The Nintendo Switch hardware has provided developers with a range of different inputs to utilise; we've seen games previously released on mobile taking advantage of traditional sticks and buttons, while the touchscreen has also been put to work.
There have been some interesting examples - the wonderfully kooky touch-only adventure SEVERED or piano-based rhythm game Deemo have excelled using touch and swipe controls, while console-like experiences that previously only had touch options have been optimised with varying degrees of care and attention, from games like Implosion to the neglected port of Maria the Witch. Some games - when possible - offer a choice of inputs, while others have missed the opportunity and arrived on Switch with only the original control scheme intact.
The curiously titled Green Game: TimeSwapper from developer iFun4all is a sequel of sorts to 2015 PC, PlayStation Vita and mobile title - also on Switch - Red Game Without a Great Name. While Red Game is more of an arcade-style touch-based game of traversal and survival using teleportation to avoid death traps, 'Green' adopts more of a puzzler approach along with its insistence on using the touchscreen. The steampunk mechanical avian protagonist and pretty silhouetted art style remain, but the main crux of the experience is a slower paced and slightly more strategic affair.
The TimeSwapper subtitle is employed as early as the level select screen, despite it being a tad misleading as the experience progresses. Zooming in and out of the intricate cog mechanisms shows off the layered silhouette style beautifully, and in general 'time swapper' is an initially intriguing prospect. As the bird flys at a constant speed throughout you are tasked, with the manipulation of time, to guide it through a series of increasingly complex levels. Using angled jet streams of gas / water, the two aims are to collect three gear shaped tokens and safely navigate your way to the end zone - a kind of glass windowed cage. After initially switching the stream directions between on or off, later on they can be adjusted in various increments, adding to both the challenge and the process of planning your route. With the introduction of obstacles and hazards, such as spikes and boxes, both reaching the goal and collecting the tokens (which are on a much more difficult route), becomes increasingly hard.
Although there is no real narrative to speak of, the art style is incredibly striking - different shades of green generate a layered silhouette effect, which is really nice to see in motion when rotating the mechanism on the level select screen. While the general presentation is pleasing to the eyes and the ears (the incredibly cool lounge jazz soundtrack is as refreshing as it is limited), unfortunately TimeSwapper never really lives up to the premise.
There is an angled green line to indicate which 'timeframe' you are in and it isn't long before you will be swiping across the screen to simultaneously change the angle and flow of the jet streams, combined with altering boxes that can be disassembled and reassembled to clear a path; this will inevitably involve some trial and error, as the bird's path can only be changed by the jet streams. Make a mistake and you'll have to retry. As the bird stays on its course until its doom, it can occasionally become a slow and frustrating failure waiting for its demise before you can go for another attempt.
The initially interesting main mechanic becomes less about the intricate manipulation of time, more a case of simple timing - even when different angles are introduced it doesn't feel as intuitive or as integral as other time-based games such as SUPERHOT, indie stalwart Braid or even Time Recoil. Furthermore, as an exclusively touch-based game it relies on a degree of precision that, given the input lag and inaccuracy, is just not present.
For all the intriguing set up, interesting art style and great - if limited - music, Green Game: TimeSwapper falls flat in the gameplay department. The tagline of manipulating time is as misleading as it is frustrating. There is a cute little puzzle game in here, but with unintuitive controls along with some bland and frustrating level design, the game is quickly reduced to a pretty average experience that fulfils neither its promise nor potential. You'll never really feel like a 'master of time'; it's more a mix of stumbling through level after level or - if you're a completionist - probably enduring some serious frustration before you 100% each stage. It's a port that is another case of style over substance.