‘Swapper,’ a brilliant puzzle-platformer

the-swapper-coverIf you had the ability to clone yourself, what would you do? These clones don’t have any personalities or souls of their own, and they follow everything that you do. What would you do with them? Would you kill them off if your own life depended on it?

That’s the question “The Swapper” asks using its mechanics.

The player is an unnamed researcher on the Theseus, a derelict space station. She carries in her hand a swapping device, which allows the player to create clones and swap control between them. Using this tool, it’s up to the player to explore the Theseus and try to piece together the strange goings-on involving a species of seemingly telepathic rocks called the Watchers.

Of course, the player can’t create clones in any situation. For example, there are certain lights that limit what you can do with the swapper device. Blue lights keep the player from from creating clones, red lights keep the player from from swapping, and naturally, purple lights prevent both.

Though the mechanics are simple, the developers use them to create some truly devilish puzzles, and each of them are very satisfying to solve. It’s evocative of when the first “Portal” game came out and gamers were introduced to those simple, yet incredibly nuanced mechanics. The level design of “The Swapper,” like “Portal,” is very well done.

Another thing “The Swapper” nails is atmosphere. Instead of digitally creating models, the in-game models were all scanned from clay sculptures and nearby objects, which gives it a unique look while still retaining a dark and foreboding atmosphere. It’s astounding what the developers have pulled off with such a low budget.

The story is also very well executed. It’s entirely told through crew logs and telepathic messages from the Watchers, and it’s very engaging while still being mysterious. It works with themes such as spirituality, family and faith, all with as little gameplay intervention as possible.

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“The Swapper” may be one of the best puzzle-platformers of the generation, right up there with “Portal,” “Limbo” and “Braid.” It builds a dark atmosphere, has a unique look, tells an incredibly engaging narrative and the gameplay is perfect. It’s a philosophical wonder, giving questions believable answers yet still leaving enough open for interpretation. It’s not a long game, at about five hours long, but within that short length is an unforgettable experience. This is not a title to be missed.


Game: The Swapper

Developer: Facepalm Studios

Platform: PC

Genre: Puzzle

Rating: 5