Coming in at number three of our “Top 10 games we’d love to see on Xbox One“, The Swapper makes its Xbox One debut on Friday June 5, and an ideal opportunity for me to experience just why the TiX team had placed this so high up on their want list.
You take on the role of a nameless astronaut (sounds familiar – Lifeless Planet). The game begins with you stuck in an escape pod against your own free will, jettisoned to the below planet, Chroi V. After finding an experimental device called the Swapper, you return to the space station, Theseus, that’s in orbit.
The crew were part of the Sisyphus project, excavating the planet below, working light years from home in order to find resources to send to a population that’s dangerously low on minerals and fuel. Something sinister has happened and it seems that you and another astronaut, who arrived while you were on the planet’s surface, are the only ones left – time to navigate the vast Metroidvania layout of the Theseus in the hope of finding a way home and making some sense of what’s happened.
The story is a little jumbled, and left me with far too many questions about how and why I was in my current predicament. I struggled to form a timeline of events that made any sense, which was largely pieced together by reading through console transmissions and the thoughts of mysterious rock samples that had been recovered by the station’s crew from the planet below. It’s all a bit weird and while the game’s conclusion is particularly poignant, I felt there were far too many loose ends that should have been developed a lot further.
The story aside, The Swapper is a fantastic collection of puzzles that must be solved by swapping. Ever fancied copying yourself? We all make jokes about it at work and in The Swapper you do exactly that… no not make bad jokes, make copies of yourself. These carbon copies can then be inhabited by your original soul, leaving your old body behind.
Each clone follows the movements of the body that your soul currently resides in until they become stuck, fall to their untimely demise or rejoin the master’s body when they touch – this is the game’s greatest trick – by restricting you to only creating an additional four bodies, and each body copying your every move, you need to meticulously plan your positioning and swapping if you are to best the puzzles throughout the ship.
The puzzles are well thought out, giving a great sense of satisfaction when you solve them, and they aren’t just navigational either. There are different coloured lights that impede the effects of the swapper device, positioning clones on pressure plates to open doors wasn’t nearly enough of a challenge, so lights that prevent you from cloning, swapping or using the device at all make for some real head scratching moments.
Later in the game, there’s another curveball to contend with – gravity lifts flip you and your clones so that you can walk on the ceiling! It really twists your mind but creates some fantastic puzzles that will have you stumped for longer than you’d care to admit.
The environments of The Swapper are great to look at and rather eerie – think Prometheus, Dead Space and Event Horizon – while slightly unsettling, the fear of the unknown entity that killed the crew never manifests into anything, which was rather disappointing, such an eerie environment is ripe for some jump scares or a way to stalk your emotional state of mind, the sound plays to this with an excellent score.
The achievements in The Swapper are as devious as its hardest puzzles, with 10 hidden rooms that are accessible through fake walls. Each room is home to a console that contains invaluable information about the Sisyphus project – missing them will mean that you will complete The Swapper with no achievement score to show for your efforts.
The premise of the Swapper is to drive home a philosophical story about souls and the body, but I found myself wrestling with unanswered questions about the rocks, the crew and the space station for the story to have any profound emotional effect on me, with it merely sinking into background noise to what is a superb platform puzzler that is ultimately over too soon.
Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX
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