The Swapper Review
An experimental cloning device becomes the central attraction in this sci-fi puzzler, Facepalm Games choosing to strand players on a desolate space station with no clear means of escape. The brainchild of University of Helsinki students Otto Hantula and Olli Harjola, The Swapper’s critical success is well documented. But it wasn’t until Curve Digital turned their attention to porting it to Wii U, that it was available on a console.
It’s an eerie and somewhat haunting adventure, much of the experience reliant on the chilling atmosphere as you curiously explore your lifeless surroundings – the only interruptions being intelligent rocks referred to as The Watchers, and another mentally unstable survivor that you cross paths with. That may all scream Dead Space’s the Marker, but The Swapper easily moulds its narrative into what will ultimately intrigue and spur you in your continued exploration.
Metroidvania-styling becomes apparent through the need to secure encryption orbs to unlock doorways that further your wary descent through the dormant space station, and these are your reward for completing the game’s perplexing puzzles. These all revolve around the titular device, which allows the wielder the unique ability to create multiple clones that copy your exact movements – a red-laser outline showing where they are to be placed. Players can also project their consciousness into them to alternate which clone you are directly controlling, and these two mechanics are intertwined with one another to create truly challenging mind-bogglers.
It isn’t as simple as it sounds either. Only four clones can be placed at any time, and players will either have to let them fall to their death or pass them with their character to free up space. With switches, transporter beams and anti-gravitational pads to contend with, it will take careful calculation to succeed – later puzzles regularly posing you with areas filled with blue, red and pink light that will block certain abilities.
The Swapper is wondrously animated, the developer sharing that all art was constructed with clay models and everyday materials – long before Nintendo even stepped in with their own putty delights in next year’s Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush. This is perfectly matched by a spacious score penned by Carlo Castellano, heightening your sense of isolation in the atmospheric setting that you continue to wander through.
This is an incredibly faithful port by Curve Digital, with additional support for Off-TV Play. While those that opt for the dual-screen setup can benefit from the map being continually displayed to help guide you toward the next puzzle to tackle, as well as accessing collected memory logs – which help build on the game’s backstory.
The Swapper is an astounding experience that will remain in your mind for a long time. My only disappointment came in the short runtime, which will see you reach the somewhat dramatic and yet ponderous ending in just under five hours. But the brilliance of the taxing puzzles stays true, and, with the contemplative, thought-provoking narrative, see this amount to another sensational addition to the Nintendo eShop.