Everyone remember that film Moon? The science-fiction drama about *spoiler alert* the chap that has to come to terms with the fact he might be just one in a series of clones? If you have ever wished that you could play a really, really good game of that film, then The Swapper might just be for you.
Using a device called (not surprisingly) ‘The Swapper’, the player can create clones of themselves and swap between them. Disappointingly, you cannot talk to them, sharing deep philosophical discussions about the meaning of existence. That’s left for the snippets of conversation (I say conversation, the player is in fact mute) between you and the intelligent rocks called ‘Watchers’, which litter the abandoned space station you must navigate. The threat? For reasons I will not divulge, the Watchers have released a toxic gas that is fatal to humans, so naturally you must escape.
So it’s two parts Moon, one part War of the Worlds, half a spoonful of the omnipotent gun mechanic from Portal and Half Life thrown in for good measure, and a dash of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands for the player’s ability to scale huge walls by continually shooting and swapping to clones you spawn above you.
Actually, Portal is a pretty good frame of reference, for never in Portal did I feel there was a puzzle that was too difficult for me to overcome; happily, the same feeling is achieved in The Swapper. The puzzles are challenging, but varied – quite a few of them you will breeze through, until you’ll get stuck on a particularly challenging one that will have you baffled for a couple of hours; baffled and frustrated, to be more specific, as while I was playing, I could often see what level designer Otto Hantula had in mind, but with no idea of how to get there.
If I have one criticism of the game, and as someone pretending to be a game critic I feel that I’m obligated to, it’s that The Swapper does not stick to its mechanic. Small sections of the game are spent floating about in areas of the space station that have lost gravity, with the player moving by shooting the gun in the opposite direction. It felt like I was playing Gravity: The Game – while visually beautiful, it is dizzying and unneeded, and a floating maze would have been much preferable.
Still, it’s a minor gripe. The game is good, and gets the necessary four stars from me that every above-average indie game deserves. And this is a game that certainly deserves it for being a brilliant example of what a small studio can produce with enough talent.
Or with enough clones, perhaps…
Adam Smith, Games and Tech Editor
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