With the launch of The Swapper Finnish developer Facepalm Games has made their entrance into the gaming world with a title that announces proudly that there is indeed a new player in town.
The Swapper is a sci-fi platformer that casts the gamer in the role of a space explorer abandoned on a space station in the furthest reaches of space. We’re never told why he’s been left behind but it’s your job to rescue him.
The cavernous ships many levels are navigated through the use of a special gun that allows you to create clones. With these clones you can solve puzzles, traverse otherwise inaccessible areas and retrieve valuable orbs. With these orbs you can then progress to the next area in the game. On paper it all sounds pretty simple but when you sit down to The Swapper prepare to have your problem solving skills challenged again and again.
Unlike clones depicted in sci-fi movies like The Island, The Swapper’s recreations are incapable of independent thought or movement. Instead they mimic the gamers actions and quickly die as soon as they’ve performed their allotted task. If anything, it is the disposable nature of the clones that will both unnerve and fascinate gamers.
To create life and take it so arbitrarily is an issue that has dogged the cloning debate ever since Hans Adolf Edward Dreisch grew two sea urchins from a single cell in 1885.
The Swapper’s levels are by far some of the most challenging we’ve faced in a very long time. Although the difficulty curve is, at first, fairly gentle, you will find yourself with movements staring at the screen scratching your head until a light comes on. At that eureka moment you will inevitably realise the answer had been staring you in the face all along. Once you’ve solved a puzzle you will be rewarded with an orb that will help you advance to the next level and to yet another seemingly impossible challenge.
We have to take our hat off to Facepalm Games for The Swappers distinctive and incredibly detailed art style. All of the in-game environment had originally been cast in clay before being digitally recreated. The result is an amazing triumph that, if you were to freeze the screen, would not look out-of-place hanging on your wall. It really is that impressive.
While working our way through The Swapper we were also taken by the rich and engrossing narrative which has clearly been written for an adult audience by Tom Jubert, the writer behind hits including Driver: San Francisco, Faster Than Light, The Talos Principle and Penumbra. Terminal logs scattered throughout the ship help you piece the story together step by step. For anyone familiar with games like Dead Space this may not be a wholly novel idea. But it does go a long way towards immersing you in the story line.
This will involve a fair amount of reading and exploration – but that in itself is a welcome addition to what is clearly a work of passion and, dare we say it, a game created by a genuine love for gaming. Go buy.
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