, they move forward. Getting a clone lined up just right, only to have them move out of place as you’re adjusting another one is never fun and can create some very frustrating puzzles. The puzzles may seem easy at first, but they get quite challenging near the end, with a few that really had me stumped.
The Swapper isn’t just for solving puzzles though, as you’ll also use it to move around as you explore the Theseus Research Station. If you need to reach higher levels, you can create a clone above you, swap to it and repeat these steps until you are as high as you need to go. If you need to jump down, but you’re high enough that you’ll die if you jump, you can create a clone below you, swap to it and repeat these steps until you are safely down where you needed to go. It’s also helpful that when you hold down the right mouse button to create a clone, it slows down time, giving you a better chance of surviving some of the really long drops. There are also a few zero-gravity sections in the game and you’ll need to use the Swapper’s swap blast to push yourself through the area. If you need to travel really long distances you can use one of the many teleporters in the game and quickly move from one section of the station to another. You won’t backtrack as much as you did in games like Shadow Complex or Resident Evil, but you do it enough that the teleporters and the great in-game map will make it very easy to figure out where to go next and to see areas that you may have missed.
Not only is the game challenging and fun to play, it’s also very easy on the eyes. Everything in The Swapper, from the character models to the environment backgrounds, was handmade using clay and other common materials, such as tin cans, nails and nuts and bolts. You’d never know it though, as Facepalm Games did an excellent job of bringing everything together to create a world deep in space that’s dark and creepy and yet so beautiful that you don’t want to look away. It reminds me a little bit of the original Dead Space, as you’re exploring the dark space station, but without all of the cool weapons and enemies to kill. The Swapper is a very quiet experience, since there’s no combat in the game and the Swapper is the only item that you’ll find.
The only flaw, if you can even call it that, is that the game isn’t very long, even if you do struggle with some of the puzzles, and can be completed in a few hours. There’s no real reason to go back and do it again either, since you need to complete all of the puzzles to complete the game and there just isn’t anything else to go back and do a second a time. When a game is as good as The Swapper is, I don’t mind as much that it doesn’t have any replay value, and as long as you feel the same, you won’t mind spending the $15 for an afternoon in space.
One other thing to mention is that the game’s Steam listing mentions that the game does not support Intel HD graphics cards, but it worked just fine with my Intel HD/NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M combo card. The developers weren’t sure if those combo cards would work or not, but I had no issues at all running the game with the highest graphic settings.
There are no multiplayer or cooperative modes in The Swapper.
The Swapper is a unique experience, but you could definitely compare parts of it to games like Shadow Complex, Limbo, Dead Space, Trine and even Portal. If you like any combination of those games, then you’ll instantly fall in love with The Swapper. The story may not be the star of the show, but between the unique gameplay mechanics, beautiful environments and brilliant puzzles, it’s one of the best puzzle-platformers that I’ve ever played. The Swapper may be short, but I think you’ll agree that it was definitely worth both your time and your money.
Release Date: May 30th, 2013
Available On: PC via Steam