The Swapper Review

Unique visuals and clever puzzle design help the philosophical puzzle game The Swapper feel fresh throughout its relatively short life span.

What is a mind? Does a clone have a soul? These are big questions for a puzzle game to try to engage with, but The Swapper is a game that's willing to take a few risks. An atmospheric platformer from an independent Finnish developer, The Swapper takes some heavy themes and molds them into an engaging if short adventure that plays as well as it looks.

The well-crafted visuals may cause you to stare at even the more mundane environments.

After you're dropped into the dimly lit 2D environment for the first time, there is a great sense of isolation. You won't be alone for long, though, because you can make yourself some new best friends. You are almost immediately given access to a handheld cloning device and the eponymous swapper--the object that makes the game more than just a simple puzzle-platformer. The cloning device does what you might expect: it lets you create a clone of yourself anywhere you have line of sight (you can't, for instance, create a clone through walls). Four of these clones can exist at a time, and all of them move the same ways you do. Move to the right, and your clones do the same. Jump and they jump. They exist like this until you touch them, absorbing them into the whole that is "you," or they die.

The swapper makes things more interesting, both in the narrative and in gameplay. It is a device that lets its user move its soul from one body to another…or does it? The plot of The Swapper, imparted by audio conversations and text entries you find throughout the game, explores whether or not any soul swapping is actually taking place--or if the soul even exists at all. It's a very philosophical tale that asks questions of belief, skepticism, science, and materialism, and it doesn't talk down to its audience when doing so.

Regardless of the metaphysical consequences, though, from a gameplay perspective, the swapper is invaluable. With a clear shot and a click of the left mouse button, you can transfer control from one body to another, allowing you to, in a way, warp around the environment and reach previously inaccessible areas. Using the swapper, things like large gaps and high platforms are not much of a problem. Simply drop a clone where you need to go, and then swap to it.

Colored lights aren't just pretty; they're also some of the most antagonistic lights in any video game.

Things are complicated by the existence of colored lights scattered throughout the world. Areas covered in blue light prevent clone creation (though clones can walk into the light without issue), while red light blocks the swapper's beam, preventing you from jumping between clones. Purple light predictably has both downsides, making it a real pain to deal with. While there is no satisfying narrative explanation for why things work this way, these lights are one of your primary concerns in most puzzles in the game, and working around them is where you find most of the challenge.

Aside from lights, there are a few other wrenches thrown into the environment to keep puzzles fresh throughout The Swapper, including areas that involve reversing gravity on a clone-by-clone basis. With a few exceptions, none of these obstacles make the puzzles mind-crushingly difficult to solve, but they are usually tricky enough to make you feel clever for conquering them, and each puzzle is different enough from the one before it that things never get too monotonous. Therefore, the game strikes a good balance between being challenging enough to require work, but not too difficult to make it unapproachable.

One of the most immediately apparent aspects of The Swapper is how unique it looks. The creepy aesthetics were created in part with clay models, but this isn't the sort of claymation you would find in a Wallace and Gromit film. You might not even recognize the visuals as being made up of commonplace materials. But even if you don't recognize why things look the way they do, you will likely notice how striking they are. Great use of lighting helps set the mood and keeps things looking interesting, allowing for a lot of impressive imagery.

Sometimes you've just got to look at a problem from another perspective--like upside down.

As you traverse these gloomy but beautifully crafted worlds, you notice the overall map filling up in a very Metroid-style manner, but those who yearn for that specific type of game shouldn't get their hopes up too high. While there is some exploration involved in moving forward, there is little in the way of backtracking, and the path remains fairly linear. Each room you find in the world serves as its own stand-alone puzzle, and such rooms are never terribly large, nor are they connected--everything you need to solve a puzzle is always right in front of you. What this progression format does, though, is give you freedom to solve certain puzzles in whatever order you choose. You need to complete every puzzle and collect every orb to see the game's ending, but you need to solve only a certain number to move past specific areas, allowing you to come back later if you need to. You won't be coming back with any new abilities to work with, but you may be able to look at the situation a little differently with knowledge you gain elsewhere.

As you make your way through the game's puzzles, you delve deeper into its philosophical plot. The story never gets in your way too much if you simply want a puzzle game without having to worry about narrative, but there are optional text entries you encounter that expand on events both past and present. While the story is full of interesting ideas and some thoughts that might make you go "Hmm," the plot has some confusing aspects and, as a linear story, can be a little underwhelming in the end. That said, it also asks some deep questions that directly relate to the gameplay, so there's a philosophical aspect to the narrative that's worth engaging with if you want to dive deeper into it.

This isn't your typical red-light district.

