The Swapper is a sci-fi platformer that places you in the middle of a destroyed space station. The goal is to escape but you quickly find out there is much more to do on this abandoned space wreck. The Swapper is different from any platformer I have played. I often associate the genre with fun, cartoony games that feature child friendly undertones. In The Swapper, there is an immediate sense isolation and emptiness. You occasionally interact with another human, but it is minimal at best. This game has a lot to offer and exceeded my expectations in many ways. The most impressive parts of the game, in my opinion, were its unique stages and the precision, and creativity, needed to complete them.
The mechanics are executed very well. You are given a cloning device that allows you to control up to four clones at any given time. These clones act as you do; if you jump, they all jump. You are also given a second device appropriately called the swapper that switches control between clones. These two devices are essential to completing most stages. Clones can only be placed from the perspective of those you control. So, in order to place them strategically you'll need to swap between them to get unique viewpoints. Sometimes walls controlled by switches can block the objectives and you'll have to think ahead and plan future movements so that your clones cover the right spots at the right time. This is often the most difficult thing to do. Timing and placement is everything and being just an inch off can throw off your work. Each stage is unique and gets progressively difficult. This is good in all ways but one, as progressing through the story becomes tedious.
Like previous platform games, the story is not told directly. Rather, there are terminals scattered across the barren space station that contain bits of the story. To open terminals, you have to collect a specific amount of orbs that are earned by completing stages. The farther you get, the bigger the reward. The story is pretty impressive and thought provoking, especially for a quick platformer. The game only takes about four hours to finish and, as I usually do, I will leave the story for you to uncover and interpret. I can say this much without spoiling anything: The Swapper brings up the moral dilemma of cloning and its effect on the mind, not just the body.
As surprised as I was by the deep story, I was more impressed by the visuals. The dark tone is paired with an equally dark environment. It is rare to be swallowed up by total and utter darkness (usually there is some background light or other light fixtures). Having said that, the bits of light are visually stunning. The contrast of vibrant colors with the mostly dark world makes the game very appealing to the eye. There are three colors that play a very big role in the mechanics of the game, blue, red, and purple, and pose as indirect obstacles. You can walk through them but you need to maneuver around them in a unique fashion to complete the stages. The blue light blocks your ability to place a clone directly in the light. The red light prevents you from using the swapping device, hindering the ability to strategically place additional clones. The purple light, much like the color itself, mixes both of these elements together. You can’t place, or swap into or through purple lights. Some stages combine all three colors creating an especially difficult challenge to complete. Upon completion of the stages the lights, which used to be the obstacles, go out and you are left alone in, often complete, darkness. These are the rare moments I mentioned earlier. It was awesome to see a game work some simple light fixtures into the gameplay to make it more challenging.
Overall, The Swapper is a surprisingly thought provoking sci-fi platformer that makes you think about more than how to get through it. The levels were difficult and I admit I had to look online for a few solutions. Often the solutions are easily overlooked. The visuals were just as impressive as the story was, and every environment was a joy to experience. The story was a perfect fit for the world that it was held in. The Swapper is absolutely wonderful game and a phenomenal experience.