With the Wii U eShop’s recent flurry of sci-fi titles such as Master Reboot and The Fall finding a home on the digital service, what does it take for yet another game set in space to stand out from the crowd? Puzzles. Yep, but not just any old puzzles — spatial physics-based conundrums that’ll give your brain a thorough workout. Also, why not swap out that gun for a cloning device called The Swapper, and then name the game after it? This is exactly what Finnish developer FacePalm's game delivers, and it has certainly paid off.
The story starts out simply enough — your character has been stranded aboard a derelict space-station and is looking for a way to escape. That’s it. There is also little to say of your mysterious, space-suited character, and as with much of the game details and background explanations are on a need-to-know basis. At its simplest, The Swapper is essentially a physics puzzler with platforming elements, meaning it plays more like The Cave than the aforementioned The Fall. However, the game’s setting creates an unnerving sense of isolation that is reminiscent of the Metroid series — other similarities appear in the tasks of collecting logs (which serve as the main narrative for the game’s story), acquiring a couple of power-ups near the beginning of the campaign and a small amount of backtracking, but this a different beast to Metroid altogether.
To progress through the Space Station you’ll need to collect a certain amount of orbs in any given area, which in turn will open doors, activate teleportation devices and teleport streams; acquiring these orbs won’t be an easy task as you’ll have to find a solution to a room’s puzzle first. Fortunately with the help of The Swapper tool you can make up to four clones of your character, and change between control of each of them using your swap beam, as long as they’re within your line of sight. Your clones will mimic your every move – if you move left, they move left; if you jump, they jump, etc. — and if you run short of clones you can acquire more by touching them, sacrificing them or walking into white spotlights. However, only the clone that you’re directly in control of has use of the swapper device.
Some puzzles further add to their complexity by featuring teleportation, antigravity pads or by disabling your abilities. For example, red lights block your swap ability, blue lights stop your clone ability and purple lights block everything. Using the swapper device will enable you to slow time too, which allows you to position your next clone and even swap to it, giving you the ability to create a chain of controllable clones, one at a time. This is an absolute necessity in order to make your way to the bottom of a chasm without dying, or conversely to scale heights which would be impossible to reach otherwise.
Alongside this, The Swapper features a captivating — albeit somewhat fragmented — storyline told through logbooks, onscreen text and scattered conversations, although little is given away until the game nears its conclusion. A lot of the philosophical and thought provoking plot revolves around the swapper itself, making you question the effect it’s having on your character whilst using it and will have you asking yourself, ‘is there really such as thing as a soul?’
Graphically, Curve Studios' port of The Swapper is more in line with the PC version of the game than the other formats that are available, and that’s certainly no bad thing. When it comes to aesthetics and ambience, this is certainly a unique game. You may not notice initially that most of the game's assets have been handcrafted using clay, but it does give the presentation a very distinct environment and depth of field.
Despite many of the puzzles using neon red, blue and purple lights, this is predominantly a dimly lit and secluded game. The environments that are brighter are usually served by florescent lighting which, giving a sterile and cold feel, only compounds the isolation. Foliage in some areas provides some fleeting warmth and relief from the sterility, but it’s not long before you’re quickly plunged back into the darkness and solitude.
The Swapper’s ambient soundtrack, meanwhile, is mostly made up of atmospheric soundscapes or minimalistic piano parts that successfully immerse you into the world. Sound is used sparingly throughout the campaign, leaving you often accompanied only by the sound of your own character’s footsteps — lighting flickers, machinery whirs and radio static bring the setting to life.
Features unique to Wii U are of a fairly standard affair, including off-screen play and the GamePad’s usage of displaying the logbook entries found at memory terminals and a handy, swipe-able map. The latter displays where orbs are located in a room, doors that have not yet been entered and memory terminals and teleport devices, allowing you to warp around the map once they’ve been activated. The control scheme is very easy to pick up, with ZR used to make clones and ZL to swap between them. The right stick serves as a sight for your swapper device; in some situations it can be a little fiddly to position accurately, but the sensitivity can be adjusted from the option menu.
Some of the puzzles appear simple but are deceptively tricky, yet if you’re after a sense of achievement this is the game for you. Knowing that you have all the tools necessary to complete each puzzle, from very early on in the game, is occasionally equally comforting and mildly frustrating. The puzzles are never too frustrating and even if you do get stuck you know that the solution lies with you, rather than having to rely on an upgrade that’d make your life a cakewalk. Though the controls are simple and the game offers nothing in terms of upgrades, the puzzles don’t become repetitive. Bar the first few minutes of gameplay where the controls are explained onscreen, The Swapper never holds your hand — patience and experimentation are the key components of progressing in this game.
Without getting stuck on any of the puzzles for too long you’ll see the credits roll in about 4-5 hours of gameplay. However, getting stumped on one or two puzzles, like this reviewer did, could easily add another hour or two. There isn’t much in the way of replayability as the puzzles obviously lose some of their charm they second time around, but completionists my want to go back through to find all the memory terminal logs and witness the multiple endings.
Although The Swapper was originally released on PC nearly a year and half ago, this does little to dampen its appeal on Wii U; this is a title feels fresh and unique when stacked up against some of the other download games the eShop has to offer. With its unsettling environment, intriguing storytelling and some truly mind-bending puzzles, the entire experience oozes quality. Those looking for an atmospheric puzzle platformer, which makes you think not only about problem solving but also providing food for thought, should certainly consider giving The Swapper a go. Even though it’s a little on the short side considering the asking price, it would be a shame to miss out on the rich experience it offers.