The Swapper doesn't outstay its welcome, ending before its gameplay starts to grow tiresome. At the same time, this ending is bittersweet, as it's easy to wish for more clever puzzles using these mechanics. If you can manage to cruise through without getting stuck too long on many of the puzzles, The Swapper can easily be completed in a four-hour sitting. You can play through again and get a different ending, but the puzzles are predictably less appealing a second time through. A collection of well-hidden text message terminals can encourage deep exploration, but for the most part, the game isn't suited for multiple playthroughs.

While it lasts, though, The Swapper is a smart, good-looking game with engaging puzzle mechanics and great atmosphere. It's a well-crafted journey from top to bottom, and the only regret at the end is that there's not more of it.

The Good
Striking and unique visuals
Good, fitting music
Solid puzzle design
Well-balanced difficulty
The Bad
Over too quickly
Story leaves you wanting
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Britton Peele is a freelance writer for GameSpot and a Digital Entertainment Editor for The Dallas Morning News. Find hi

Discussion

56 comments
themanitou23
themanitou23

True game hipsters won't play this game because it's too popular.

DigiRave
DigiRave

The name really made me think this was adult-oriented. "The Swapper: search your neighborhood for like-minded couples who are open to a little side action, without letting your prude religious neighbors know that...... you are THE SWAPPER!" 

It could be a game - don't any of you think of stealing my idea! Copyrighted.

Unfunctional89
Unfunctional89

I've just finished the game. Can someone explain the whole storyline or maybe there is a thread on the web where I could read about it? P.S. this indie game is amazing.


beetis
beetis

My problem with this review....

  • Over too quickly
  • Story leaves you wanting. 

These are NOT bad qualities for this game. The Swapper has the perfect amount of content. There is no fluff. At no point does this game ever feel repetitive. Also, since when does "Story leaves you wanting" a bad thing? If the story leaves you wanting, you were obviously immersed in it. I just don't know what to say. I just don't understand how this game hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

Please, for the love of God, buy this game! It deserves your attention. You will not be disappointed.  

Tombackman_5
Tombackman_5

I really enjoyed the inventive puzzles and the art style.

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

the visuals sure are unique, but they don't look so good in motion... given the scifi setting, it feels like a missed opportunity here.

ewjiml
ewjiml

This game deserves at least a 9.  Once again, Gamespot fails to realize two things: 

1) PRICE (Bought this game on sale for $11.24)

2) This is an indie game

If they were to take those things into account along with the unique gameplay mechanics, the graphics which are soaking in atmosphere, and music of The Swapper, then this game would have easily gotten a 9.  Also, 5 hours is too short for an $11 game?  Journey lasted 2 hours and got a 9.   For a low budget game, The Swapper achieves many things that games like Crysis could only dream of. 

Slade968
Slade968

This was a good game and probably could have gotten a bit higher of a rating considering for 10 bucks I wouldn't expect the game to be much longer than that. 

On an unrelated note, if you like PC game sales here is a website that consolidates all of them into one place. I don't work for them or anything, just wanted to spread the word.

http://isthereanydeal.com/

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

I wonder if Microsft *cough*EA* would allow this on Xbox1.. Given that indie's need approval.

Bunch of idiots over at M$ to make a deal like that with the big Publishers. You can't control the indie scene. That would make it non-indie.

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

what?? a game where you don't kill people? WHY?!?!

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

The game manages to capture the Sci-Fi atmosphere quite nicely, for 10$ only on Steam going to get.

Emerald_Scott
Emerald_Scott

Looks interesting. It would be nice if it released on Xbox Live and PSN as well.

Chronolp27GS
Chronolp27GS

"The Swapper" reminds me of another game titled, "The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom." 

Winterbottom also utilized clones to solve a variety of different puzzles.  For each new world the player explored, the core cloning mechanic would be augmented by other gameplay mechanics such as time manipulation, offering the game a lot of variety.

It's a cool game that people should check out.  


heat_masheet
heat_masheet

I love these 1 GB games. I see more of these indie games lately. keep up the good work.

Pawfalcon
Pawfalcon

Disappointing that its short but still looks too good to miss.

dribblesbarbax
dribblesbarbax

Played a couple of hours there. Its great. Very odd feeling watching your clone crumple beside yourself.

mjohnsonfhk
mjohnsonfhk

why even bother reviewing a game that takes 4 hours to finish?  It probably took you longer to write the review than play the game.


lame

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

@ewjiml two things that should NEVER be considered in a professional review!

