Format – PS4
The modern day adventure/puzzle-solver is quite different from the traditional point and click methods we enjoyed from Lucasarts way-back-when.
In fact, when playing The Swapper, the first comparison you’ll draw is to Metroid. Old school, Super Metroid, one of the greatest platformer/puzzlers of all-time, The Swapper totally feels like that.
The idea is quite simplistic, but it inspires numerous, hard-assed scenarios that will reduce the most logical thinker to the brink of tears.
Set in the furthest regions of space, humanity have created seven remote outposts to synthesise materials from neighbouring planets. Since Earth has been purged of resources, these outposts send all harvested materials back to to humanity’s home planet. However, those operating the stations must survive without Earth’s assistance for decades, and unfortunately, these challenges grow when station 7 is destroyed by the the Sun and station 6 goes offline.
Players assume the role of an individual roaming through a damaged space station and must find a means of escape. The individual eventually comes across a device called The Swapper, which is created by electro-chemicals in rocks, and can create clones of the user, but also enables them to become the clone, an outlawed practice due to the uncertainty it creates.
It’s a fascinating premise and, as you can probably imagine, creates some unique puzzle-solving opportunities. For instance, if you want to cross long gaps, you’ll need to jump, create a clone of yourself, transform into that clone and only then will you make it to the other side. Have a particularly long climb or drop? Keep creating clones above or below you to either make it to the top or cushion the blow.
The idea of the game is to collect orbs which are used to activate doors, and each orb requires some lateral thinking in order to obtain. Sometimes the player will need to revisit previous sections in order to gain the orb, sometimes they can claim it outright.
However, creating clones does come with some limitations. They’re essentially mindless entities unless you assume control of them, so when you move, they all move with you, and once all clones are stood in proximity of the player, they’re lost and can be recast over again.
Equally, the cloning functionality is restricted by light sources. Blue lights prevent the creation of clones in a particular area, red lights prevent you from swapping from your body to a clone’s body. Purple lights restrict both actions, while some white lights will destroy your completed clone.
Add all of these elements together, and you’ve got some serious head-scratching to come.
But the story is equally fascinating and is as much a journey of discovery, as it is in finding identity in loneliness. Your only companion is yourself, and a carbon-copied, re-generated image of yourself. It paints a very deep, very sad picture for the future of humanity, and equally those who seek to do good by those who inhabit the Earth. The narrative is limited, and only delivered to the player by text logs and occasional thoughts expressed by bold words on the screen, but it’s enough to keep painting the picture. In that regard, the game is very artistic and beautifully realised in its simplicity.
The project started small, made by just two Finnish students in their spare time, but has been greatly expanded, honed and fine-tuned by the amazing Curve Studios. But truly, it is a wonderful statement in terms of independent gaming quality. Without question, it’s one of the most memorable, engaging digital experiences I’ve had this year, and it’s a wonderful fit on Playstation 4, and equally Vita. The cross-save functionality works marvellously and enables you to carry the game across devices smoothly.
The atmosphere is the type that translates marvellously, whether you’re playing The Swapper on a 48 inch, full HD TV screen with the lights dimmed, or you’re plugging your headphones into a handheld system and are snuggled up in bed, it has the same effect.
The Good Stuff
- Atmosphere is spectacular. Engaging on both handheld and big screen TV
- Puzzles are pure joy
- Cross-save works well across Vita and PS4
- Very entertaining
The Bad Stuff
- Some stutters in frame rate
The Swapper comes highly recommended. While AAA has slowed in terms of new-gen releases, indie continues to define and set out the stall for what these new systems can achieve. Engaging game design, a haunting soundtrack, a fascinating narrative spin and a gaming experience that will stay with you long after you’ve finished.
One of the finest digital releases on Playstation 4 to date.
Technical Competency – 10/10
Graphic Quality – 9/10
Entertainment Value – 9/10
Sound Quality – 10/10
Network Stability – N/A