Quite recently, many so-called “MetroidVania” –style games have been made, due largely in part to the ongoing trends in gaming which have seen many turning toward 2D and/or “retro” titles. It makes sense of course on multiple levels, of course. Artistically, economically and entertainment-wise, there were never any “rules” dictating how games should be made, it all depends on what people want in the end. Ok, so why are we discussing indie game market theory here instead of immediately jumping into the review, you ask? Well, Facepalm Games’ and Curve Studios’ “The Swapper” is a shining example of everything that’s great about indie development, for starters (the latter company is actually handling the Nintendo port).
Built on a relatively simple premise, where you are tasked with exploring this derelict spaceship amidst some serious sci-fi shenanigans involving bizarre sentient life forms, The Swapper’s main mechanic involves cloning. In other words, it utilizes familiar mechanics but also adds its own twist to the equation, forcing players to solve puzzles by using a device to create clones which their consciousness is moved to. Basically, this means that you’re constantly sacrificing replicants in various ways while using this ability to overcome all sorts of problems. For instance, simply spawning a clone in mid air in order to traverse a gap that’s too wide or perhaps something more complicated, where you have to backtrack and so forth – this is the type of puzzle-solving you’ll encounter in “The Swapper”.
Of course, the graphics and atmosphere also offer up great reasons to stick around too. To say that the developers did an excellent job of creating a stunning sense of isolation is an understatement. Aside from the permeating sci-fi themes and art direction, you’ll also have the weirdness of the unfolding story and an underlying sense of dread to keep you company. The plot itself is pretty refreshing, incorporating bits of philosophy, mystery and skepticism as needed, always seeking to obscure things in a fog of ambiguity. If you’re a fan of cerebral sci-fi movies and like enhanced 2D gaming, “The Swapper” might just be the title for you.
Perhaps the most important metric within any puzzle game is its general difficulty, which can make or break the experience. Needless to say, this game definitely finds a sweet spot within this area, where the puzzles aren’t too incredibly hard nor are they insultingly easy, either. After completing an area there’s a nice sense of accomplishment, which again, is critical for titles in this particular genre.
All in all, people who like 2D MetroidVania-style offerings will definitely get some mileage out of this one. Similarly, if you tend to enjoy side-scrollers which push the boundaries with implied 3D graphics and other enhancements, “The Swapper” won’t disappoint.