The Swapper by Finnish developer Facepalm Games is an atmospheric puzzle game set deep in space, originally released in May 2013 on Steam, in August 2014 on Playstation 4, Playstation 3 and PSVita and now in June 2015 it finally comes to Xbox One!
As you land on a seemingly abandoned space station you soon find a mysterious device called “The Swapper” which allows the user to create clones of themselves (up to 4) and swap themselves between these clones and by using both of these different types of abilities you can fully explore the station. Game progress comes in the form of orbs, you get to certain doors and it will tell you how many orbs you need to collect to pass through.
To collect orbs you go into different areas off the main path and complete puzzles of varying complexity which need you to use your clones and swapping to complete, once you get to the end you can pick up the orb and move on. The puzzle design is really great, on top of all the other things the games does right this is definitely where it stands out the most with challenging and unique puzzles, some are easier than others but trying new things along with some good old trial and error usually helped me get through.
Puzzles aren’t just simple add a few clones here, press a button to get in place and swap around to the end though because when you put down clones they move exactly like you, going in the same direction or jumping around as you do requires careful planning to get everyone where they need to be. On top of this the puzzles have light sources (red, blue, purple) which affect what you can do with your Swapper device, red blocks the swapping beam but you can add new clones in the light and in blue you can swap between clones but not add a new one. Getting around these obstacles makes up the bulk of the challenge which is done by pressing buttons or moving cleverly around the puzzle.
I really can’t stress enough how enjoyable these puzzles were for me, with games like this I often get concerned that I will hit a puzzle and get stuck on many of them for long periods of time which make me want to put the game down but that wasn’t the case here at all. I found some did take me a bit longer than others but I think there was only one puzzle that had me truly stumped but after a new mechanic was added later in the game I was still adjusting to it.
Outside of the puzzles it feels very atmospheric, this seemingly abandoned space station and the horrors that lie within, there is a mystery to discover here and it oozes in atmosphere which is helped by the visuals and music which adds an aura of almost creepiness to it. It’s very visually pleasing, modelled on clay and other household items it has translated well to the computer screen and looks sharp and enticing to play.
It has a few similarities to Lifeless Planet which I also played recently, both space adventures with exploration and puzzles and the stories are told by journals and audio logs in Lifeless Planet, in The Swapper it’s mostly told by memory terminals and messages written into some sort of stone (I won’t spoil the story!) which are both intriguing stories and don’t put it on a plate for the player, you have read these things and pay attention to it. It’s a style I enjoyed too.
Achievements in The Swapper are quite interesting because it’s entirely possible to miss each one of them and most people probably will. Labelled as I to X without any form of description you are looking for hidden terminals scattered throughout the station and when I hidden I mean really mean hidden, it will be difficult for most people to find probably any of them, but they are 100gs each and if you come up empty trying to find them I’d recommend getting a guide up, they’re quite simple to get to when you know how to do it.
The Swapper is an intriguing and great game with great puzzle design, eerie atmosphere and something I would recommend everyone should try. I am enjoying these latest few “space/exploration” games I’ve played and this is no different, the main gameplay hook with clones is fun to use and feels different with gameplay to support it well, The Swapper should not be overlooked.
Formats: Xbox One (Played), Playstation 4, Playstation 3, PSVita, Steam, WiiU
Developer: Facepalm Games/Carbon (Xbox One version)
Publisher: Curve Digital
Official website –Xbox Store