Curve Studios’ latest offering, The Swapper on PS4, PS3, Vita and PC, at first seems like a simple, albeit incredibly well crafted, puzzle platformer. But during the course of this short indie title, players will be faced with a philosophical story that will stay with them long after the often tricky puzzles have faded from memory.
Clones. They are a great idea. Create a clone and you can quite simply do more things at once. Brilliant. But when it comes to disposing of these alternate versions of ourselves – things get a little darker.
Speaking of dark – there is a lot of dark in The Swapper. The story begins with the players character landing on a deserted space station and quickly coming across a marvelous gun that not only can create up to four clones of the player, but even allows the player to swap their consciousness between them. This simple mechanic leads the way to all manner of clever puzzles that the player will have to overcome to progress.
Players can aim the gun and create a clone of themselves wherever the beam from the gun reaches. This will allow the player to place a clone on an out of reach pressure plate for example. The clones, however many the player creates, will mimic the movements of the controlled character, so to get them to move to the right, they move the main character to the right, to have them jump, make the main character jump, and so on. Using these mechanics, the player can have their clones move around to reach the necessary areas.
But the gun also allows the player to swap to any of these clones that are within range, allowing the player themselves to reach previously unreachable areas, maybe to gather an item that is needed. Clones are destroyed if touched, allowing the creation of more clones if the limit is reached, and die just as easily as the main character, from falling a long distance for example. But they are only clones, right? So it doesn’t matter…
Things get more complicated as the player progresses, with the inclusion of, amongst other things, red and blue lights. These coloured lights inhibit the functionality of the gun, with the red light preventing the player from swapping with a clone and the blue light preventing clones from being created in the first place. The puzzles will often have the player working out how to bypass these light beams, or remove them from play altogether. Towards the end of the game, things get even more difficult with precision and speed needed.
Then there is the story that is revealed as the player makes their way through the game. Things are slowly revealed through messages and events that, when combined with the eerie atmosphere of the seemingly deserted space station, the brilliant use of light and the great soundtrack, make for a really memorable tale that I would not want to spoil for you here.
Visually, The Swapper really is something special too. From the opening scenes where the player sees their character taking off in what looks like a rocket powered tin can, it is obvious that there is something different here. The environments have all been hand crafted with clay and give the game a really unique look that fits in with the feeling of tension.
The Swapper is not a long game, clocking in at around five hours, and has limited replayability. The puzzles can be challenging and may even put some players off, but the story is surprisingly deep and will keep most players moving all the way to the end. The Swapper is one of the best puzzle platformers in a long time and is highly recommended.