You are stranded on Theseus, a damaged space station and need to find a way to escape. Whilst searching for a way out you will come across a portable cloning device, the titular Swapper that allows for you to create copies of yourself in order to solve the game’s many puzzles. This cloning device’s other feature is that it allows you to switch control to any of the clones that you create, providing that there is a direct line of sight between yourself and them.
Released on PC last year to widespread critical acclaim, Facepalm’s side-scrolling puzzle-platform game The Swapper has been brought to the PlayStation Vita courtesy of Curve Studios. The game has an eerie feel to it and, although you will be accompanied by clones on your journey, The Swapper struck me with a feeling of isolation as I made my way through the desolate spacecraft. This feeling is further accentuated by The Swapper’s art-style and audio. The game’s visuals were hand-crafted using clay models, which I feel adds a sense of physicality to The Swapper’s dark and vast areas making them even more unnatural and mysterious on the eye. The game’s soundtrack is equally unnerving, with sound that can quickly change from borderline melodic to an unharmonious static in the blink of an eye. This combined creates a brilliant, if somewhat creepy, setting for The Swapper. As you make your way through the space station, you will need to use the cloning device to solve numerous puzzles to collect orbs in order to aide your progression. Although these start off quite simple (with an early puzzle requiring you to place a clone in an area that is out of reach to activate a switch), the difficulty soon ramps up and there will be many more obstacles that you will need to overcome in order to collect enough orbs to unlock the next area of the game.
You can use your clones to cross vast gaps and to climb or descend a great height. As you swap out of your body into that of your clone’s, you will see your now lifeless former shell drop through the air and crumple as it hits the ground below. As you explore deeper into the spacecraft and view mission logs that are found in different areas you will begin to feel a little sorry for the lemming-like clones that fall to their doom in order for you to progress. Controlling yourself and your group of clones is very straightforward on the PlayStation Vita. Using the left analogue stick to move and the right to aim, you create a clone using the Left trigger and swap to your clone using the Right trigger. You can jump using X, interact with the scenery with Square and view the game’s map with a press of Circle. The control scheme is very tight and a reticule that appears on the screen at all times makes aiming effortless. The control scheme being this intuitive means that you can focus more on solving the puzzles, rather than having to split your concentration between the on-screen action and your button presses. As mentioned earlier, the further you progress, the harder the puzzles get. With the Swapper device allowing for you and up to four replicas to be on screen at any one time, you will be challenged to make the best use of the clones that you have at your disposal in order to advance. Later levels introduce additional obstacles that you will need to overcome.
Different light sources will limit the functionality of your cloning device. A blue light that covers an area will prevent you from being able to create a clone in that space and a red light between you and a clone will prevent you from being able to swap to that clone. There is also a purple light which combines the two previous colours to render your swapper device practically useless. You will also come across areas with small pads that will invert gravity, allowing for you and your clones to flip and walk on ceilings, adding another dimension to the puzzles. Things get really tough when colours and the reversal of gravity meet and I found myself getting stuck on a few of the puzzles towards the end of the game. With some games I would have found myself getting frustrated after I’d fallen to my death for the umpteenth time. Not so with The Swapper. No matter how much I wanted to put the game down (due to getting stuck on a puzzle) I couldn’t. The game had me coming back for more as my desire to escape Theseus grew as the games unobtrusive, yet intriguing story unfolded. At times I found myself backtracking through the space station Metroidvania style to a puzzle that had me baffled hours earlier only to complete it first time at the second attempt.
There are often moments like this in The Swapper, moments where you feel like you are defeated and then a little light bulb switches on somewhere and everything clicks into place. It is moments like this that, for me, are a sign of a great puzzle game. One that challenges but never frustrates, one that will give you that eureka moment after minutes of fretting. The Swapper is a game that will get you thinking, not only due to its clever puzzles, but because of the thoughts and feelings the game provokes through its narrative. Although it’s a short game (clocking in at around two to three hours depending on your ability to solve the game’s puzzles) The Swapper is definitely a game that is worth every penny of its asking price, especially as it is a Cross-Buy title. Similar to the clones that you will conjure up to assist you through this beautifully put together game, recommending The Swapper is a no-brainer.