The Swapper

The Swapper has a number of clever, enjoyable puzzles. A few were tough enough that I had to retreat and find another puzzle, coming back later with a refreshed perspective, but I wrapped up within 5 or 6 hours, and that felt like an ideal length for the game. The puzzles are a casual challenge, closer in difficulty to Portal than something like English Country Tune. But they’re also somewhat derivative, most notably with the gravity-reversing gameplay seen before in VVVVVV and, more to the point, Limbo. This isn’t terrible, as it’s usually combined with the swapping mechanic, but not every puzzle felt original.

The collection of orbs to activate computers is particularly gamey, and feels like phoned-in design, but I can’t complain too much, since I was satisfied with the partial level of freedom I had in exploring the ship. And otherwise, there’s a decent sense of atmosphere. The music in particular does a great job: I especially liked hearing a song come through the speakers of a neighboring room.

The story is less my thing, as a work of sci-fi. Similar to the things I said about moral choices at the end of my Dragonfall review, verisimilitude is an obstacle here, and it isn’t because of the clone-swapping gun. (It’s not the telekinetic rocks with no sensory organs either, silly as that may be from an evolutionary perspective.) I think it’s great when sci-fi and fantasy stories are out-there and unsubstantiated in terms of the reality of their content, but on many counts they’re better off grounded. The Swapper overstepped itself with its terminals and radio chatter that typically added little value, talking about souls and some non-physical, magic-based definition of consciousness. On purely ludic terms I had already found myself grappling with the interesting moral questions of what I was doing within a minute of getting the swap gun, and ended up theorizing how the thing would have to work and what the clones would (or to be more accurate, wouldn’t) think and feel. I always enjoy a moral dilemma. But the game’s own internal lore and ruminations tended to get in my way.

The reviewer finds this game hard to get excited about, but still has a positive opinion of it. It may be somewhat fun, having good features or ideas counterbalanced by a few boring parts, bad design or other fundamentally irritating qualities that can’t easily be overlooked. Alternatively, it could be pleasant, but with nothing new to offer. Worth a little money if you’ve got the time for it.
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