As I start writing this, I’m not even sure what I can say about a game like The Swapper. It was a game completely off my radar until a follower on Twitter suggested it for my #52GameChallenge. Even then I wasn’t very convinced until it became available for free on as part of my PS+ membership. I figured at that point I had no more excuses to ignore this dark puzzler, so I booted it up. What I experienced was a game that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
I’ll start with the basics. The game puts you in the role of a lone space explorer who happens upon a derelict ship and decides to explore. It quickly becomes clear that at some point things went pretty poorly for the crew, as there are no other signs of life except infrequent run-ins with another lone explorer also trying to figure things out.
At its core, The Swapper is a puzzler. There are some platforming elements, but their hardly difficult enough to warrant much attention. The bulk of your tasks will involve using a swapping device acquired on-board the ship to create clones of yourself, and throwing your consciousness into said clones to reach normally inaccessible areas. While simple at first (e.g. – create a clone on a high ledge then swap your consciousness to the clone), the difficulty of puzzles and tasks expectedly increases as the game progresses. Add in portions with zero gravity, lights that block cloning and swapping capabilities, and gravity reversal, and you’ve got a game that’s as challenging as it is confusing.
|Me, Myself, and I...and another guy...and that dude.|
I say confusing because while you’re scratching your head at the newest puzzles to obtain orbs to power portions of the ship, there’s a story going on in the background. Remember that other lone explorer on the ship? Well, they’re also trying to figure out what happened on the ship, and through what they tell you and what you read in the ship’s logs you learn that the ship found sentient, intelligent rocks on a nearby planet and brought them aboard for study. Yes, this whole story revolves round rocks. With brains. And a consciousness. Or a soul. I’m not really sure. And that’s where The Swapper falls short.
I’m not saying that I expect a puzzler to have a great story like a JRPG or other genre, but the creators of the game clearly wanted it to have an intriguing and engaging story. I’ll admit that at first I was curious about the events that led to the ship being abandoned, but after the first 30 minutes the story didn’t progress much in plot until the last 15 minutes of this 4+ hour game. If you’re trying to make the story central to your game, that’s too large of a gap in a short game without any progression.
Still, there’s a pretty neat little plot twist in the waning moments of the game and a dichotomous decision to make that caused a minor internal conflict. But then the game ends with some long-winded reflection about existence, the soul, consciousness, and life/death that frankly seemed out of place. It seemed as if the creators were trying to be creatively philosophical but the whole thing came off as confusing and quite frankly ostentatious. If they spent more time focusing on the “great questions of the mind/body/soul” throughout the whole game, maybe this would’ve fit, but instead it seemed pretentious.
All-in-all, The Swapper is a creative twist on the puzzler genre, and I found it challenging, but never frustrating. If you can look past the inflated ego of a story presented to you, then you’ll have a great time with this game. I even found myself wishing it was longer because the puzzles are that fun and do a good job making you think before acting, and experimenting with different methods. I’d definitely recommend this game to anyone looking for a good, cheap (albeit quick) time.
#52GameChallenge Progress: 4/52