Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Swapper (Wii U eShop) Review

SuperPhillip Central is home to a lot of reviews. Since I founded the site back in 2008, I (and sometimes others) have accumulated over 530 unique reviews. I add to the list tonight with this review of the Wii U version of The Swapper, a game that released last week. Here's the review.

A Stack of the Clones

Sometimes I lay awake night after night, pondering my very existence and answers to questions that have alluded man for so many millenniums-- What is man? What is a mind? Will the early nineties sitcom Empty Nest ever get a DVD release? If the philosophical side of your brain has been dormant for any extended length of time, then perhaps Finnish independent developer Facepalm Games' The Swapper should be required playing. Heck, even if you aren't a heavy thinker and just love games with physics-based puzzles, then The Swapper should be required playing, too!

The Swapper's premise is simple and unassuming enough. You play as a spaceman who has crash-landed on a dilapidated space station full of nothing but ambient noise, stunning environments, and plenty of puzzles to solve as you try to find a way to make your escape.

Progression in The Swapper is limited to collecting a certain amount of orbs in the game's numerous rooms. Collecting enough orbs allows you to venture into a new part of the space station you find yourself on. The rooms vary in difficulty, but they are all self-contained. There are no orbs that require multiple room progression to reach.

The eponymous element of the game, the gun known as "the swapper", is used by your spaceman avatar to create up to four clones in the general area. They mimic your avatar's movements perfectly. Moving left will have all of the clones move left, jump and all of the clones will jump, and so forth. Certain gameplay catches are thrown into the mix to keep things challenging. For instance, you can swap between clones, but you can only swap to a clone that is within your line of sight. There are also spotlights that either disallow the ability to create clones or halt your line of sight, making it impossible to switch between certain clones.

There are even some traversal matters to contend with, such as using the slow motion of the swapper gun to continually make a series of clones that goes higher and higher in order to reach otherwise impossible areas to explore. The complete opposite is how you survive places in the game where you are required to get to the bottom of a long shaft, for instance.

Rooms are generally cleared by having all of your clones successfully stand on top of various switches to turn on and off lights, open and close doors, and allow movement or the ability to switch to a clone so it can nab the desired orb in the room.

The Swapper is a game that delivers all of the tools needed to solve the game's myriad puzzles right from the get-go. On one hand, this is reassuring because you're never asking yourself the dreaded question brought up in Metroid-style games: "Do I have the required upgrade to solve this particular puzzle or not?" And it certainly doesn't take you five or ten minutes of fruitlessly trying before coming to the conclusion that no, you don't have everything you need.

On the other hand, there's the concern that puzzles that are consistently based on physics and require the use of clones could get rather old rather fast, especially if there's no new upgrade to make things feel fresh. Thankfully, this is definitely not the case with The Swapper. The developers have successfully taken the sponge of different puzzles and squeezed it as much as possible to create a game with a wide assortment of puzzles that smartly use your ability to create clones.

However, in doing this, The Swapper isn't particularly long by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's quite short, taking me about 5-6 hours to complete. There's the bonus of playing through the game again for an alternate ending, but predictably so, the second time through The Swapper is easier due to the familiarity you will have with the puzzles and their subsequent solutions. Factor in the high cost of entry ($19.99 USD), and it's hard to fully recommend this game wholeheartedly, even with the optional discoveries of memory terminals that add to the game's lore.

That isn't to say The Swapper isn't of any value. It certainly is, and it's quite unlike anything else on the Wii U eShop. From its art style modeled mostly from clay, the tremendous feeling of isolation aboard a cold and lonely space station, and the story which would give some philosophers a run for their money with the questions the game asks of players, The Swapper delivers not just in quality content but in presentation too. Nonetheless, The Swapper's price is a factor to consider, especially if you only see yourself playing through the game once and then casting it aside.

Wii U owners have had to wait a little longer than other platform holders for The Swapper, and I would maintain that this version is worth looking into, as it runs nearly as well as the extremely impressive PC version. The GamePad can serve as the game map, a place for text logs to be cycled through and read, and also have the entire game played on it via off-TV play. The game controls wonderfully, whether you're using straight button and analog inputs, or if you're being adventurous and using the stylus on the touch screen to position and place clones into the game world.

At twenty bucks, The Swapper is selling itself as a premium downloadable experience. Whether that is the actual reality is up to your perspective. For me, The Swapper can be found on other platforms for a cheaper price, and the exclusive features of the Wii U version do not make it more worthy of purchase than any other version. That said, The Swapper is a highly thought-provoking, cleverly designed physics puzzler that regardless which platform you play it on, just know that you SHOULD really play it.

[SPC Says: 8.0/10]

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