The lights are on
In the PAX East Indie Megabooth, two developers from Finnish developer Facepalm Games are situated at a small booth with a game that shows as much promise as anything else I've seen at the show so far. It only takes a few minutes of playing or watching The Swapper to appreciate the possibilities of its core gameplay mechanic.
You play as an astronaut that lands on a mysterious planet, and quickly gains abilities that will be utilized constantly through the game's puzzles. By clicking and holding the right mouse button, you can create and place up to four clones of yourself in the environment. They'll move when you move and jump when you jump, and you'll be using them to stand on switches and help you navigate the Metroid-like world map.
They're more important than simple mindless husks, as you can fire a swapper ray at any clone (given that there aren't any obstructions in the way) and take over their body. Things get tricky when different colored lights come into the equation, as the swapper ray can't fire through pink or red light. Creating clones won't work in blue light areas, so you'll have to find switches to turn them off.
Puzzles seem to be more than just standing on switches, and this was evident in one area that required me to somehow reach a platform that was several screens above me. My jump obviously wouldn't get me that high, and there were no platforms or ladders to help me ascend. After staring at the situation for a few seconds, I decided to try something that I assumed wouldn't work. I created a clone high above me, swapped to him as he began to fall, quickly created another clone above me, swapped to him, and repeated the process until I was on the ledge I needed to get to. A pile of dead clones laid at the bottom of the room, but my character was safely where he needed to be.
It appears that the swap mechanic will be as critical to the game experience as the portal gun is in the Portal games, and it seems just as versatile. Several puzzles seemed impossible to me when I first encountered them, but some experimentation and trial and error always got me past them. The best puzzle games make you feel like a genius when you get past a particularly tricky mental challenge, and The Swapper seems poised to offer that feeling frequently when it releases on Steam later this spring.