Many Indie based puzzle platformers have some kind of hook, in The Swapper the hook is that you need to create clones of yourself to navigate through the various levels.
What makes The Swapper a special game though is how well the various different parts come together to create something rather remarkable. The atmosphere, the mechanics, the level structure, all mix perfectly to create a game that goes beyond just being good because it is an Indie.
This is a game that is dripping in atmosphere, not only does it have some wonderfully beautiful visuals, it also manages to create a kind of loneliness that you’d expect from not only a game, but any piece of media that is as much about discovery as it is about a story. As you navigate through a derelict space station uncovering its many secrets, you cannot help but get drawn in.
The game’s mechanics are exceptionally well thought out and whilst early puzzles start out as way of introducing them and getting you used to how they work, you are soon left in awe of how those simple basics have allowed you to traverse areas that seem near impossible upon first glance.
The mechanics are simple, you can create up to four clones of yourself, which will then mimic your movements, so as you take a step to the left, so will your clone. This works well for reaching a switch on a platform that you cannot jump to, simply by aiming your swapper weapon and creating a clone in the area you need them.
Other puzzles may require you to swap yourself with a clone so you can collect something, but then things start to dawn on you. What originally appear as impossible to reach ledges, all of a sudden become attainable, as you create a clone above you, swap to them, create, swap again and so on.
Then later still you realise you can break a fall, or walk a clone over an area, drop them down the other side and then swap through the smallest gap to get to the otherside. It works so well in fact that each new area that requires a new technique doesn’t actually need to go through a convoluted tutorial, it all feels natural and you find that the things you are trying make sense at that time.
Puzzles become a little more difficult when you have areas that have lights that can either stop you creating a clone or stop you swapping with said clone, but a little bit of logical thinking sees you working out what you need to do to either bypass those parts completely, are get to the perfect areas to turn those lights off, allowing you to then move past.
What happens in The Swapper, is that you very soon lose all sense of time, as you happily approach each new area and the new set of puzzles it brings with it and what is great to see with a game like this, is that frustration is at a minimum, you know you have the tools and you know that each room can be beaten, but you never feel like it is an impossible task, even if at first glance it can look that way.
There are elements of trial and error within the game, but nothing that feels like it is there for the sake of adding to the difficulty. Credit must really go to the developers for how well put together this game is, as every little part feels like it belongs, each puzzle has been crafted to give you a sense of accomplishment for beating it, but without ever needing to be more difficult than needed. It hasn’t fallen into a trap of adding artificial blocks to impede your progress to give the impression of longevity.
The Swapper is a wonderful example of what a puzzle platformer should be and has set a very high bar for others that will follow. It is available across all three Sony platforms and that is welcome too, as it is a game that is very hard to put down once you get into it.