The indie scene has been kicking some major bum bum lately. It seems like every time I become disillusioned with the whole modern gaming thing, a new indie gem comes along and restores my faith in the medium. This week my saviour came in the form of sexy 2D clone 'em up The Swapper.
At first glance, one would be forgiven for thinking that The Swapper was some sort of Metroid spin-off – what with its sprawling, intricate map and creepy alien aesthetic. It is however, a clever puzzle-platformer in the same vein as Braid or Portal. Players take the role of an unnamed space dude (or dudette) who, whilst abandoned on the space station Theseus, acquires a tasty little device known as the Swapper Gun. This poorly named contraption allows users to create up to four clones of themselves which move in tandem with the creator – those five pressure plates that you laughed at on the way in are now practically begging to be trodden upon. As if that wasn’t enough, the Swapper also lets you trade bodies with any clones in your line of sight, meaning the game’s puzzles are more about getting positions just right and making sure you leave yourself enough space to swap.
It’s not long before the game smacks you in the face and yells “No! You are having too much fun, here are some lights that will make the game harder and ting.” The Swapper’s strategy for tougher puzzling comes in the form of red and blue beams of light which limit the user’s abilities considerably. Blue lights kill the cloning, while red lights silence the swapping, it’s a simple idea that sets up some of the more enjoyable puzzles, but unfortunately also serves to make the game’s story and setting more and more unbelievable. There is, for example, absolutely no reason for the puzzle rooms to exist within the context of the narrative, and there is no valid reason why the Swapper Gun should be limited in the luminance of the two most popular coloured bulbs on-board.
It’s a real shame too because there are flashes of brilliance throughout the story. Are your clones real, self-aware versions of you? Or are they merely meat sacks for you to occupy and then dispose of. Are you yourself a clone? The game throws up many questions throughout its relatively short life span and thankfully, it doesn’t attempt to answer them all, opting instead to allow players to make their own assumptions.
Graphically, The Swapper is simply outstanding. Boasting real, hand crafted environments and impressive lighting, the game is an absolute joy to behold. The perverse, crooked architecture coupled together with the stunningly morose piano score calls to mind old European Claymation movies, like The Wrong Trousers or Chicken Run.
My first playthrough lasted around three hours -- a disappointingly short length for a fourteen euro game – but they were three highly enjoyable three hours nonetheless. I have my issues with the implementation of the puzzles, but again, it’s easy to forgive when solving them is so much fun. Basically, if you enjoy getting your puzzle on, then you should definitely check out The Swapper.... Just maybe wait until the Summer sales to do so.