Originally released for Linux, Mac and the PC last year, Facepalm Games’ body-swapping, side-scrolling, platform puzzler The Swapper has finally arrived on the Playstation Network thanks to publisher Curve Studios, bringing the sci-fi adventure to the PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. But is this atmospheric puzzler worth your time?
Developed by Facepalm Games / Published by Curve Studios
Available on PC, PS3, PS4 and PS Vita. Reviewed on the PS4 and PS Vita.
*Review code provided by Curve Studios
The Swapper is minimalistic in story, but big on intrigue and suspense. Players take on the role of an unnamed astronaut who stumbles upon a creepy, derelict space station filled with cryptic logs and large rock fragments that communicate telepathically. Soon enough, the protagonist stumbles upon an apparatus created by the missing crew called the Swapper, allowing the astronaut to create clones and jump from body to body with a quick blast of the machine. Using the Swapper, players must unlock the mystery behind the unusual device, discover the fate of the missing crew, and hopefully escape with their lives intact. The story is light, strange and simple, told through data logs, strange messages and the occasional in-game cutscene, but it’s engaging enough to keep players heading down the twisted rabbit hole to find out just what the hell happened in that ghostly, dangerous place.
It also helps that the game is fun, addictive, insane, and mind-numbly challenging. To proceed through the space station in search of answers, players must gather energy orbs in order to unlock gated areas that lead deeper into the facilities. These orbs lie in wait in rooms that line the main path, and are typically out of reach. This is where the Swapper comes in, allowing for the creation of clones that can be placed near the orbs, and can be controlled by switching to them with the device.
At first, getting orbs is easy, usually requiring a quick swap or two between clones, stepping on floor plates to activate gates, dragging small boxes to use as platforms and climb on to reach the objective, and keeping in mind that clones move when you do and in the same direction, allowing for some clever solutions to puzzles by moving and switching between bodies. Soon though, the game starts throwing more obstacles into the mix, requiring some serious thinking in order to succeed. There are different colored beams of light that affect the Swapper in adverse ways, like not allowing players to spawn new clones in them, not allowing teleportation to another body, or both. Then there’s the clone limit, as the game only grants the use of a maximum four clones at any one time. Finally, there’s gravity belts that will immobilize and carry the astronaut in a set direction, and pads that will switch the astronauts’ gravity, allowing players to run and jump on the ceiling. By mixing and matching these elements, the developers have come up with some truly challenging puzzles that require clever thinking, the occasional outside-the-box thought, and quick reflexes to conquer.
And believe you me, there are some nasty puzzles that will have you staring at the screen for minutes on end as your mind calculates every possible action you can take and try in order to get through it. But with perseverance, patience and occasional luck, the solutions will come and each completed room will be a memorable and sweet victory.
Despite the fact that the time spent completing puzzles will vary from player to player, the whole experience is rather short. The orbs gained after each successful completion of a room grow in quantity after each unlocked area, and right when the game is getting good players are presented with the game’s final scene. In order to extend the experience a bit, the game does feature two endings, as well as hidden secret rooms that reward players with trophies if they manage to find them. Unless you’re a completionist who wants all the achievements or a fan however, there’s little incentive to come back and revisit the game a second time.
The Swapper is a fun puzzler that is equal parts challenging and mysterious. While it’s a bit short and light on replay value, the first time through it is a marvelous time, full of memorable scenes, fantastic puzzles and excellent atmosphere. You definitively must give this game a try if you haven’t already.