Of all the games I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale the one I’ve enjoyed the most is The Swapper, an atmospheric puzzle platformer set in space. In it, you play an unidentified astronaut who must traverse a huge, mostly dark and empty space station. It makes for an unsettling mood and provides plenty of intrigue that makes you want to push on and discover more.
Gameplay revolves around the titular swapper device which allows you to create clones of yourself which will copy your actions exactly. The device also allows you to swap your consciousness (soul?) into the clones in order to move forward. In order to make your way through the space station you need to collect orbs which are inaccessible to you initially but reachable through clever use of your clones.
While the puzzles start off simple, they quickly become more challenging. Eventually it’s not just a matter of positioning, you also need to navigate around obstacles and make use of gravity, momentum, and timing. Don’t worry about needing twitchy, split-second reaction time though – as you hold down the mouse button to project a clone time slows way down, giving you plenty of time to think and act.
The story is not only about trying to escape the space station but also learning about an alien civilization and creators of the swapper technology, the Watchers. You learn about what happened through security console logs, interactions with the Watchers themselves, and from a mysterious woman who seems to be the only other human survivor on the station.
The narrative and gameplay are equally engaging, and really enhance each other. Things get rather philosophical as questions about the nature of life, identity, and the mind are raised. Are the hundreds of clones you create and discard throughout the game just empty vessels? When they fall to their deaths or get dematerialized once you no longer need them, does it mean nothing? Can a body be shared by multiple minds?
The Swapper clocks in at about 5 hours of gameplay, depending on how long it takes you to solve the puzzles. If you’re a fan of games that make you think and the sci-fi genre, I’m sure you’d like it. If you’re looking for something to compare the game to, I’d say it has aspects of Braid (though you’re manipulating copies of yourself instead of time) and a number of similar ideas to the movie Moon.
Rating: 10/10 – The game is short but kept me engaged and curious the whole way through. Gameplay is simple, smooth and requires more thinking than reacting. Also, it’s set in space. So automatic +1.
Since I enjoyed The Swapper so much, I’d like for other people to enjoy it too, so I’ve got 2 copies to give away on Steam. If you’d like a chance to win one, comment below and tell me your favourite game, book, movie, or show that is set in space. Be sure to use a real email when you comment so I can send you the game. I will randomly pick 2 winners in a week, on Sunday July 6th.
Edit (July 7): Thanks to everyone who entered! The winners were Lizzy and Gruffertus! Steam codes have been sent.