Puzzle platformer style games are extremely plentiful. Some are good, some are bad and then there are a select few that change your entire view of the genre. Braid was likely the last one of these types of games, taking time manipulation and developing a brilliant game around it. There’s no reason whatsoever that The Swapper shouldn’t be considered on the same level. It’s one of the most brilliant puzzle games that I’ve ever played.
To spoil too much of the plot of The Swapper would be an absolute crime. The game takes place on an abandoned space ship where you discover the titular device. The Swapper allows you to create a clone and teleport your “soul” into the clone. If you have any intention of playing The Swapper, do yourself a favor and read nothing about the plot. The culmination of the story is fantastically handled and along the way there, you’ll find a fantastic mystery unfolding in front of you.
The story is told mostly through the environment and in various logs that you find scattered across the ship. The environments of the ship are dark and create a real sense of claustrophobia. There’s a general creepiness to everything and it builds the tension of the game fantastically. The amazing soundtrack helps, as well, in conveying everything the creators wanted you to feel when you’re in this world.
Puzzles revolve around the use of the titular Swapper. Right clicking allows you to place a clone of yourself wherever you click and left clicking the mouse allows you to teleport to that clone. You can create up to four clones of yourself and many puzzles will require you to use all of them in ways that might break your mind. However, your progress can be impeded by red and blue lights. Areas covered in red lights will allow you to create a clone but not to teleport to it and areas in blue light will allow you to teleport to a clone but not to create a clone.
One of the best parts of The Swapper is how well designed some of the puzzles can be. They are often clever and provide you with a number of tips on how to solve future puzzles. Again, to spoil almost anything about The Swapper would be a crime but there are a couple of puzzles that do an expert job of forcing you to learn the mechanics without ever telling you what you have to do. When you solve them, you feel like you’ve really succeeded in learning something.
Then, as the game progresses, puzzles incorporate all of those elements in various ways. As it does, it introduces new mechanics and keeps you learning exactly how to play until the final puzzle. The environment is, in many ways, similar to a “Metroid-vania” style game. As you finish puzzles, you collect orbs that allows you to open new areas of the environment meaning if a particular puzzle is stumping you, you can come back to it at a later time. This is a brilliant move because it can keep you from getting too frustrated on a single puzzle.
That said, there are a couple of puzzles that seem somewhat unfairly designed. They require you to be on exact spot in a level, not an inch off. If you fail, you’ll have to go through the whole process of setting up the puzzle again, which can take quite a bit of time. These puzzles are few and far between but they still can be extremely frustrating.
The Swapper is one of the best puzzle games in recent memory. It has a fantastic plot and some truly brilliant puzzles. Yes, there are a couple of puzzles that are brain busters but all of those are almost completely forgotten by the time you finish the game. The Swapper is the sort of game that any fan of puzzle games needs to play.
SCORE: 10 out of 10
A code for The Swapper was provided to Pixel Related for review.