The Swapper is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle platformer that introduces some great and unique mechanics to the world with plenty of puzzle solving and story telling to keep you interested.
It is an indie game developed by Facepalm Games and released on Steam just a week or so ago. The main aim of the story is to try and figure out what is going on just by using the clues in the world and a very simple but powerful device.
Without giving away too much of the story you are a spaceman that has been sent into space in what looks like a tin can, you end up crashing at an abandoned facility and you have to solve puzzles to try and figure out what is going on in the world and how you're going to get out of there.
The way that the developers have got the story across to the player is in a very good way, they aren't outright telling you what's happening, it is down to you to look around the environment to find the clues and piece together the story. Most of your information comes in the form of terminals which show you logs of previous inhabitants of the facility that you have found yourself at. The further into the game you get the more you begin to understand about what is going on but at the same time there are still a lot of questions that end up being unanswered.
The main gameplay mechanic in The Swapper is that you are a spaceman that can move left and right across the screen and jump very small heights. Your aim is to solve puzzles and collect orbs so that you can proceed through the levels. Considering this is a side-scrolling game the world is pretty vast and the only clue that you have throughout the entire game is a map that you can bring up by pressing 'Q'. The main use of the device is to aid you in solving the puzzles but sometimes it is used to get around the levels to various different places unreachable without it.
The puzzle solving does require quite a bit of thinking at times, and it involves you using a mysterious device which can create clones of you, take control of them and slow down time. Any other versions of you will copy your every move until they die of fall damage, run into a special light or make contact with the currently controlled entity. The only catch is that you can only create four clones of yourself at any one time and have to get rid of any other clones if you wish to make more after that.
This sounds simple enough and you'd think that solving puzzles wouldn't be too hard, it is very much the opposite. When you are solving puzzles your main objective is to collect an "orb" which will allow you to proceed further into the level and unlock new areas. The puzzles usually involve you using various different switch and sometimes moveable crates to open doors or turn off lights.
The lights are what makes things interesting, there are various different colours of lights and they all do their own thing, the key to puzzle solving is turning these lights off so that they stop hindering your progress. For example, a blue light will stop you placing a clone but you can swap to a clone and a red light will allow you to place a clone but will block any attempts to swap to it.
The way that the puzzles have been set out with the lights makes them look easy but then you try and execute your plan and it really makes you stop and think about what you're doing. I spent at least 30 minutes on some puzzles and they didn't look particularly hard to begin with. I think what they've got going on with the whole cloning and swapping mechanic is great and it's something that really hasn't been explored before. I'm yet to finish the game as I'm still suck on one puzzle but the device itself is a big part of the story and poses yet even more questions than what you had from what's actually going on.
I think a lot of people don't expect indie games to be that visually pleasing or that they'll go with a cartoon style look. The Swapper has done the complete opposite of this and the whole game just looks and feels great. It is a well polished game and the graphics style works really well for the game.
They have done a good job of making the levels match up with what is going on in the story and every new area that you enter poses a totally different feel, look and challenge, it's great.
There isn't much sound wise, it is a very quiet atmosphere apart from a few lines of dialogue which sound alright to me. But once again, it is hard to do this review without giving too much away.
Overall I have really enjoyed what I've played of The Swapper so far and once I get past this damn puzzles I'm stuck on I'm very interested to see what the end of the game has to offer and where Facepalm Games will go from here. They've got some unique mechanics going on that haven't been seen before and the story is one that keeps you hooked even though it really doesn't give much away, willing you to carry on playing and find out what is actually going on in the world.