The lights are on
Environmental, story-driven puzzle games are very high on my favorite genres list. For me, games like Braid, Limbo, and Portal represent the apex of brilliant game design, offering experiences that are impossible to emulate in film and literature. For this reason, I was excited to take on The Swapper.
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Like all good puzzle games, The Swapper has a simple premise that becomes twisted and changed in unpredictable ways, but all while maintaining its core mechanic. You create clones of yourself and transfer your consciousness amongst those clones in order to solve puzzles. Certain colored lights limit your cloning and swapping abilities, but you have all the tools you need to get through every puzzle in the game during the opening moments.
The Swapper expertly offers just enough challenge to make you feel like a genius when you figure out puzzles, but when it does lean in one direction on the too easy, perfect, too hard scale, it tends to fall towards the latter. I love a good puzzle, and I appreciate a game that gives me pause, but there were a few puzzles that I didn’t get a complete grasp on exactly how I solved them even after completing them. These instances were few though, as most puzzles found the perfect balance to make me feel like a genius.
The mechanics and puzzles are well-designed, but the thing that will stick with me the most about The Swapper is the uneasiness I felt while playing. Part of this had to do with the well-executed, space-horror atmosphere, but mostly it was the fate of your clones. The game is intentionally ambiguous about exactly how the process of swapping works. When you sacrifice clones in order to solve a puzzle, you are essentially killing beings who share your consciousness. The few characters you meet in the narrative point this out to you, and the ending of the game plays into the uncomfortable nature of what you’ve done to make it to the end. It makes the whole game walk the line between a horror game, a puzzle game, and an examination on the nature of the soul – an element I can’t say I was expecting.
My VoteYes, I think The Swapper deserves a spot on our list. I was able to play through the whole game in a relatively short amount of time (about five hours) and I walked away with a memorable, well-executed experience that I would place alongside the similar games I mentioned in the opening paragraph above. It’s a game I fear will be ignored as we move into 2014, but it’s an experience worth seeking out. To read our original review from Dan Ryckert, head here.
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