The second game in the Arkedo Series, 02-SWAP!, lands on the PlayStation 3, downloadable direct from the PSN store. It follows the first game in the series of three named 01-JUMP!, the review of which can be found here on the site. The second game however could not be any more different from the first if it tried. JUMP! was all about side scrolling, item collecting, and of course jumping action. This time around the series takes the form of old school puzzle games such as Tetris, Bejewelled and other similar games. Like all games of this type, the concept behind them is simple, but they have the power to be infuriatingly difficult to master. The danger of these games, and 02-SWAP! can be included here, is that they are extremely addictive, the kind of game which constantly cries out for just one more go.
SWAP’s main play area is, like other games of its type, a square area in the centre of your screen which, slowly at first, fills with coloured cubes from the bottom up in an unstoppable march. Although you can’t stop the oncoming cubes, the aim of the game is to hinder the endless supply of multi coloured squares before they reach the top of your play area. You do this by “swapping” one cube for another which is adjacent to it in an effort to line up either horizontally or vertically four or more cubes of the same colour. Upon aligning identical coloured cubes they explode and are eliminated from play. Knocking four cubes out of play at once may get the job done, but as the game progresses the advancing cubes gain speed and this is where skill comes into play. You really need to be thinking a move or two ahead of what you are doing and moves which eliminate more than just four cubes at a time are essential, be it setting up a row of more than four blocks or by setting up a combo move taking out more than one row of blocks in a single move.
The game has three modes of play the first of which, named Castle, has you playing through the game in the guise of a story. You are attempting to help a cat ruler back to his castle after a hard nights partying and the drinking of a little too much milk. This mode takes place over five chapters with progressively more difficult gameplay, the advancing blocks do so at a faster pace in later chapters and you are expected to play for longer in those chapters. A metre on the right side of the play area shows how much longer you need to survive, which progresses with the more you score. One of the few things helping you out are the special blocks which randomly appear alongside the coloured cubes. The most common of these are coins which, if sitting alongside your targeted line of blocks to destroy, give a bonus to your score and therefore progress your play through that chapter at a greater pace. Other more powerful special blocks such as those marked with lightning bolts, which explode when lined up four or more, take a huge number of surrounding blocks with them, or the stopwatch block which freeze the ever advancing blocks for a precious few seconds, the more of these blocks you line up the more time they are frozen. By the time you reach the fourth and fifth chapters, from the moment they begin you already face a challenge to stay ahead of the advancing blocks.
After Castle mode there is Arcade mode which is pretty self explanatory. The gameplay is exactly the same as previous mode, beginning with you choosing a difficulty setting which determines both the speed of the game and what special blocks you are supplied with to help you survive. The aim of this game mode is simply to last as long as you possibly can while accumulating as high a score as you can. After completing the challenge and story of castle mode, it is a good way to see how well you can really do at the game. The third and final mode is a set of challenges which again are pretty self explanatory as you unlock and complete set challenges by again using the same gameplay that you have learned through the other two modes.
So what you get with Arkedo Series: 02-SWAP! is a fun addictive puzzle game, which you will have great fun playing and keep coming back again and again for another go. The problem is that SWAP! does not really bring anything new to the puzzle game genre. There is a huge choice of similar games out there which offer a bit more than SWAP!. If you are however a big fan of puzzle games and there is enough room in your gaming life for more than one game of its type, then Arkedo Series: 02-SWAP! should be a definite addition to your collection.