Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: The Swapper (PS4/Vita)

In this world you either develop or publish and This is true for both AAA titles and indie titles. Curve Studios is the latter and they have helped unique experiences into various Sony platforms. Some are just bizarre and some are truly engaging. The latest in their portfolio is The Swapper, a sci fi puzzle game developed by Facepalm Games.

The story to The Swapper is very simple; Earth has ran out of resources and has sent 7 ships into the depths of space to find more. During the search for more resources the crew of the ships found strange rock formations which displayed unusual electrochemical activity. Over time the crew noticed that these rock formations may have telekinetic powers and from this they created a tool called The Swapper which allowed the user to create a clone and even become the clone. This is the tool you use to move through the ship.

The Swapper is an unusually concept. It is a puzzle game set in a metroidvania style environment. The main way to progress through the game is by collecting orbs to open gates. These gates require a certain amount of orbs to open and these are spread throughout the ship. It does not matter which you collect first just as long as you have the correct amount. This is pretty much the whole game in a nutshell but it is the journey which stands out the most. You see these orbs are not just scattered around the ship, they are stuck behind various puzzles and using your ability to clone yourself will get you past them. It is not an easy road as there are various obstacles and rules you must follow.

The first is that you can clone yourself up to fours times. clones can be destroyed through environmental damage or by them touching you again. Either way, once destroyed you will have that clone to use again. The final rule is that you can become any one of these clones and this can be done when the clone is stationary or when they are travelling. This may make no sense but there are points where you can travel across great distances by just using your clones (trust me when you work out how to do this your whole experience will change)

Follow these rules and you will progress through with ease - well, not entirely. Set up on some of the puzzle are various lights. The two main ones you will encounter are the blue and red ones. In a blue light's shine zone you cannot create a clone and in the red one's you can not travel through to become another clone. Don't worry there are pressure switches that turn them off but you will need to use your clones to sort that out. Here is where some of the puzzles become tricky and only the true will pass the test; planning exactly where to put all your clones can be a nightmare! You may think you have the solution in the bag and then one thing goes wrong thus ruining you attempted. It would not be a good puzzle game would it if all the puzzles were straight forward. The controls are smooth enough but could do with a little tweaking. the problem i had was with the right stick which controls the aim of the the swapper. I found it too be a bit sensitive and found myself losing the end target thus either over or under shooting my clone. just a little thing which i had to adjust too but once i did none of the game play was affected. Heck, you may not have this issue.

Yes, The Swapper is a puzzle game but where it truly shines is in the atmosphere it created. The world created is so believable and you really feel like you are there, especially if you wear headphones whilst playing. The studio have done a great job of making you feel isolated and that adds a little fear to the game. The fear is not due to enemies (as there is none) it is more of the unknown. When i looked deeper into the design of this game I was amazed by how much effort the studio put into it. Each level was created out of clay before being being put into the game. I have heard of huge movie studios doing this but never a small independent studio. By creating the world this way they had full control of where the best place would be to situate the lighting to achieve the overall effect of the game and final product it just gorgeous.

No game is perfect and even though this title has impressed me it has a few flaws. Some of the puzzles i felt were laid out in a way which made them look harder than they were. Meaning you may be trying too hard to solve the simplest of puzzles thus making you rather angry and I know a few players would give up on the entire game due to this. Another issue I found is that there is a lack of explanation of the more advance moves. I cam across this issue early on when i was faced with a puzzle where I had to get down a very long shaft and if you fell down, you would just break your legs and die. It took me a few attempts to work out what to do but when I did I was just amazed by how deep the puzzles are. Honestly, these are the only issues which I personally had with The Swapper and it did not put me off carrying on with the game. I know that some would just walk away, but like most indie games they are not made for every gamer

The Swapper has taken puzzles games to a new level. The ability to switch bodies at will adds a new depth to how puzzles are set up and solved. I have never been amazed by the level skill needed to solve some of these puzzles. It differs from most puzzles games as you can get through using just dumb luck but here you really have to know what you are doing.
Overall though The Swappers true brilliance is the atmosphere created. It does a fantastic job at creating a feeling of being isolated in the depth of space and loved that there is an underlying fear of the unknown throughout the game.
This style of game is never going to appeal to every gamer out there and I can understand why but I highly recommend giving it ago; you may love it or just down right hate it.


Who Should Play This?

  • Puzzles fans
  • 80’s Sci Fi Movies Lovers
  • Looking for something a little bit different in the puzzle department

Who Shouldn't Play This?

  • Those who hate puzzle game with a passion - this one can get a little difficult
  • Looking for an exciting story - you won't be finding a deep one here

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