The Swapper is a puzzle-platformer released for PlayStation 4 on August 5, 2014. It was developed by @, @, @, @ and published by Facepalm Games. For more info check out their site.
Space, the final frontier. Both for human exploration and, in the case of Facepalm Game’s mind-bending game The Swapper, puzzle solving. But The Swapper is so much more than puzzles. It’s about the atmosphere. It’s about the story. It’s about the prodding, ethical questions brought about by cloning and transferring your conscious. The Swapper really challenges the player’s perception of conscious and forces you to question what you are at your core. It’s really good science fiction and very reminiscent of some of the best Star Trek episodes I’ve ever seen.
Set long after humans have exhausted all of the earth’s natural resources, we now travel the stars in search of new planets to mine. The game starts with the player on a ship
orbiting one of these mineral-rich planets, Chori V. An unknown disaster sounds the alarm on your ship and so you evacuate to the planet below. While on this planet you discover a mysterious device known as the swapper. You take this device back to the ship orbiting Chori V, the Theseus. Upon your arrival, you discover that something horrible has happened to the crew of the Theseus. Your goal now is to reach the command deck so that you can signal for help.
The main gameplay element of this game is the swapper. This fantastical piece of tech allows you to create up to four clones of yourself and move your conscious between them. Whichever clone your conscious is in is now the one you control and the other four mimic your movement wherever they are. So if you move forward and jump they’ll move forward and jump. Using this gun you make your way through the ship progressing through rooms using your clones to solve puzzles. In one room you might need to create and place your four clones on four different pressure pads to open the door and move forward. And in another, you need to use your clones as sacrificial lambs to make your way to the top of a tall room. I don’t know how many of my clones I left behind to fall to their death as I swapped into a new clone I created in front of me. It’s a totally unique idea, something I’ve never seen explored in games, movies or tv before.
The Swapper also has a wholly unique art style. Facepalm Game’s used models moulded out of clay when creating the game. It’s a really distinct look and not one I’ve ever seen in a video game before. The environments look tangible. Everything has texture to it which is unusual in games where most of the environment is usually smooth and looks painted on. You could almost imagine what everything should feel like. The game takes you all over the Theseus showing off a variety of unique and distinct environments. From the ship’s greenhouse to taking a spacewalk between sections of the Theseus, I never felt bored of my surroundings and was constantly being delighted by where I was.
The Swapper also excels in its puzzle design. I never once encountered a puzzle that fet unfair or too hard. Every puzzle was thoughtful and challenging. This made solving them all the more satisfying. The difficulty increased as my competence increased and that is the hallmark of a truly great puzzle game. There were several puzzles that stuck with me even when I wasn’t playing. I’d think about them and when I had an idea rush to my PS4 to see if it would work. This kind of enjoyment isn’t something I’ve had with a game since playing the first Portal game. The times when I was stumped by a puzzle it never felt like the game’s fault. It always felt like I was just not getting it and needed to be more clever. This is important in puzzle games where struggling with a poorly designed puzzle can ruin the experience for the player.
Another thing that struck me so much about the game was its ending. It’s very bold and thought provoking which is fitting considering it’s a game about cloning. It stuck with me for days after I beat it. All in all The Swapper is an excellent puzzle game and an even better science fiction story. It’s a unique art style I’m not sure has ever been attempted in games before and definitely something I wasn’t expecting. I highly recommend it for fans of a good puzzle as well as anyone who enjoys good science fiction stories.