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The Swapper (PC) artwork

The Swapper (PC) review


"This game could easily survive a movie adaptation, but I'd just as soon there wasn't one."


Illumination by Imitation

I crept more than jumped at the chance to play The Swapper. Moody, dark, lonely games aren't my usual fare. I prefer stories of hope with dramatic events. You are the unnamed and not so intrepid space suit bound adventurer unraveling an abandoned mining project. Did Theseus dig too deep? What has become of the crew?

Developed for PC and released by Finland's Facepalm Games in 2014, its simplistic but engrossing visual style evokes memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey. With but a voice and detached events to whet your appetite, I was impressed by the effectiveness of the traditionally designed assets. A film-grain haze obscures your every action, bringing with it a 1970s presentation that re-enforces tension and obscures your perception.

The Swapper has familiar elements, and its protagonist voicelessly encourages you to unravel the enigma of Thesis and its inhabitants. Serendipitously launched in an escape pod that tips over upon landing evokes amusement as much of the nature of its construction. As something of a space oddity, your little tin can does know the way.

There's a special delight in that reference.

Everything in the game feeds the atmosphere, and the soundtrack both emphasizes emotional moments and serves as situational set pieces. In a crew section, a dramatic and moodily played piano speaks volumes of sophistication of the former inhabitants. Log files tell the tale of a project gone wrong in small bites written with skill.

Color is used in concert with the primary mechanic to great effect: Once in possession of the cloning tool, you can create four copies of yourself that echo your every movement. Swapping into any of these is your chief method of reaching platforms and even remaining airborne. Walk into a clone to reabsorb it and beware of red, blue and purple lights that impede the functionality of your only utility. How you cope with these obstacles is a matter of patience and logic.

As with most puzzlers, there really is only one answer: The collection decryption orbs that unlock terminals and your progression. The Swapper quickly absorbs you in its aesthetic and performs without a solitary hitch or hiccup. It is true the barest of effects are present, but imaginably this title will run on most systems with even moderate graphics acceleration.

Importantly, and really as a side note, keyboard and gamepad controls are configurable and selectable at launch. Facepalm swept the dust away, leaving the final piece to be contemplated in its complexity and depth.

What's fun
The story is deep, told in a breadcrumb style. Visuals are instantly engrossing and controls are exact. This game could as easily survive a movie adaptation, but I'd just as soon there wasn't one. Arguably a masterpiece, and the industry responded by handing out a plathora of well deserved awards.

What's not
While the mechanics of cloning are few, once through the basics you will encounter rooms which will expect more than your first-encounter mastery may provide. Hardly a glitch or result of poor planning: A little practice and reflex conditioning will serve you through the rest of the game.

Recommendation
While this isn't a horror title, cloning is a touchy, disturbing subject. If this is what you're interested in, scoot right on over to Facepalm's website for a DRM free edition, or get your copy on Steam, GOG.com, the PlayStation Network or XBox Marketplace.

4/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (November 25, 2016)

Once upon a time Asteroids was all he ever needed. Over twenty years later poor optimization still ceases to faze him. Remember kids: bandwidth isn't the answer. Fun is.

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