Oloryn
Oloryn

@Slade968 Thanks for the link! I'd never heard of the site, seems like a sweet deal.

ewjiml
ewjiml

@GSGuy321  

Facepalm games, whose name is very appropriate, probably won't pursue release on XBLA, considering how easy it is to do it on Steam.  But MS will inevitably give them a good deal (i.e. no fee for releasing on XBLA) considering that this game is awesome. 

buckwild73
buckwild73

@Emerald_Scott lots of these type of games - indie arcade type - seem to be pc exclusives or pc first. which is fantastic.

Louistje1
Louistje1

@mjohnsonfhk This game is amazing. I just played through it and I enjoyed every moment of it. That's something not many games can do for me nowadays.

fanirama
fanirama

@mjohnsonfhk I think this is an unfair comment to say why review a 4 hr game. If you look at the pricing, you're getting 4 hr game for $15. Contrast to Call of Duty where you can get 4 SP exp for $60!! Or say Madden where you can get 1000 hr experience for also $60. Which is the most bang for your buck or your mind or which has highest value? 

These are tough to determine. CoD may provide entertainment to lots as well. 


whalesex
whalesex

@mjohnsonfhk Tell me about how shitty Journey is and how it was a waste of time to play.

Sargus
Sargus

@mjohnsonfhk Because even if I were not writing the review, I would consider those 4-5 hours very well spent, and the game worth the $15 price of admission. And if those 4  hours *weren't* worthwhile (i.e., if the game was bad and not fun to play), then potential buyers would need to know that as well. The Swapper is a relatively high-profile indie game (having made splashes at shows like PAX), so it's important to have this information out there for people.

- Britton Peele

dribblesbarbax
dribblesbarbax

@mjohnsonfhk Thats the equivalent of saying 'Why bother reviewing a film that takes 2 hours to watch?' Have you not heard of quality over quantity?

tafusoy
tafusoy

@mjohnsonfhk Because, while short, it is clearly a decent video game or at least in the eyes of the reviewer.  Sometimes games need a little promoting to draw people to them as well, I haven't heard of this game before and so gamespot is putting in a plug for them from my perspective.

DigiRave
DigiRave

@GameYakuza @ewjiml those are things that should be considered in the purchasing process. Don't tell me you compare indie games to multimillion dollar AAA blockbusters.

angryape
angryape

@GameYakuza @ewjiml are you joking? Of course price should be considered! If you're paying $50 for a game and it lasts 4 hours then that is terrible. But if you're paying $10 (on release) then you're not expecting a ridiculously long game. Don't be stupid please. 

uxtull
uxtull

@GameYakuza @ewjimlI guess the price my be considered a factor to a point, at least it could be mentioned in pros and cons. Except the game costs 14 euros (not dollars) in Europe. The fact that it's an indie game on the other hand, absolutely not, here I agree.

thorn3000
thorn3000

@buckwild73 @Emerald_Scott true that, if they were created with consoles in mind right from the start, they might lose their edge and become more "streamlined" (got I hate that process, heck I even hate the word itself), which would likely be disastrous

mjohnsonfhk
mjohnsonfhk

@dribblesbarbax @mjohnsonfhk well in 2 hours youll be able to tell us how great the ending was.  And films are generally 2 hours.  Games are generally much longer than 4 hours.  So its more like comparing  it to an 8 minute "feature film".  Plenty of games that gamespot has not reviewed but apparently this 4 hour time sink was a priority

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

@angryape @GameYakuza @ewjiml I go to gamespot for my reviews because they praise what really matters: they often praise short but fun games, and are not afraid to say resident evil 6 is a very long game, but is just not worth playing. they actually had a conversation in a podcast about how considering a right price per hour for games is pointless. anyway, these people just pay what they want for games. anyone can buy an indie game at launch for 15$, or wait a few months and catch a AAA game for 5$ on steam.

DrCyclopsX
DrCyclopsX


@mjohnsonfhk Yes, what a waste of time reviewing a smaller game that offers a unique experience. Better to spend 3 pages "reviewing" the next AAA FPS despite it being exactly the same as the last one.

dribblesbarbax
dribblesbarbax

@mjohnsonfhkIts also an Indie game and its a quarter the price of most games. Average AAA game 60 bucks. Lets say 20 hours to complete. Thats 3 bucks per hour. 5 hours to complete The Swapper. Price 15 bucks. 3 bucks per hour.

The Swapper More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 5 more
    • PlayStation Vita
    • PS3
    • PS4
    • Unix/Linux
    • Wii U
    The Swapper is an atmospheric, 2D puzzle-platformer, and was announced recently as one of the PAX10.
    7.9
    Average User RatingOut of 160 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The Swapper
    Developed by:
    Facepalm Games
    Published by:
    Facepalm Games, Curve Studios
    Genres:
    Action, Platformer, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Mild Language, Mild Violence