Our name was not their knowledge. They thought of us as ‘Watchers’.
In a future where humanity has exhausted all of Earth’s natural resources, mankind has sent out seven interplanetary expeditions, dubbed the Sisyphus Project, to find something, anything to help them survive. But as they gradually lose contact with them, all hope relies on one space station. The Theseus has been orbiting the alien planet of Chori V for 192 years now and used the materials found there to build a new kind of technology that lets one swap bodies and consciousness with another. Ninety-three years have passed since its last transmission to Earth when a scavenger boards the functioning, yet desolate station to uncover the truth.
The Swapper (2013) is the first and only production by Finland based indie developer facepalm games. It is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer with action platformer (Metroidvania) elements that starts off on Chori V, but is mostly set inside a space station that has seemingly been abandoned almost a century ago. What makes this title stand out (apart from its premise), is that the playable character, together with its surroundings, was handmade out of clay and then filmed. Using something other than pixelart or meshes in a video game is quite the challenge, but definitely paid off as the The Swapper looks and feels unique.
In an attempt to find anything worth scavenging, the player will explore the Theseus and not only unearth log entries from the crew, but also hear strange voices that seemingly come out of nowhere, as well as transmissions from somewhere inside the station. The controls are easily accessible and the title can be played with either a gamepad with an analog stick or a keyboard and mouse. To reach new heights or activate switches, players will need to use the swapper gun that lets them create up to four different clones of the scavenger. These mimic the original’s movements to a T. Not only will they jump when the scavenger does, but the distance between these versions always remains the same, unless, of course, one of them runs into a wall or dies. To create a replicant, players simply need to aim the gun in any direction and then shoot. They can then even transfer the scavenger’s consciousness into the copy, which comes in handy when a chasm is too wide to jump over or when the current body is about to be squished.
Unfortunately, the first couple of puzzles onboard the station are very uncharacteristic for the experience as a whole; they seemingly rely on high precision shots and quick reflexes that are common to shooters but not to puzzlers. Players then will likely get the impression that this game is not for them as The Swapper does not properly demonstrate that by aiming the gun and keeping the aim button pressed, time slows down considerably, so that quick reflexes are not at all needed. However, once that crucial element is understood, puzzle solving is much less stressful and becomes a matter of figuring out what goes where, which is what players came to this game for after all.
In that sense, the brain teasers that The Swapper has are mostly marvellous in design and will keep fans of the genre hooked. They are tough, they are challenging, and they won’t let one go until solved, as with every solution one moves closer to the answer of what happened on the Theseus. With that said, there were three puzzles that I really couldn’t figure out and had to look up only for me to say, “How did I not think of that?”
Unfortunately, apart from giving players a false impression, the game does feature one truly unfitting design choice. Hidden inside the station are ten rooms, which contain messages from Earth and give additional information on the whereabouts of mankind. Finding these rooms also unlock The Swapper‘s achievements. Unfortunately, these hidden areas are so well stowed away that there are virtually no indications that they exist at all. The game doesn’t mention them, the achievement description doesn’t explain how they can be gotten, and all of their entrances are inside walls. Some of them – like with room V or room X – even disallow the usage of the gun to detect where the entrances might be found, while others – like room VI – require literal leaps of faith to get to them. What makes them painful to completionists, though, isn’t just that they are hard to reach, but that they won’t unlock.
Achievement hunters should be aware that the game won’t mark the achievements as unlocked on some computers, unless they do some tinkering beforehand. For this, one first has to
- go to the Steam library
- right-click on the game, click on “Properties”, which opens up a new window
- go to the “Betas” rider, choose “compatability -” under “Select the beta you would like to opt into:”
- click on “Close” and then start the game
Finally, even though The Swapper does have some setbacks in the secrets/achievement department and while it doesn’t properly teach that time slows down while aiming the gun, it nevertheless is a very enjoyable puzzle platformer. Fans of classical science fiction stories will love what they encounter in this roughly five hour long adventure that will have them ask for more.
The Swapper is currently available as digital download on Steam, as well as on the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita, and for the Xbox One at the Microsoft Store. All versions cost $14.99 USD or your local equivalent.
The Swapper gets a 7 mind wrenches out of 10 space odysseys
Thank you for reading my article. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. As always, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Have a nice day.