The Swapper is a 2013 indie title by Facepalm Studios, with head of design Olli Harjola and many other team members hailing from Finland. The game gets its name from an experimental device that is capable of exchanging the positions of two minds and bodies by shooting out a fast-traveling projectile. In addition, the gun can create clones that all move in sync with you to transfer your mind into. Armed with this toy you must solve puzzles requiring you to shuffle between clones until the one carrying the consciousness is able to reach the prize, mysterious orbs acting as the macguffin. Whichever came first, the game even gives a treatise on some of the questions surrounding the mind-body thought experiment with a certain viewpoint emerging victorious.|
Playing the game, I was reminded somewhat of Portal but I'm sure there are other games in a similar vein. The puzzles are moderately challenging and ramp up nicely. Gameplay gets more complex incrementally, though the game's relatively short length (a speedrun might probably finish in 20 or so minutes) prevents it from ever reaching the kind of difficulty apex I expected it to be cadencing towards. Everything seems well tested, and I couldn't find TOO many ways to cheese my way through puzzles... but if I'm perfectly honest with you, I'm not sure my solution for a particular puzzle I spent the most time on was the intended one or not :D Many other reviewers found the going too difficult, just wanting to soak up the narrative, but based on what they wrote I feel they'd missed the fact "fiendishly designed puzzles" is part of how the game advertises itself.
Esthetically, across the whole audiovisual spectrum, The Swapper is a captivating and seamless, if perhaps somewhat modest experience. There's nothing sticking out that's unpolished or jarring in the small region of space the game takes place in, and interesting details abound throughout the moribund space station you'll spend your time casing. The soundtrack has subtle interactive elements meshing in with gameplay. It's about as much as you can hope of an indie title like this.
There are two endings to choose between at the finale. Because you can't save and load at will (just at checkpoints), you'll have to finish the entire game again to have seen both. This is not quite as bad as it sounds, because the piecewise narrative doesn't rub itself in your face but rather forces you to let things seep in and put in some work yourself, giving the game some replay value of sorts and to a degree justifying the extra playthrough. I actually don't think I found a single one of the secret consoles that apparently map onto a Steam achievement each, so extracurricular activities will surely be rewarded :). BTW: looks like you can also look for a folder called "Swapper 1000" (if installed through GOG at least) and create backups of those files to skip the backtracking.
Now, I'm not wholly, 100% convinced by either The Swapper's ontological discourse or the story's integrity after my two playthroughs and there may have been a few parts an actual scientist (of a relevant discipline) could have frowned at in the less central/important trappings of the scifi setting. It's one of those games elliptical enough with a "games-transcending" subject matter that you're made to want to look into things and perhaps hear what others have said, but after doing quite a bit of that, I just don't think it quite stands up. It's like one of those ragdolled dead clones that will become a familiar sight. Most people say it's the bees knees but I feel they didn't give it quite the same scrutiny or weren't already familiar with the subject matter: reviewers have deadlines after all! If you want to try and work out whether you agree with me, be aware that you can't peruse the readables after finishing so you'd better stop for that hard think after the part with the big crash, or, even better, create a backup save after acquiring 124 orbs.
There's other little cracks you could point at, such as how you are, at first, led to believe you can turn your back on a few puzzles here and there and still have enough orbs to make it to the end, but know that you will eventually have to return to complete the remainder anyway; the ones you've left behind are typically easy to solve when you've mastered the mechanics though. Another thing you should realize is that holding the button down to place a clone causes the game to slow down greatly (not explicitly mentioned in the tutorial as far as I could tell), essentially removing what I originally construed as an action element in what really is a 99%-proof puzzler.
So all in all, a very decent experience that at least acts as a solid point of departure into some interesting debates that mankind has had on the nature of identity and existence. A few open questions reeking of plotholes, a few missed opportunities and a modest scale prevent it from being an absolute classic, and I feel $15 is a bit high for the game's length, but still -- two thumbs up for a refined and thought-evoking narrative, oodles of atmosphere, and solid puzzle gameplay!
Reviewed by: LotBlind