One of my favourite games of 2013! Hope it does well on the Wii U.
My only complaint is the price. It's only $15.00 on the PC, not to mention that I got it in a humble bundle.
Frak me, sounds awesome
Yup this game is amazing (reason i ended up building a gaming PC) was games like this i ended up picking it up in a Humble Bundle along with several other decent games for around £4.
Now you got me interested! (was originally thinking of getting it on PC)
I'll wait for a sale.
I've planned to get this since I heard it was arriving to the Wii U. Nice to hear that the Gamepad implementation is good! Also nice to hear that Curve Studios made the Wii U port, since Stealth Inc. 2 is one of the absolute best Wii U game implementations.
I'm gonna buy this now, but I think I'll wait for a sale.
But I'm definitely buying it. Feels good supporting Curve Studios- they make such great games
Yeah, already got this in a humble bundle, would love to have it on Wii U... guess I'll pick it up when there's a discount.
Having already bought this title on PC it would be super nice if there was some sorta cross-buy promotion or even discount for current owners who want it on WiiU instead or for the map
The graphics are amazing. I'm just worried that the slow gameplay will bore me. Wish it weren't $20. A bit much of a gamble.
Same. I wanna support these guys. I already bought Stealth Inc. 2 but I'm gonna wait for a discount on The Swapper (10€ and I'll get it) as I already have it on Steam. Thomas Was Alone and Lone Survivor don't interest me so I will pass on those unless I can get them on the eShop for no more than 5€.
I knew this game was bound to be good and this review just confirmed it! Definitely looking into picking it up!
Sounds like an epic game, a bit short but epic. Might check it out once a sale comes through or whenever I had spare Nintendo Points left.
Can't wait to DL this, never bought it anywhere else.
Awesome game. I'm happy to see a lot of these great PC indies I played a while back finding their way onto Wii U
Not my kind of atmosphere, so I'm not in a rush to get it. Perhaps in the future.
@Maelstrom yeah, I want this game but will wait for a price reduction.
For those who haven't played it, the game is a great sci-fi platformer with a nice Metroid-esque atmosphere to it. Its too bad though, like most indie games on the Wii U, the starting price is a bit too high. $14.99 would be an ideal price.
9/10 is a bit high, if you ask me.
@ueI But no one was asking you. Ever.
Just finished the game a few minutes ago and it was absolutely amazing and worth every penny. Definitely indie game of the year on Wii U!
Excellent game, the puzzles are great and the atmosphere has that eerie feeling like in Super Metroid.
No Wii Remote support = no buy. What were they thinking forcing us to aim the swapper gun with a joystick when they could have let us use the Wiimote pointer? Do the developers even play games?
Looks great, but honestly my biggest problem is the price, taking advantage of us Wii U owners if you ask me.
Already have it on PC. For an older game that doesn't support pro controller, the price is to much. Don't know how they expect it to sell. Maybe in the long run.
yeah great game, but most people will have already got it on pc via humble bundle, so not sure who's going to pay full price for this.
same goes for all the other great indie games on wii u that have been available for a while on pc for less money - yeah they're great, but i'm not going to buy the same game twice, and if given the option then i'll buy the cheaper version, which always happens to be the pc version, with the added benefit of being able to play it on any pc, not just the one i bought it from.
so why buy the wii u version of anything that's not a wii u exclusive?
@JaxonH then buy it at full price if you really want to support them. Waiting for a sale is not supporting a dev.
Played this last year? It is a very unique game, the visual style is special the gameplay hook is very imaginative and the puzzles make fantastic use of it.
But I know I came away from this game rather unsatisfied. It may have been that I had done all but two puzzles within a decent amount of time and been stuck on these last two for an aggravating amount of time.
It may have been that my game glitched at
The important moral choice at the end forcing me to end the game by committing suicide.
Worth checking out if you want something different though.
This is such a wonderful game. One of my favourite things about it is the extent to which the developers just let you play, so little hand-holding, as mentioned in the review.
I think I Weill give this a try.
@S-Miyahon well using A and B buttons immediately springs to mind as solutions.
It would be nice to see developers exploring multiple control options. I wouldn't say no Remote support in this game is a deal-breaker for me, but it would be nice.
Let me also agree with people who say don't wait for a sale to show support. £12 seems fair to me for a download title with this level of time investment. It's not like a Tetris game you play for fifteen minutes occasionally, though I do agree for a title that's been on the market awhile, a lower initial price point to get those launch sales makes more sense to me.
@Donutman Like heck it's not. Buying the game by definition is supporting them. Doesn't mean I have to buy it at $20 right now. I feel that's too high. So I'm not paying it. Doesn't mean I won't support them, just means I'm waiting for a lower price before I do.
@Maelstrom LOVE me some humble bundles! I admit, I bought a few games that are graphically challenging for my current PC, but figured "hey, this'll be great when I upgrade!" One year later...
Maybe I should support another Wii U title from Finland.
^Wait..there another game for Wii U that was made by us Finns?
...Got this now for support
(got here when I searched for review before buying)
This game is on sale until 2/12/15, together with other games from Curve. It's down to $14.99 which is pretty good already in my opinion. Just downloaded it!
Just finished lone survivor which was amazing I am thinking of downloading this now in the sale.
Just finished this. What an awesome experience. Definetly worth every penny.
In the eshop sale this week finally so i'm having it.
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