Each week our resident Indie Gamer Nicholas takes a look at a different Indie Game that you may or may not have heard about. Join him on his adventures as he sifts through the rubbish to find The Indie Game of the Week.
I started playing The Swapper without expectations. Sure, I'd heard people buzzing about it on Reddit. Sure, a friend recommended it to me. But I went in with the understanding that not everyone has the same tastes; I purchased the title more out of idle curiosity than anything else.
That's $11.00 I don't regret spending.
In The Swapper, you're thrust into the shoes of a nameless astronaut who's somehow wound up on the derelict Theseus Research Station. It's never really explained who you are or how you got there, save a short cut-scene with an escape pod. In the long run, that doesn’t matter all that much – the mystery of your character’s backstory simply contributes to the game’s already oppressive feel.
See, atmosphere is something The Swapper does extremely well. Everything about the game has a creepy, subdued vibe to it, and some of the music is downright chilling for how much emotion it carries. The graphics are both beautiful and grainy; they perfectly capture the haunting environment of a long-abandoned space station.
The game’s plot is no less masterful, though much of it is discovered through reading console entries scattered throughout the station. Essentially, it concerns a race of beings known as The Watchers; entities whose very existence redefines the idea of intelligence and the soul. I can’t say much more without giving away the rest of the story, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t disappoint – many questions are raised regarding the nature of intelligence, the mind, life, and the soul, though none of these are ever truly answered.
The Swapper’s rather unique gameplay centers on the use of the titular device, which allows you to spawn a clone at a given location. Once the clone has been created, you can immediately swap places with it. This mechanic is central to every puzzle in the game; matters are further complicated down the road with the introduction of light beams which block either swapping or clone creation as well as platforms which reverse gravity. It’s refreshing, unique, and very, very fun.
My one gripe with the game is that it feels very short. A few hours, and everything’s over, leaving you wanting for more. The flip side of that is that it never feels annoying, monotonous, or repetitive. Each and every puzzle is new and different from the ones that came before it, and every puzzle is designed in such a way that you always feel clever and accomplished for solving it.
The length of The Swapper is a minor – almost irrelevant – sticking point. All in all, it stands among the best independent titles I’ve ever played, and well worth the price tag. Even if you don’t usually enjoy puzzle games, it’s well worth picking this one up, if only to experience the awesome narrative and aesthetic design. You can grab it on Steam for $14.99 regularly (at the time of writing, it’s 25% off)
Next week, I’ll be taking a look at SCP: Containment Breach.
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